Hard times for local media

Is it the end for the Bleat? James Lileks’ blog, the Daily Bleat, has been kicking around since 1997, but, as of today, well, Lileks calls it “the possible Last One,” explaining that “I need to do some long-term paying work, but I don’t want to give this up. On the other hand, keeping this up interferes with long-term paying work. Augh, this is killing me here.” Lileks is passing the hat on his site, hoping to get enough contributions to make the blog financially justifiable, but, failing that, well, who knows. Comments from readers indicate he has already gotten a few donations, but if there is one thing that is uncertain now, it is how to make a blog profitable over any length of time. In the meanwhile, we can expect to see more of Lileks’ signature wit over at the Strib site, which, as Lileks explains, “will be assuming a much bloggier format soon, so there will be posts there two, three times a day.”

And The Bleat isn’t the only long-term local media institution at its end: “Today is the final day of the Don Shelby show,” comes the familiar, mellifluous voice of Don Shelby at the start of a video on the Pioneer Press site, following the longtime WCCO anchor and radio host on Friday at the terminus of his nine years helming his self-titled radio show. “I’m going to miss being able to let people in on the real me,” Shelby says directly to the camera, adding, “[T]he real me is on radio.”

Also in dispiriting media news: “Our loyal readers are so old, they call us the Dispatch,” complains one Pioneer Press writer in a scripted holiday skit that begins with a litany of woe. David Brauer has republished the video, with some commentary, but the dialogue of the video itself provides a bleak look at the current state of publishing. Inspired by “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the video includes these satiric observational gems: “I hear the newspaper has eliminated all adverbs”; “Our building has become a used office furniture mart … there’s graffiti on the walls and drug dealers in the women’s room”; “Let’s all go into corporate communications!” one declares, to a round of boos from the assembled staffers. The video quickly turns optimistic, as the holiday season requires, but the opening satiric snapshot is bleak indeed.

It’s enough to drive a fan of local media to drink. Fortunately, as Mike Binkley of WCCO reminds us, it is possible to combine tippling and the doing of good deeds. Binkley profiles the locally brewed Finnegans Irish Amber, focusing on the fact that the brewery donates all of its profits to charity. An intern at the company explains the appeal of the beer: “People are guilty about spending too much money on going out drinking beer and they feel guilty for not giving enough money to charity. And you know, with Finnegans, you can do both.” Of course, that’s not the only appeal. The company founder is adamant that Finnegans is a good beer (this critic agrees), saying, “[I]f it was a crappy beer and you’re trying to save the world, I don’t think it would work.

But if the news gives an incentive to drink, it also provides a timely reminder to drink responsibly: On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety released its list of the 13 deadliest counties in Minnesota when it comes to drinking and driving. Paul Walsh of the Star Tribune gives us the list: Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Ramsey, Rice, St. Louis, Scott, Sherburne, Stearns, Washington and Wright; Walsh explains why these counties are listed, saying, “Over the previous three years, these 13 counties accounted for more than half of the state’s total alcohol-related deaths (267 of 519) and serious injuries (605 of 1,159).” As a result, these jurisdictions will be seeing an increase in patrolling for drunken drivers.

Some may be hitting the bottle in these grim times, but, as the Pioneer Press’ Adam Spencer points out, others are hitting the books. “When you’re out of employment, you have nothing to do but go to school,” says one 40-year-old student, and Spencer points out that there has been a 14 percent systemwide increase in enrollment from students 25 and older in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The influx of new students has strained resources, with access to counselors, parking and classroom space becoming noticeably limited. “It’s a good problem to have,” Spencer quotes a college spokesperson as saying.

Speaking of problems, Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press takes a look at how gubernatorial candidates plan to address one dilly of a botheration: the Minnesota deficit. Former Sen. Mark Dayton offers a pretty straightforward solution: “Read my lips: Tax the rich.” Another candidate, state Sen. Tom Bakk — who is chairman of the Senate Tax Committee — poo-poos this plan, saying that the numbers don’t support it, and also worries that the plan would drive rich people and businesses out of the state. Bakk’s plan involves broader tax increases, as well as budget cuts, and he actually proposed it last spring, where it passed in the Senate and died in the House. Dayton, in turn, is critical of Bakk’s plan, which he claims would increase taxes on the middle class, who are already feeling the pinch of the recession.

In the meanwhile, police layoffs have begun in Minneapolis, as reported by Michelle Knoll & Mark Albert of KSTP: Seven officers are getting the ax, as well as 18 recruits who became officers last Friday and will have worked a grand total of four days. The story quotes one officer: “Quite honestly, I don’t want to work anywhere else. You know, I am from Minneapolis, I’ve lived here my whole life. You know, my family is here, and the city means a lot to me.”

In sports, Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan offers an analysis of the Vikings versus the Bengals on Sunday, saying the game “can’t be described as the most important or difficult challenge of the season, but it might have ranked as the most revealing.” The PiPress’ Tom Powers looks as the same game, crediting cornerback Antoine Winfield, returning to the team after fracturing a bone in his foot, as being particularly notable in the hard-fought victory; Winfield himself offers his explanation as to what he offers the team: “I’ve pretty much perfected the art of tacking.” This is probably a typo, as Winfield distinguished himself for his skills at tackling, and not for his talent for maneuvering sails; frankly, you can be great at tacking, but without similar skills in jibing, you’re in trouble.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 12/14/2009 - 11:24 am.

    Hey Max,,,your link to the Souhan story costs me $5.95 to read…do you get a % cut?

  2. Submitted by Chuck Samuelson on 12/14/2009 - 02:43 pm.

    The 13 counties represent what percentage of the state population? And how does that compare with “their” percentage of fatal accidents?

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