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Newspaper Suicide: The Star Tribune Kills Lileks’ Column

Monday, May 7, 2007  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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(We’re going to leave this up top today, but keep scrolling for some fresh stuff down below.)

UPDATE: Transterrestial Musings and Instapundit have more. Do you think the editors have noticed that Lileks has a readership across the internet that dwarfs any other byline at the paper? American Thinker’s Thomas Lifson chimes in.

And TruthLaidBear is charting blogosphere reaction. Some lefties are jubilant.

But Dave Barry is not:

James Lileks, a terrific writer and one of the best newspaper columnists in America, says on his blog today that his newspaper, the Minneapolis-St.Paul Star-Tribune, has decided to kill his column and have him write straight local news stories. This is like the Miami Heat deciding to relieve Dwyane Wade of his basketball-playing obligations so he can keep stats.

Sometimes I don’t understand the newspaper business. What’s left of it.

(Emphasis added, so the blind at the Strib don’t miss it.) As the old Irish saying goes: When everybody says you’re drunk, you’d better sit down.

UPDATE UPDATE:

Dan Reihl has a point –I just don’t know what it is. But when he writes

I understand Lileks is considered extremely talented by many in the Right biosphere. I think he is, too – though with apologies, the E. B. White comparison is, well, I’ll leave it there.

Reihl betrays two things.

First, that he wasn’t reading closely this morning, as I did not compare Lileks to White, but rather the Strib’s reassignment of Lileks to a hypothertical reassignment of White by The New Yorker, followed by a couple of other hypothetical reassignments.

Second, that Reihl doesn’t know his E.B. White, which is actually fairly common among modern writers who have a fix on White’s reputation in mind, but not on White’s actual body of work. For the latter, and its many similarities to Lileks’ style, subject matter and temperment, see Joseph Epstein’s “E.B. White, Dark & Lite,” originally published in Commentary in 1986, and collected in Partial Payments (Norton, 1991). A straightforward comparison between White and Lileks is very sturdy indeed, but the point below is not that at all.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: Memeorandum has a thread. Do the editors at the Strib know how to find it? Easily the most talked about story in or about the Strib in ’07 is dumping Lileks’ column, and the Strib’s homepage doesn’t mention the controversy –because the editors there are so nimble and forward-looking!

Original post:

Let’s see.  Your circulation is crashing.  The value of your paper has plummeted.  Everyone in the industry recognizes that the the future is online, and most realize that the byline has become the brand and that writers with followings will be a crucial part of the rescue of the bottom line.

So what does the Minneapolis Star Tribune do? 

I kid you not: They kill Lileks’ column and send him to report news.  Visit www.lileks.com for details. 

Imagine The New Yorker asking E.B. White to manage the restaurant listings. Envision the Los Angeles Times dropping Jim Murray from Sports and sending him to cover county governemnt. Think about the San Francisco Chronicle assigning Herb Caen to the police blotter.  It is that level stupid.  (BTW: The Chron is still using Herb’s stuff  –it is the byline business.)

I expect that Lileks will gather in offers by the boatload, but off the top of my head, here are 10 places I expect to recruit him within days if the Strib doesn’t get shocked by canceled subscriptions into realizing what a New Coke order of blunder it has made:

1.  The Pioneer Press says:  “Ahah! An opening!”

2.  Jim Brady ar WashingtonPost.com says “Ahah, the center-right voice I have been looking for, and funny to boot!”

3.  Politico.com says “Ahah, the established humorist who knows politics that we’ve been looking for to signal the center-right we really are going to be comprehensive.”

4.  Minnesota Public Radio says “Ahah! Camouflage!”

5.  The Wall Street Journal online says “Ahah –extend the brand and grab his legion of readers for WSJ.com.”

6.  Time.com says:  “Ahah!  A blogger center-righters will read, as will lefties!”

7.  Any English newspaper looking for an American to draw the colonials in says “Ahah.  Here’s an American who isn’t dull!”

8.  The Los Angeles Times says “Ahah!  It’s like the Dodgers or the Angels signing a free agent!”

9.  Any online book club seeking a way to draw the literate reader to their site co-locates a Lileks’ blog on their home page.

10.  Any start-up online venture –any at all– that wants instant credibility with the blogosphere.

BTW: To cancel your subscription to the Star Tribune, call 612-673-4000.

UPDATE: See also:

Powerline

Don Surber

NixGuy

JamieWearingFool

HotAir

CaptainsQuarters

Ed Driscoll

And a fine offering from Gold Plated Witch On Wheels.

 

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