Getting rid of Katherine Kersten and Nick Coleman is wrong, stupid and kinda pitiful.
Obviously the Strib has to shed some payroll, Nick and Katherine make above average wages. So there’s that.
And obviously the whole newspaper industry is dying — pretty fast, too. (Take a peek at this chart of the stock price of the McClatchy Co. (which owned the Strib from 1998-2006) over the past three years. So there’s that. And maybe pretty soon it won’t matter in what order the deck chairs were thrown off the Titanic. So there’s that.
There’s still a lot of good, hard-working dedicated reporters at my old workplace. And reporting still matters. A lot. So firing more reporters and editors instead of Nick and Katherine isn’t an appealing option. So there’s that.
Being “interesting” isn’t enough to save the day. So there’s that. So I’ve almost talked my way out of my first sentence about how stupid it was to dump Katherine and Nick.
But here’s the deal. Being interesting isn’t enough, but being dull can’t possibly be the answer. If you’re going to do down anyway, go down trying to be interesting.
Coleman and Kersten were more likely than most to be interesting at least once a week or so, and controversial, which is a form of interesting. They stirred the pot. They made people mad. They didn’t play it safe.
Disclosure: I’ve known Coleman for 31 years; we were teammates on the old State Desk. (He was the glamorous Rochester Bureau.) Even then, before he was columnist, he was above-average interesting. We have a relationship of mutual sarcasm, but he is better at it, and funnier. I’ve known Kersten for 10 years. Met her on a bus in Israel where she was the only conservative and, sure enough, found a way to make all the liberals crazy mad. (It had to do with denying that Christians bear collective guilt for the Holocaust.) We are friends. I’ve horrified many acquaintances, when they were ranting against Kersten, by defending her work and the decision of the Strib to hire her.
When the editors decided to ban the columnists from writing about politics in the last days of the recent election campaign, it was obvious that they thought controversy was not interesting. They thought it was DANGEROUS.
Now this. Don’t just make them be dull. Make them be gone. Make everyone write in that same I-don’t-exist voice of the omniscient narrator (who knows all but won’t quite tell you the most interesting stuff he knows, because it might DANGEROUS).
Over at Powerline, Scott Johnson half agrees with me. Dumping the Coleman column “strengthens the paper,” Johnson writes. But Kersten, by virtue of her conservatism, “speaks for many in Minnesota who now are voiceless in the mainstream media.”
I disagree with Johnson about what the paper hopes to accomplish. They are seeking safety, but they won’t find it this way.
Pardon the football analogy (by the way, I’m on the Tarvaris bandwagon) but this Strib decision feels like trying to run out the clock when you’re behind by three touchdowns.