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A Three Hour Rant Re: Lileks

Monday, May 7, 2007  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Well, not really. I don’t rant.  But I do sometimes get on a roll, and today’s show will be one of those days.

With only a few cranky exceptions from among the folks you’d care about, the blogopshere has reacted with amazement and disgust at the Star Tribune’s sacking of Lileks’ column.  The lefty know-nothings are full of glee, and a few of the talent-challenged are muttering “See, it can happen to you too.”

But most, as catalogued here, are just amazed.  See, e.g., FreedomDogs.

Here is a comprehensive list of are the people in charge at the Strib.  Here’s the senior “leadership”::



Chris Harte


Nancy Barnes
Editor and Senior Vice President
Scott Gillespie
Managing Editor


Publisher and CEO:

Par Ridder


Here’s the Reader’s Rep link.

To cancel your subscription, call (612) 673-4343 or 1 (800) 775-4344.

Of course James is my friend, but a lot of my friends suffer at the hands of bad management, and I don’t say a word about it on my blog or my show.

I am exercised about Lileks because it is an astoundingly stupid decision affecting an industry with which I am connected and in which merit used to matter.  The collapse of the media business and the rise of mediocrity is what’s bugging me. 

I offer you Dave Barry as an expert on the field of newspaper columns.  Case closed.  Ten thousand second stringers can line up and berate Lileks, but we know better, and Barry’s assessment just ends that discussion.

So does a newspaper need local writers with national talent?

I have broadcast four of the past five years from the Minnesota State Fair.  Each year Lileks has been kind enough to spend an afternoon with me, and the crowds that come to say hello to James and snatch a photo or an autograph are large and always the sort of people you want reading your paper –the employed, the dads and moms, the folks who patronize your advertisers.  They know Lileks.  They are connected to him –which isn’t surprising since he’s been writing for the paper since before Reagan entered office (and he’s still on the sunny side of 50!)

Which means the paper’s management wither doesn’t care about those people or doesn’t know about them.  Either way that’s just the sound of doom for newspapers, and I love newspapers.

A few days ago Lileks and I were discussing this very thing: How to save newspapers.  Slashing away at the talented’s columns and demonstrating indifference to the subscriber isn’t the answer.

So I hope enough of the remaining subscribers to the Strib call and halt delivery, or enough advertisers say “Sorry, that’s it for me” as to shock the “management” into asking –really asking– where did the audience go?

UPDATE: We may actually be witnessing the capsizing of the Strib, but even if the paper is in near-terminal distress, you don’t save the situation by throeing the genuinely talented overboard.

UPDATE UPDATEFrom Scott Johnson at Powerline:

A friendly editor invokes a literary anecdote to capture the nature of the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s treatment of James Lileks:

Reminds me of the famous Evelyn Waugh line upon hearing that doctors had removed a benign tumor from Randolph Churchill: “It was a typical triumph of modern science,” said Waugh, “to find the only part of Randolph that was not malignant and remove it.”



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