A bleat.

I wasn’t going to write anything about James Lileks’, er, sudden change of assignment. I mean, talk about your inside baseball. But reading about the right-wing blog star / Minneapolis Star Tribune “humor” columnist’s predicament — abruptly told the paper had other plans for his FTE, and that he was to report to the metro desk a week from Monday for general-assignment reporting duties — rang a bell, you might say. It is, with a few details changed, pretty much exactly what happened to me five years ago at a fading p.m. daily in far-less-glamorous Fort Wayne, Indiana. Perhaps I can offer the pint-size pundit some perspective.

Sometimes I feel like journalism’s coal-mine canary. All the stuff that started happening in 2002 at our paper, the stuff that had my friends at bigger papers saying, “Wow, that’s terrible. So far, knock wood, we here at the Major Metro Times-Bugle are OK” — that’s happening everywhere now. Even Lileks, if he could stop the furious cycle of his narcissism for five minutes, would have to agree that having a job as a full-time humor columnist at a large-circulation daily is a little like being Henry Ford’s buggy-whip polisher in 1905. I’m sure his vision is somewhat clouded, though, by his status as a right-wing web star; his allies’ gift for understatement (“newspaper suicide”) is already muddying the waters. They forget the Lileks they know, with his daily Bleat and radio appearances and one-joke books, is not the Lileks the Star-Tribune readers know, the writer who offers 250-word dispatches on his sniffles, his dessert choices and …oh, I seem to have reached my limit of free Star-Tribune stories for today, but you can do your own explorations here. To them, the effect of killing the Daily Quirk is the destruction of their boy’s meal ticket. He gets paid for the Quirk; the rest of the stuff he does free. If they like him so much, they need to get acquainted with that 20th-century concept of paying for content.

As a long-time reader of Lileks in print and online, I’ve found him a fascinating study. I used to like his Newhouse column, until his hardening right-wing sensibilities ruined it for me. Close your eyes, and you’d swear his words were issuing from the mouth of a 33-year-old Grosse Pointe soccer mom in a blonde pageboy, about to climb into her Hummer H2 without guilt, thank you very much, because it makes her feel safe. He never irked me as much as Albom or Greene, probably because he never made it as big as they did, but many times I set aside his work with my eyes crossed in either boredom, rage or frustration, wishing I had the last three minutes of my life back. But what really bugged me about him was his Janus-faced b.s. about the news media and the internet, the way he threw meat to his MSM-hatin’ buddies by hatin’ right along with them, and then quietly cashing his check on payday. His complaints about news coverage, whether in Iraq or St. Paul, ring hollow from a man who stands up today and frankly admits “writing straight news is a skill I lack, and I take off my hat to those who’ve mastered that discipline.” Really? You do? I must have missed those Bleats. They must have been hidden between the ones hailing the Web as the end of the lecture-based form of journalism, and explaining the secret liberalism that stalks American newsrooms, this from a man who works from the kitchen table in his $600,000 house. And it will be amusing, in the days to come, to see the defense of Lileks coming from people who, days ago, would have agreed that newspapers are overstaffed and need to get some more shoe-leather reporters out on the street. To see them begging to have their humor columnist spared will be quite the entertainment.

But I’m losing the plot. All this has nothing to do with anything, and the sooner Lileks faces a few facts, the sooner we can cut this whining short.

Fact. No. 1: It’s not personal, Jim. Try to remember that. It will be difficult for quite some time. I can still tick off at least half a dozen newspaper managers who, if I saw them in flames on a sidewalk today, would prompt no thought more vexing than “Damn, where’re my marshmallows?” But really, it’s not about you. It’s about your salary. You’re fat, and the paper is on a crash diet. They don’t really want you to be a reporter; they want you to quit. They’re just making sure you’ll be in a mood to do so when, in a number of weeks or maybe months, they offer you a buyout to leave. Take it. There’s no guarantee the next staff reduction will be voluntary. Keep in mind, many of us didn’t get buyout offers; we just got the humiliating reassignment. You’re better-positioned than 90 percent of journalists to make a soft landing; you have a reputation, a sideline (the books), fans and, far more important, a fully employed spouse with a professional degree. Presumably you have a health-insurance alternative. (I’d say at this point that you should thank the Newspaper Guild before you leave, not only for your living wage but for the buyout offer, but I don’t expect a nice conservative union member to do anything that drastic.)

Fact. No. 2: Change is good. Yeah, yeah, it’s a cliché, but it’s a good one. When my job was crumbling beneath me, when I moved first to columnist/reporting/editing and later, post-fellowship, to the copy desk, I was beside myself with rage and frustration and self-pity. But here’s the thing: I kinda liked the copy desk. The move was designed to make me insane, but for the six months it took us to find new employment and shake the Hoosier dust off our shoes and move to Detroit — I should say here you’ll probably not be required to move to Detroit — I actually liked sitting behind a giant bank of monitors, enforcing AP style. The hours were insulting, 5 a.m. to 1 p.m., but that meant I was free to enjoy summer from lunchtime on. I enjoyed driving to work at 4:45 a.m., listening to “Coast to Coast” or Eminem and trying to break my land-speed record in the deserted streets. Who knows, you might like covering breaking news as a g.a. reporter — trust me, you can “master the discipline” of the five-W inverted pyramid in about 12 minutes — and, if you open your mind a bit, you might see things that could end up, oh, changing your outlook. You might see how hard it is to be poor, how racism is the metastatic cancer of American life, how…oh, but that’s crazy talk. Still, though, a change of perspective is always good. Seriously.

Fact No. 3: You have alternatives. Freelancing should be a breeze for you, and it will enable you to dote on your kid and bake bread and whatever else you do all day at home. It may require some early belt-tightening, until the cash flow equalizes; you may not be able to buy every new Apple gizmo the first day it ships from the factory. (I know this will be hard, having endured the Bleat after your wife was unexpectedly canned, and you actually lamented having to let go “the woman who does the woodwork,” as though this was a chain reaction of economic catastrophe unlike any the Twin Cities had seen. Most people married to an unemployed lawyer might be able to hold their tongues for a few weeks before turning their pockets inside-out, but not you. You have standards! And woodwork!) Your kid may not be able to go to private school immediately. But eventually your life will assume a new form, and you’ll be fine. You’ll be different, but fine.

Well, looky here — give me an inch, and before long I’ve gone on as long as Lileks can about the new soap choices at Target. And I know no one asked me, either. But as I said before, I’ve been down this path, and I’m looking out for the people who are following. It’s rocky, the thorny bushes need to be trimmed and there’s no lighting but the moon. But it leads somewhere, and so far I’m still advancing under my own power. So will you, Jim. So will you.

UPDATE: I must be getting some outside linkage, because I’m getting a lot of first-time commenters today. That’s great, but for you newbies, our policy: First-timers go to moderation first, as an anti-spam measure. I’ve been approving everyone promptly so far today, but I have to step out to do some errands, so more will have to wait a bit. If your comment doesn’t turn up immediately, rest assured it will eventually, and don’t re-submit.

Posted at 9:43 am in Media |

127 responses to “A bleat.”

  1. brian stouder said on May 7, 2007 at 10:18 am


    For all of us work-a-day folks, it is quite pleasing to share this vindication of the best canary in the coal mine.

    title the book – ‘Revenge is Mine!’ Bleated the Canary

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  2. Cathy Dee said on May 7, 2007 at 10:39 am

    hhhmmm…maybe I should email him that I need a woodwork washer, most of my woodwork being in extreme need of washing.

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  3. Martine said on May 7, 2007 at 10:48 am

    “They don’t really want you to be a reporter; they want you to quit.”

    Yep. It’s funny that he can’t see it. And it’s revealing that he’s considering staying there, unless his bleat was some sort of negotiating tactic fake to management to get a better buyout.

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  4. Danny said on May 7, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Wow, THAT sounded like you only ad to choke back bile a few times while writing it. But I guess if he was whining about letting go the woodwork lady, I can understand. When I first (mis)read that, I thought you were saying he had an artisan in woodwork in permanent employ at his home who’s job it was to carve intricate reliefs on his walls. You know, like the Likeks family on a fox hunt or the family coat of arms and such.

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  5. FL said on May 7, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Nice post.

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  6. Jason said on May 7, 2007 at 11:50 am

    God bless you for cutting through the treacle, Nance.

    But for the sake of an argument: If I were at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and I were thinking, “Hmm, which writer at the Minneapolis Star Tribune has a brand name worth keeping?” the list would come down to “Lileks” and um … OK, I’m drawing a blank.

    That’s no knock on the people at the Strib, but love him or hate him, Lileks has a following. Now, I’m not sure that having Lileks write about his trips to Target keeps people reading the Star Tribune, but I’m pretty sure that filling his space with yesterday’s wire stories isn’t going to do it, either.

    I was told by numerous editors that I wasn’t cut out for newspapers, and I guess they’re right, because I don’t understand a business model that eliminates a local columnist in Minneapolis or Ft. Wayne and replaces it with … er … nothing.

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  7. apostropher said on May 7, 2007 at 11:52 am

    I don’t have much to add beyond FL’s “Nice post.” But really, very well said.

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  8. D. Klein said on May 7, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Wow, Nancy, this seems unnecessarily nasty. I read both you and Lileks every morning and happily enjoy both, and have also spent many years in newspapers (thankfully, long ago and no longer). But gloating at yet another person’s ill fortune at the hands of moronic newspaper management just seems petty, bitter and vindictive. The Strib is idiotic not to take advantage of his obvious online talents — but that’s why newspapers are having such a hard time. I think you’re right they want him to quit, but he obviously has a good deal right now and would like to keep it. So what? That’s how we all would feel. I rooted for you during your run of trouble in Ft. Wayne, and I’m rooting for him now. I want all the writers I like to live well and prosper!

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  9. nancy said on May 7, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Noted, D.K. I really don’t wish him ill. I certainly don’t want him to stop blogging, as he’s always been the best single example of how a person can be relentlessly self-obsessed and still have no self-knowledge. As someone e-mailed me privately, “If (this reassignment) came with some enlightenment, then maybe (I’d be pleased), but Jimbo is a closed system, and the only net effect would be to make him hate hippies worse.”

    Honestly, my schadenfreude is more aimed at his boosters, who even now are complaining that their hero will have to cover “boring meetings about sewers” and so forth. These are the SAME PEOPLE who are always drooling over the glories of the hyperlocal internets and so on. I mean, here they finally get one of their own out covering the news, presumably without evil left-wing bias, and they can’t be happy? What, exactly, do they want?

    The Strib would be wise to reassign him to something he’s more enthusiastic about. But again, they want him to quit, not grow in a new position. His salary almost certainly approaches six figures; they want him off the bottom line.

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  10. Peter Principle said on May 7, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Shorter James Lileks: “Gee, I guess capitalism sucks after all.”

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  11. Xanthippe said on May 7, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    D. Klein (above):

    “The Strib is idiotic not to take advantage of his obvious online talents — but that’s why newspapers are having such a hard time.”


    Nancy, thanks for keeping your vitriol in check. If Lileks is too right-wing for your sensibilities, then maybe you need to get out more. He’s a moderate – at least out in the world of non-journalists.

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  12. Moorer said on May 7, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    THREE references to his politics, when most of his columns are overwhelmingly apolitical? Sheesh.

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  13. Anonymous said on May 7, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    All I can say, Nancy, is that the new owners of Fort Wayne Newspapers make Knight Ridder look sainted. These people not only don’t have a clue about running the place, they aren’t interested in having a clue, and anyone who does is promptly silenced. The hubby, who has worked there almost 26 years, is on his way out the door along with almost everyone else of quality. Did I mention I’d like to post anonymously?

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  14. neil said on May 7, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    I think that Lileks’ backers actually wish that there were fewer reporters and more columnists-with-a-conservative-edge. So, although there may be an inconsistency with their stated words, the subtext is intact.

    Although it is a bit inconsistent that they (mostly non-subscribers) are all furiously pounding out letters demanding that the newspaper keep this columnist who they’ve concluded is losing them money. Why is the newspaper business in decline? Because they don’t pay enough attention to the opinions and preferences of non-subscribers?

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  15. brian stouder said on May 7, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    self-obsessed and still have no self-knowledge

    I was struck by this phrase; I read the (excellent!) review of the Warren Zevon book (if you click NN’s Nightstand, you go to the review) and the reviewer made a remarkable point that I’m still pondering – commenting on WZ’s joke that he got to be Jim Morrison longer than Morrison got to be, the reviewer said something like – being a Jim Morrison with self-knowledge would be a painful contradiction in terms…..

    So maybe the mowed-down Lileks will become the opposite ‘painful contradiction’ – an introspective pundit who doesn’t know himself

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  16. Exurban Jon said on May 7, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    I used my circa 1995 J-school degree to enter the worlds of design and marketing. Even then I could see that newspapers were too obstinate to change their business model. They were married to wood pulp while the world was sleeping with digital.

    I’m confident that Lileks.com dwarfs the traffic generated by StarTribune.com and has done so for the past decade. Yet the ST editors refuse to capitalize on the eager new-reader-generator in their midst.

    Instead of looking forward, they try to force James’ digital peg into the hole of depression-era ink stained wretches. The fact that they are possibly (probably) trying to force him out is all the more damning.

    The Star-Trib editors are idiots in business as well as journalism.

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  17. Mudge said on May 7, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    You have been cited at Eschaton and given the “bst commentary” award by Roy. Expect a deluge. I have seen Lance Mannion speak of you highly as well. You keep good company. And if he doesn’t take any of your advice, Lileks may learn a few things on his own.

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  18. vic said on May 7, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    You’re quite a talented writer, and your insight into the paper’s true motivation here are sharp. Strange, though, how bitter you sound; it’s almost as if you’re jealous of him or something.

    From what I’ve read written by Lileks’ fanboys out there on the web, it seems they’re more upset that the paper chose to assign him to standard gumshoe reportage when his strengths would better serve the paper’s desire to further develop its online product. He’s spoken about that idea for months now, and it’s not hypocrisy of his “hardened rightwing sensibilities” (yeah, right) to think the paper committed a hella boner here.

    Incidentally (with apologies for going off-topic), does wanting to win the war make one a “hard right-winger”? What would that have made FDR or Truman (or JFK, or Wilson, or…), then, I wonder?

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  19. Radio Head said on May 7, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I always try to avoid catching sight of Lileks’ smugshot (sic)when I skim page 2 of Variety or whatever they call the section now. My self-imposed penalty, if my mind wanders and his image or, G-d forbid, the headline, imposes on my consciousness, is that I must immediately stop reading the Strib for the day. My general rule is to entirely skip the page, though because it occasionally contains interesting Website referrals, I’m sometimes too curious to read responsibly. The Strib is so rightwing on its newspages now that I gather that Jim might fit right in. I’m sure he can ferret out occasional cases of white people people being abused by minorities, leftie politicians’ foolishness, and quirky misuses of public funds. Until the pink slip arrives, he can work to keep Katherine Kersten supplied with material for her on-going snit fit.

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  20. underwhelm said on May 7, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Lileks, a moderate? Oh ho! Not hardly. I was acquainted with his humor column before I discovered he was part of the right-wing commentariat, but there’s no mistaking that’s where his political tastes lie.

    He’s just part of the Minnesota brand of conservatism that has long disguised itself as “common sense.” One local radio host called it “Garage Logic,” but it’s the same old reflexive conservatism. Calling it mainstream doesn’t make it so. He wrote a column this year insinuating that Fox News is no more a Republican partisan organization than CNN and NPR are partisan for Democrats. That’s not moderate, it’s the tell-tale sign of a true believer.

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  21. sdh said on May 7, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    The Strib is idiotic not to take advantage of his obvious online talents — but that’s why newspapers are having such a hard time.

    For all of this handwringing, it ignores a central reality: newspapers exist to sell advertising. The newstand price is meant to be a nominal fee in order to pad the bottom line, ascribe consumer value, and make home delivery seem like a good deal.

    Newspaper circulation is declining in many markets–and in large part this is due to the availability of other news outlets. I get most of my news through rss feeds. I rarely even look at my local paper.

    The question that newspapers have to answer is how to have a functioning business model when the value of their product keeps diminishing (fewer readers means a decreased advertising value).

    Lileks is in part a victim of the very medium he champions: the internet. I don’t think that making content available online really helps newspapers–it certainly doesn’t do much for their bottom line.

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  22. Jeff said on May 7, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Nancy —

    He hates Jim, by the way, but i’m betting you knew that. The key point here (and i say this as one like D. Klein who reads Nancy and James both, each day, and find an exquisite balance thereby) is nicely made: this is firing by other means. The point is not that they want him doing straight news, nor (sorry Hugh) do they care a’tall that someone else may well scoop him up, but they want it to happen soon. In fact, it is a tribute to the degree of fame/notoriety that James has built that they didn’t can him. The flack from this maneuver is nothing compared to what they would have heard if it was an outright sacking (kind of like making Mary Worth tinier and tinier). When he “resigns” to “pursue other interests,” it will be page B-2 and forgotten.

    But i think Lileks has a point that there was an online option for using him that apparently was never broached, and that is the real stupidity here. The Strib no longer having a full-time humor columnist is simply common sense; actually, i’d never before realized he was full-time and thought he was part-time with the Quirk.

    Said the contract/work-for-hire/files quarterly estimated’s hack writer…

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  23. Woody Bombay said on May 7, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    “He’s a moderate – at least out in the world of non-journalists.”

    Um, no.

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  24. Anon said on May 7, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    I’m confident that Lileks.com dwarfs the traffic generated by StarTribune.com

    You shouldn’t be so confident.


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  25. Greg said on May 7, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Having grown up in Grosse Pointe with a mother who worked at the Detroit News during the tumultuous buyout by Gannett, and then moving to Minneapolis for many years in the ’90s, this post hits close to home.

    1) Lileks is a low-talent, “johnny-one-note” twit and only got his plum assignment because of conservative affirmative action. (i.e. Editors fearing the label of liberal media) If his presence at the Strib actually contributed to the corporation’s bottom line, he would still have his column.

    2) As much as I disdain the stereotypical the page-boy coiffed Grosse Pointe Soccer Mom, most of them that knew (and a few I still know) are much brighter than Lileks and could argue him under the table. For that matter, most of the ones I know could drink him under the table, but that is another matter.

    3) Cool blog.

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  26. Exurban Jon said on May 7, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    Oh c’mon, Anon, I was only off by a magnitude of 10 or 15.

    (Thanks for the correction.)

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  27. Danny said on May 7, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Yeesh, Nance. Now we got a bunch of liberal hyperventilation here. Thanks, “Poorgirl.” LOL!

    vic, well said. Your whole post.

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  28. Dorothy said on May 7, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Wow, I’m so out of my league with all this newspaper-speak, but I’m loving the new commenters! Pull up a chair, and stay awhile, folks!

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  29. Fearguth said on May 7, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Good to see another target of my madcap wit has been brought low.

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  30. Pat Cunningham said on May 7, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    A situation somewhat similar to Lileks’ befell me last year at a Gannett paper in Rockford, IL. I finally quit just before Christmas. Then, Gannett announced last month the sale of the Rockford paper to GateHouse Media. I sense that many of my former colleagues are extremely nervous about the pending aftermath. But I’m feeling just fine.

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  31. Doodle Bean said on May 7, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks, Nancy! Hang in there!

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  32. DWF said on May 7, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    I’m loving it. From Ft. Wayne, you’ve moved on to better things. And I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of yours at this site–especially the Sunglasses of Justice.

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  33. DWF said on May 7, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    PS I’m astonished at the couple comments alleging you sound “bitter” or “jealous.” Did they even READ Lilek’s “bleat” about this turn of events? He’s all that and then some (the “some” being “delusional”).


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  34. John Fulton said on May 7, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    I subscribe to the Strib, and have for as long as I’ve lived in MN. The Lileks column has always been in the same category for me as Dear Abby: a part of the paper that I pay for that I don’t need to read. If I want stale and tired opinion blind to the contemporary world, well, there they are. Since I never need that, the idea that something useful or interesting may fill that space soon is good news.

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  35. monchie b. monchum said on May 7, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    For all of Lileks’ championing of the Web, very little money is being made on news/commentary sites. I have yet to hear of a straight news website that makes money. Some bloggers are able to support themselves on their ad revenue, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.

    Here’s the problem in a nutshell: Very few people are willing to pay anything over and above their monthly ISP fee for content (except, of course, porn), while at the same time advertisers are hesitant to sink as many ad dollars into the Web as they have traditionally done for newspapers.

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  36. Danny said on May 7, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Nancy, you’re getting some love over at Don Suber’s blog.

    Save the trouble of going to that Nall person’s website. She REALLY doesn’t like Lileks’s “politics” or “self involvement” so she spends all this time telling us how these events affected her.

    I love the reference, “…that Nall [person]….”

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  37. pseudonymous in nc said on May 7, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    For a long time, Lileks has deliberately and effectively segmented his output for different audiences, and it’s odd that followers of his work in one (the blog) now want to influence the dynamics of another (the Strib), even as the proliferation of blogs contributes to the belt-tightening which makes a humor columnist surplus to requirements.

    So those fans of Lileks asking if newspapers ‘get the Web’ miss the point completely: the Strib gig has always been part of the ‘domestic whimsy’ strand of his work, and it’s always been possible for readers to engage with that while ignoring the political bits. Indeed, many fans of the whimsy grimly try to pretend that the opinionating doesn’t exist. But Hewitt comes at it from the perspective of a fan of the opinionating, who nevertheless thinks Lileks should be paid for doing something else in order to keep opinionating in his spare time.

    Ironies abound. If Lileks is valuable to the right blogosphere because of his opinions, then there should be a market for him within that particular milieu.

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  38. weinerdog43 said on May 7, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    To our newly minted ‘journalist’ Mr. Lileks; the immortal words of Nelson Muntz…’Ha Ha!’

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  39. Athenae said on May 7, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Here via Atrios, and this is just the best takedown of Lileks I have ever, ever, EVER read.

    You’re awesome.


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  40. joe said on May 7, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Lileks never wrote political views in his column
    and his orignal backfence was a lot better than the quirk. But the startribune was certainly not using him to their advantage. Glad to know lefties resent anyone with “improper” views (even tho their never stated in the st) There is no talent on this site–only petty jealousy.

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  41. Eric B. said on May 7, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    The hilarious thing is that just two years ago, Hugh Hewitt called for people to cancel their Star Tribune subscriptions over content he didn’t like them printing.


    What we have here, for Lileks, is a painful embrace with the realities of modern newspapers. I feel his pain, because last year, I too got whacked by my local paper. Unlike him, I didn’t regard my job as some kind of entitlement, where the paper’s owners were compelled to pay me far and above what they could reasonably expect that I contributed to the paper’s bottom line. It’s business, baby, and it’s deeply amusing to me to see all this whining about what really is just a result of market pressures. Maybe next time they won’t be so fast to criticize unions, or come to the defense of politicians who enable outsourcing.

    As for the rest of these people — what do they think the Star Tribune really is, a Scaife-run wingnut welfare organ?

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  42. GB said on May 7, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Nancy Nall, you are the wind beneath my wings.

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  43. julia said on May 7, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    S’funny – I’m not hearing about Newhouse dropping his column. Funny they would do that if he’s as much of a revenue engine as all that.

    As for his moderation, I can think of a number of different occasions off the top of my head that he’s explicitly wished death on a political opponent. His commenters (and although likely they’d stay at his site, which he hasn’t offered to give up in order to run the news site in his head) there might be cross-pollination. Does the paper he works at think it’s worth the risk that their advertisers will read the kind of comments posted in the blogs Mr. Lileks’ friends run?

    Also, I’m assuming they’re looking for local advertisers. Are they likely to get many local hits from Lileks’ readers? Isn’t it more likely that local readers will run into the wingosphere in full cry and stay away in droves?

    Funny. A working american with a successful small business, multiple published books and an affluent spouse is reassigned to a job he likes less at the same salary and it’s a cause celebre. Presumably if the job had moved to Bangalore and he was out on the street it would be OK.

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  44. Jeff said on May 7, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Lileks got a shout-out from The Master today: http://blogs.herald.com/dave_barrys_blog/2007/05/incredible.html

    The man who made the Arcola, IL Broom Corn Festival a national event . . .

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  45. julia said on May 7, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Well, before he gave up column writing, Mr. Barry had suffered a bit of a midlife crisis of unfunny wingnuttery (among other things) himself.

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  46. Mooser said on May 7, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Rise with Bush, sink with Bush. They’ll be lots of other whose descents will be far more precipitous.

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  47. Doug said on May 7, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    Lileks is a prime example of the Peter Principle applied to blogging. A few years ago, his reviews of old cookbooks and tribute to The Gobbler (bizarre old motel in Wisconsin) were required reading among a certain hipster demographic. (Even without seeing the numbers, I’m willing to bet that the Institute of Official Cheer still gets many, many more hits than the Bleat.) But then he decided he had a future as an Iraq Invasion cheerleader, and things went south from there. He would have done much better if he’d bought the Gobbler, saved it from the wrecking ball, fixed it up a little (i.e., put in clean sheets and Internet access) and marketed it as some kind of geek/indie-rock tourist destination. I know lots of people who would have spent a night or two there, for Irony’s sake alone.

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  48. Jeff said on May 7, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    . . . and Nancy, you’re keeping some interesting company here: http://www.memeorandum.com/070507/p18#a070507p18

    You may yet end up with more conservative readers before this is over! (Confession: i’d heard of “memeorandum” for years, but had never looked at what they did/how they did it until the Hewitt link on Lileks.) Sadly, most conservatives are missing the “they’re actually firing him in slow-motion” story in their disbelief that one of their favorites is pitched over the edge.

    But James was never, or at least verrrry rarely political in the Quirk — what still, i’d argue, makes this odd, is that the Quirk was full of very specifically local touches (the Target guy in the powerchair, the streetscapes, the Valli, coffeeshop atmosphere) which seem to be the remaining strength for print. Forget whether the Strib should have a Bleat/Institute site with ads as part of their online presence (can you make money at that? Some say no, some say maybe a bit, no one says Amen! or even yes…). The Quirk did seem like the kind of thing that represented a mainstream approach to what vita.mn is full of for the edgy, pierced, ‘too-ed crowd.

    But they may not be making enough on vita.mn, either, and if that’s getting axed shortly, we’re back to Nancy’s main point: they’re trying to legally force James to quit, and soon.

    Now, cutting Kersten and shifting James to op-ed; that would actually make some sense.

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  49. Kat Coble said on May 7, 2007 at 3:26 pm


    I read you long before I read Lileks, and still lurk here from time to time.

    I read you when you were making a fairly decent footprint at the News-Sentinel back in the day, and continue to follow you out of a shared Zevon love, even if we agree on nothing else.

    Honestly, though, I don’t know why you think it prudent to slam Lileks for writing from a political point of view when you yourself do the same.

    There are so many ways in which you and Lileks are similar, even though your core political views are different.

    Frankly, from where I sit as a freelance writer and all-around grunt, you BOTH have had pretty cush jobs as far as writing goes. Hell, don’t you guys have a boat? There aren’t many of us in this game who’ve got either the home or the watercraft. So count yourself lucky, too and maybe you can enjoy your blessings without slagging him.

    As far as the press he’s getting, it’s just living proof of the maxim “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Lileks knows people with ink, and that’s not a bad thing.

    In the meantime, please remember that there are a lot of us who still like Indiana, and that Indiana kept you in a good writing job for a long time, so slagging on it is maybe not the best way to endear yourself to folks.

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  50. Eric B. said on May 7, 2007 at 3:37 pm


    No one is making an appreciable amount of money online. Lots of readers, yes, but not much revenue. Even if they’d shifted Lileks to a ‘Net-only presence, they still couldn’t justify his salary and benefits package. I mean, is Hugh Hewitt really apt to pony up enough dough to make it work?

    His column was filled with purely local touches? Charming, I’m sure, but not something that justifies paying someone for full-time work. If you really wanted something like that, there’s undoubtedly any number of retirees in the Twin Cities area willing to do the same thing for practically free ($30-$40/week?), or maybe even just the gratification of seeing their name on a byline. Or, you could just spare yourself the pain and agony of having to get the thing on deadline every week, edit it, and write a headline, and just replace it with another Sudoku puzzle.

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  51. neil said on May 7, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    I grew up in Indiana myself and I’m still struck by how darn touchy Hoosiers can be. What on earth could be considered ‘slagging’ in this piece?

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  52. Taleena said on May 7, 2007 at 3:43 pm


    Lileks quit Newhouse not the other way around from what I understand.

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  53. Samuel John Klein said on May 7, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Well done, well done. I’ve lived around people like Lileks all my life; I was born on the tail end of the baby boom and, by the time it was my time to get a piece of it, people like him had used it all up, and there was none left over for me.

    This is the definition of schadenfreude; enjoying the ‘downfall’ of someone who thought they were immune. Of course he’s still doing well; I’d trade a month of my best days for two or three of his worst days. So if he had to let go of the ‘woman who does his woodwork’, the only advice I can give is Suck it up, cupcake. You still have a hell of a lot more chances than most of us do.

    The dismay of a righty who gets left behind is always the most entertaining thing.

    And you nailed it exactly. This is the first time I’ve ever read your writing; I’ll be reading you as regularly as I can from here on out.

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  54. Kat Coble said on May 7, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    “far less glamorous”; “shake the Hoosier dust from our feet”

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  55. brian stouder said on May 7, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Kat – I believe that is what is known as ‘putting up a brave front’.

    Seems to me that good ol’ Nance always liked Fort Wayne; although what prompts a journalist to write seems to be the more pungent aspects of any given subject.

    Whatever little I’ve ever read of Lileks was thanks to links from here; and indeed, this latest turn of events got the full NN.c treatment because of how it parallels just what happened to her (it seems to me) – and not out of spite alone; although a healthy dose of crystal clear, lemon-lime spite is always a refreshing thing – as opposed to spite that tries to hide beneath a mask of “objectivity”.

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  56. MarkH said on May 7, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    Damn you, Nancy!

    I have WORK to do. Whyd’ja have to go and put such a quality thread together, on a Monday, no less…

    Between reading all the comments about Lileks’ (someone I’ve NEVER checked into, so I can’t contribute) uh, predicament, and then linking to all the out-of-the-woodwork blogs that have shown up as your word(s) spread through cyberspace, well…

    I do have some opinions on this, but…I just wish there was more time. Oh, well back to the grind.

    Nice work, today, btw…

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  57. Mark said on May 7, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    GEE! Don’t we all wish we could kiss Huge Dimwits fanny so if the day ever came that our employer felt the need to cut costs Huge would call on the power of people who couldn’t find Minneapolis on a map to write nasty emails in support of us.

    Meanwhile, for those of you who have never actually read the lame-ass POS I suggest you sit down & shut up. He may be funny on-line, he might have written a book or two but his dull, self-centered, witless drivel was not entertaining. He was not reassigned because of his political views.

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  58. Greg said on May 7, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Nance –nice takedown. First-time reader, here via atrios.

    vic–“Incidentally (with apologies for going off-topic), does wanting to win the war make one a “hard right-winger”?
    No, but believing that the Iraq occupation can be “won” at this point, without explaining exactly what that would entail and how many more troops have to die–after all the shifting & contradictory explanations we’ve had so far–is a pretty good indicator.

    What would that have made FDR or Truman (or JFK, or Wilson, or…), then, I wonder?”

    Interesting shift there, from *the* Iraq war (notice how he didn’t say “Iraq”? Clever, clever…) to different wars. With FDR & Truman, you’re talking about World War II, which is, for reasons that should be painfully obvious, *vastly* different from the Iraq occupation. And, if memory serves, we weren’t at war under Kennedy’s administration; the Cuban Missile Crisis was specifically solved with diplomacy, and by us *not* going to war.

    Since we’re not actually in a war (military phase ended in 2003 w/ “Mission Accomplished), but an occupation, the only thing we can do is leave.
    Unless you’d care to *very specifically* define what “winning” would look like and how we’re going to accomplish that after screwing things up so badly and turning the entire population against us.

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  59. Jeff said on May 7, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Eric — I agree entirely that no one (other than server farm operators!) is making money from media-related internet revenue, which is my point. But then i am puzzled when NYTimes or Gannett says they’re pushing up towards 30% of revenue coming from internet ads — something is working fiscally there. When this all wobbles to a new equilibrium, how much creative/journalistic content will still be on one side of the teeter-totter, or will the balance be found with mostly wire copy and sudoku service? But it comes back to what the autodealerships and furniture stores and groceries will pay to be next to, which is the iron fulcrum of this game. Not just any old retiree can write copy to warm the sales manager’s heart at U-reckum Autos, and they know that because it’s been tried the last ten years. The surge towards community correspondents (read stringers, often non-compensated) was slapped down by ad buyers. The answer, if there is one, is somewhere between “Aunt Tillie Speaks” and AP (Outer Somewheristan).

    Kat, it’s a small boat. Very small. It just has amazingly straight screwheads, which makes it look pricey.

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  60. alex said on May 7, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    Kat, I’m more of a Hoosier than you are. I live here. What’s more, I don’t think Nance dissed this cesspool of imbeciles one iota.

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  61. Danny said on May 7, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    Kat, it’s a small boat. Very small. It just has amazingly straight screwheads, which makes it look pricey.

    Jeff. That was very, very, very funny. Thank you.

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  62. C Tang said on May 7, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    I’m an irregular reader of Lileks and I like his writing, though not every day. I’m conservative, so that aspect of his writing doesn’t bother me much. But I disagree with Athenae, above, that this is a “take-down;” even as Lileks-liker, I thought it was great advice — the kind your friend gives you. Every industry has shakedowns and people at the top — more seniority, plum assignments, lots of flexibility, higher salaries are the first to get scrutinized. If you’re Dave Barry and bring a franchise with you, it’s a simple business calculation; if you’re smaller, have lots of free-rider readers who like your blog but don’t pay the STrib on-line fees, it’s also a simple business decision.

    So, from a Lileks-liker, I thought this was a great dose of common sense (and a “good read,” to boot). If I got the analogous “reassignment” at my workplace, I would know exactly how to interpret it: start looking for a career path somewhere else because it isn’t going to be here.

    In many ways, I thought the STrib decision not only made sense, it was respectful: not a first-move buyout offer, just a hint to “find greater opportunities elsewhere;” and it sends a signal to the many (assumed) employers coverting Lileks’ skills that they are free to fish in the STrib pond.

    Great post — thanks. I thought the tone was perfect.

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  63. Kirk said on May 7, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    Well, Greg, there was that little thing in Vietnam that was going on when JFK was president.

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  64. neil said on May 7, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    See what I mean? If that’s considered ‘slamming’ Indiana, then you can hardly write anything about the place that -isn’t- slamming. Small wonder that most people simply choose not to write about it at all.

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  65. deb said on May 7, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    this boat’s so small that when nature calls, you have to hang it over the side or pee in a bucket. and it probably cost a mere fraction of what anyone reading this spent on his or her last car.

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  66. Danny said on May 7, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    “Shout out” to Kat Coble. I checked your blog. Very cool. Thanks for coming over here.

    I only had a brief time to scan it, but your Lost-nerdbait take was hilarious.

    Now, in agreement with MarkH, I must … get… back… to… work.
    Must… resist urge… to… linger… here… all…. day.

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  67. Meg said on May 7, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    For the record, I don’t think you sound bitter at all.

    If anyone sounds bitter these days, it’s the wing-nuts with their whole neo-con dream turning to ashes, along with the “Permanent Republican Majority.”

    I don’t feel bad for Lileks. He needs to get out of the house and out into the real world. But I feel bad for the Strib staff in general and the readers.

    We all deserve a better newspaper.

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  68. Osa R. Vittore said on May 7, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    News flash: Strib to cut 145 jobs including 50 in the newsroom, offers buyouts.

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  69. nancy said on May 7, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Well, that didn’t take long.

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  70. opat said on May 7, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    My sis’, a longtime fan of yours, passed the word about today’s post. I, an ink-stained wretch for three decades and counting, did the old forehead-slap thing: Oh, yeah, Nancy’s blog. How come I haven’t been reading it lately?
    Well, I’m here now, and to stay. I don’t even know the players in this fight and I’m sucked in. Terrific and cogent commentary, pitch-perfect on the whole nasty business of our imploding field — or should I say, the self-imploding that the bottom-line bean-counters in newspaperdom (newspaperdumb) are so good at.
    And really, that’s the simple answer here, isn’t it? Strip away the political voice, forget about the new-model readers he drives to the blog and website, whether he’s a one-note Johnny or not. Their bottom line is Lileks’ salary, and nothing else. There really is no other “there” there.
    In J-school long, long ago and far, far away, we were full of righteous indignation about the coming corporate takeover of daily papers. We all thought the suits were going to tell us what to write and whom NOT to write about. It only dawned on us much, much later that the corporate control had little or nothing to do with such petty stuff. It was really about expenses, profit margins, return-on-investment, and most especially, pledging fealty to the Wall Street analysts’ cries for higher and higher dividends.
    And that’s the obit for Lileks’ column, however bad or good it may have been.
    Forgive the sermon. Thanks for a very nice read.

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  71. Eric B. said on May 7, 2007 at 5:23 pm


    Online revenue is growing, but it is showing signs of stablizing. That is, the growth could be plateauing. And, why not? Papers aren’t pulling in revenue from classified ads online (hell, Craigslist has eviscerated classified ads on both coasts and is working its way into the Midwest), and I can’t imagine anyone paying what they ordinarily would for a full-page ad (what, maybe a few hundred per day with full color?). Sure, with a Web-only presence, you can chop out circulation, classified ads, and the costs of printing the thing, but there’s no way revenue will ever support the size virtual newsroom that could afford a full-time humor columnist.

    The point? I can’t tell you how many columnists, reporters, and photographers I’ve known who’ve been axed (economics, content, same difference) and assumed that readers would rise up in righteous anger, only to learn a week later that as long as a subscriber still gets his obituaries, police logs, and box scores, that the loss in circulation is never more than a momentary blip. When it’s all said and done, most people who drop the newspaper over these kind of content pressures resume their subscription in a month or two. At least, that’s what the circulation folks I’ve talked to have told me.

    Is it sad that quaint little local features are disappearing? Sure, why not. But, advertisers don’t look at your content (that is, unless you’ve offended them lately), they look at your circulation figures and ad rates. If they think it can work, that it’ll be a wise investment, they’ll go with it. If not, they’ll go with an ad at the movie theater or in the local shopper.

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  72. Allison said on May 7, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    —For all of this handwringing, it ignores a central reality: newspapers exist to sell advertising.

    So does Google. They have revenue of 10 billion dollars. Would you like to explain why electronic newspapers can’t make enough revenue from ads to support the print siblings when Google can?

    —The question that newspapers have to answer is how to have a functioning business model when the value of their product keeps diminishing (fewer readers means a decreased advertising value).

    Lileks has a circ without the Strib. It’s on his Bleat. Do the math.

    –Lileks is in part a victim of the very medium he champions: the internet.

    No, he’s a victim of a company that can’t see that they already have in their midst a way to turn around the paper: with electronic dynamic content and ad revenue.

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  73. CJ said on May 7, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Just a note from a liberal who still likes Lilkes…

    1. the column (which was better as backfence) was almost never political

    2. the bleat is rarely political

    3. 99% of his work is not political…

    4. he’s a GOOD WRITER – from a writers standpoint, his crafting is good…

    i always felt he did a good job of keeping the political nuttery away from the real writing… i think that’s a good thing. i think hewitts and other wingers of the world liked him because he was oddly nonpolitical in many ways, and yet lived in a political universe.

    but hey, maybe it’s because i’m a Twin Cities guy who lived in Fargo for four years… maybe that’s why I like his stuff. Or maybe it’s because despite his politics, he’s a decent writer.

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  74. Danny Guam said on May 7, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    I found my way here via the dirtyeffinhippy tube or truck. I can never get that straight. Anyway, I am a bit ashamed to admit that I did not know of your work before now. You are good. The way you expertly applied the pin to the balloon known as Lileks is quite masterful. Not being a professional writer myself, I can only say, you deserve to be payed for writing like this. Bravo.

    I really could care less about what’s his name.

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  75. Jim Treacher said on May 7, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    I really don’t wish him ill. I certainly don’t want him to stop blogging, as he’s always been the best single example of how a person can be relentlessly self-obsessed and still have no self-knowledge.”

    In light of the second sentence, shouldn’t you strike the first?

    “He’s a moderate – at least out in the world of non-journalists.”

    Um, no.

    The Um! There is no known defense against the dreaded Um. Well parried.

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  76. Constantine said on May 7, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    No, he’s a victim of a company that can’t see that they already have in their midst a way to turn around the paper: with electronic dynamic content and ad revenue.

    If that were possible, then Lileks would be making enough money online that he wouldn’t need his salary from the Strib in the first place.

    At best, online content serves as loss-leader of semi-worthless material which serves as a means of selling content and services to readers. The revenue from dailykos.com keeps the website afloat, but Kos makes money selling his web design and consulting work. The WSJ reels in paying subscribers to its valuable news section by giving away their worthless opinion section for free in order to generate buzz.

    So maybe the Strib could make a little money off Lileks and vice versa, but it would be more in the form of some inexpensive means of driving readers to each other’s sites, not anything that would justify paying Lileks a full-time salary.

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  77. Phoenix Woman said on May 7, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    I love seeing all the readers of the Volkische Beobachter showing up to claim that Lileks’ isn’t a conservative. Good Lord, he’s got Hugh-flippin’-Hewitt siccing his flying monkeys onto the Strib’s management staff even now. (In fact, to judge from this thread, it looks like there was some Flying Monkey spillover here.)

    Good post, Nancy, and good suggestions. But Lileks is too much the union-hata to bother with the Newspaper Guild — that would be tantamount to admitting that unions are a Good Thing!

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  78. Eric B. said on May 7, 2007 at 7:08 pm


    Thirty percent of revenue from online sources really isn’t that much, especially considering online readership for most papers is rising while dead tree readership is declining (except for the small, local dailies). But, eventually, the revenue will have to come from where the readers are, and the dead tree edition will no longer be able to subsidize the Web operations. Will that happen? I have serious doubts that newspapers will ever see classified ad revenue from the Web (thanks to Craigslist and Monster, and other online job resources), and I doubt that anyone will pay today’s half- and full-page rates for Web advertising. At the end of the day, will there be revenue available to keep a full-time humor columnist on staff? Not bloody likely. Hell, you can get that kind of writing all over the Internet, and in most cases, you can get it for free. If you can’t give someone something they can get practically anywhere (i.e. original news reporting), you’re not giving them something they’ll pay for. That’s why small, local dailies are growing while the big, metro dailies are all dying.

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  79. Jeff said on May 7, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Eric —

    We’re agreein’, mostly; what intrigues me is that 30% comes from ten years ago at 0%, aka “internet? whazzat?” Which means i can’t extrapolate a curve to 60% in another ten years, but what will the print biz become, and based on what? That’s what i’m looking for in all this. Hacks like me who pound out content for stuff like college alumni mags have another couple decades in our niche, since the target market still wants a thing to hold and fold down corners (hey Marge, didja know Fern died last year?), even as we’re putting more and more of the same content online for younger alumns who beg for no mail a’tall.

    The consultants are all circling the newsprint carcass and are currently squawking “hyperlocal,” but is that really the financial answer? And our local Gannett cluster of a daily print and a splatter o’ weeklies around the county is giving reporters video-digi-cams and a two-hour training in “creating on-line video content.” Dithering freelance columnists are thus far exempt.

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  80. Jim C said on May 7, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    I’m a conservative, and a blogger. Here’s my point of view on the “MSM”; It’s not so much that I want more reporters and columnists with a conservative bent, it’s that I want the libs to either admit that they’re libs or start publishing straight news without the leftward bias. What’s the big problem with giving up this BS idea of being balanced and letting everyone know where you stand? And it is a BS idea… I don’t believe for a minute that anyone can write a story without letting their personal biases leak into how they cover that story… whether it’s obvious bias, or just not giving the other side’s point of view a fair shake.

    Jim C

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  81. paul said on May 7, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    That is a very long post for someone who wasn’t going to post. Why so bitter?

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  82. sdh said on May 7, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    Allison said (in response to what I said):

    —For all of this handwringing, it ignores a central reality: newspapers exist to sell advertising.

    So does Google. They have revenue of 10 billion dollars. Would you like to explain why electronic newspapers can’t make enough revenue from ads to support the print siblings when Google can?

    Because there is only one Google.

    In a world in which newspapers rely on wire feeds to provide 50-90% of their content, it doesn’t become a question of locality, it becomes a question of branding. This is why the New York Times, Washington Post, and LA Times will probably survive: because they have enough name recognition to pull a sizable audience online, and because they have the resources to continue to develop original content.

    Also, look at Google News. It reinforces my point.

    –Lileks is in part a victim of the very medium he champions: the internet.

    No, he’s a victim of a company that can’t see that they already have in their midst a way to turn around the paper: with electronic dynamic content and ad revenue.

    The Strib cannot function like an internet startup–because it has too many brick and mortar costs. Also there is a significant difference between how much advertisement space you can sell in a newspaper–at least half of all copy space is given over to advertisements–and what you can sell in cyberspace. Also Ad rates are significantly cheaper on the internet per viewer–the only way Google and Yahoo and other companies make the internet profitable is by driving more traffic through their sites.

    I don’t believe newspapers will become obsolete. But I do believe that newspapers are in a downward spiral.

    Take from that what you will.

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  83. LA mary said on May 7, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Eighty six. Holy moly.

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  84. Deborah said on May 7, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    Wow, this has been great. I read NN on a daily basis and also Atrios and it’s come full circle on this post. Good reading

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  85. Nick said on May 7, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    Most of the posts here (including the blog itself) miss the point of why this issue is even worthy of debate. It isn’t a left-right issue, although to read the comments, a great many of you seem to frame an inordinate amount of your lives and thoughts around political affiliation. Take a look at his Web site. Hardly any of it makes reference to any political position and it covers a lot of territory. Much of Lileks’ appeal is that he can comment on a world without having to make every dang thing under the sun about politics. That’s part of his appeal and obviously something lost on most posters here.

    Nall has the issue completely backward. Lileks isn’t the buggy whip, or the fat. In an era when newspapers recognize the need to develop an online business plan, the Star-Tribune are dropping their No. 1 driver of online viewership. This is dumb regardless of whether you prefer to compare him to Mussolini or Pinochet. It would be dumb if his views matched those of (insert your favorite columnist here). The point is, his viewership online is huge. (He isn’t a pint-size pundit, Ms Nall, you are. He’s one of the biggest in the nation. Watch your own count fizzle after today.) Advertisers, even those online, like putting their ads where they will be seen.

    Nall’s other facts miss the point as well. “It’s not personal, Jim,” but “they want you to quit”? Ohh-kaay. Also, I seriously doubt Lileks was making guild scale, so he need not thank them for anything. (The guild had no presence at my last paper and hardly anyone noticed, beyond not having dues deducted from our pay every two weeks.) Lileks need not scrape by. There are plenty of media that will be all too happy to acquire him and his readership. (See above regarding advertisers.)

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  86. skydaddy said on May 7, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    The vitriol on display here is nothing short of astonishing.

    Lileks has always been very open about how lucky he is to live the life he leads. He has also been very open about how his dream job was alwyas to have a column at the local paper. Rarely does his politics inform his humor, though he can be bitingly funny in his political commentary.

    I think a great many commenters here have been simply jealous of his success, and are crowing now that he’s been diminished.

    How very, very small of you.

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  87. ashley said on May 7, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    “why so bitter?” The mantra of those who flunked out of the comprehension class at Evelyn Wood.

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  88. brian stouder said on May 7, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    Most of the posts here (including the blog itself) miss the point of why this issue is even worthy of debate.

    As I have read this, it strikes me that ‘the point of why this issue is worthy of debate’ is plainly NOT being missed. ‘This issue’ being Lilek’s demotion; ‘worthy of debate’ because of how it illuminates the current state of print journalism, and what sort of dynamics are affecting that industry going forward.

    As for the political froth, even the casual reader should have noticed that Nance’s initial post had some fun with Lilek’s self-absorption and narcissism; any political disagreement being down the list a ways.

    In this regard, the initial post struck me as akin to – say – laughing snarkily at Paris Hilton getting sentenced to 45 days in the Crossbar Hotel; and pointing out that she hurt her cause by showing up in court late, and lying to the judge.

    Usually, people like that “get over” (as Jim Rome would say) – and when such a personage doesn’t, it is in some ways pleasing…and though I know nothing of Lileks – I gather he won’t be missing any meals. This all looks like more of a hit to his ego than a genuine life-crisis (the article he wrote about it struck me as… smarmy)

    By way of saying – I believe “Nall” framed ‘the point of why this issue is worthy of debate’ perfectly, and entertainingly.

    She IS, afterall, a coalmine canary and a SURVIVOR! One disregards her insight on ‘this issue’ at their own risk

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  89. Jeff said on May 7, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    Eeeeh…….vuhhhhhhhh…..lihhhhh….nnnnnn…..hey, wait you guys, hold up a sec……Woooooouuuuuuld.

    Oh, the reading lady studio. Is that still around?

    Interspersed between a fun and useful discussion of the direction media platforms and jobs atop are going, we’ve got us here a collision of webcultures. Lots of reflexive posturing, kind of like walking through a conference center looking for a wedding reception and stumbling into a bunch of guys getting ready out in the hall for a bodybuilder competition.

    But i’ll bet we’ll have some new commenters hanging about (Nick 9:09, your diet fizzle is already flat) while the long-termers are unperturbed, if excited by a new record thread length.

    It is a record, ain’t it, Nance?

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  90. Jeff said on May 7, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    …wait a minnit; Brian, did you say Paris Hilton is going to jail? The stuff i learn reading this blog!

    What th’eck for?

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  91. nancy said on May 7, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Certainly seems to be a record. Oh, and in case anyone wonders if I’m in this for money: Page impressions, the last time I checked, were just shy of 10,000 for the day.

    Google AdSense earnings for the same period: 15 cents.

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  92. basset said on May 7, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    Lileks just oughta be thankful he’s not in TV… they’d give him a handycam from Circuit City and start running promos about how he’s on the cutting edge of new journalism.

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  93. 4dbirds said on May 7, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    Hoping you break the century mark.

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  94. brian stouder said on May 7, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Jeff – She got pulled over and was DUI sometime back – and then was caught driving with a suspended license.

    In court, she showed up 10 minutes late (major, major no-no) and then blamed everything on her publicist!! The judge hit her with a 45 day jail sentence in the LA county jail (LA Mary might be able to enlighten us about what part of town that place is on!) – whereupon momma Hilton (sitting in the gallery) shouted something at the judge (“Do you want an autograph?” – or some such failure-to-be-acid-remark)….I learned all this watching the news at lunchtime a few days ago (really!)

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  95. Jeff said on May 7, 2007 at 10:23 pm


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  96. Dan said on May 7, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    Nice to see you are still around. I used to read you occasionally in the local rags but gave up reading FTW papers as being pretty pointless. Did not figure you would last in this town (no reflection on you, re: canary).

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  97. brian stouder said on May 7, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    And I’ll tell you another guy who should get demoted – Chris Albrecht. Apparently that guy – the chairman of HBO (who apparently thinks he is Tony Soprano) – got himself arrested for smacking around his girlfriend at 3 in the morning, in the valet parking lot of the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. (after a big boxing match!)

    I bet some movie/entertainment blogger is gleefully skewering that guy, even as we speak

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  98. Danny said on May 7, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Google AdSense earnings for the same period: 15 cents.

    Nancy, you unbeleivable whore.

    Regulars, it looks like we are outta luck. With money like this to be made, who can blame Nancy and who can trust her. She is liable to let any provocative thing fly from her pie-hole for this grand bounty. She might even start taken stands on, “Santa: Real or Not!” and, “To Club Baby Seals or Run them over in SUV’s: You Choose.”

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  99. Eric B. said on May 7, 2007 at 10:55 pm


    I think a lot of that revenue is simply going to evaporate … poof! … gone forever. We already know what’s happened to classified ads, which for a long time was a huge cash cow, and I can see where a lot of the ad revenue will go to something other than the local newspaper company.

    For instance, a company can build it’s own Web site, and then hook up with networks that don’t subsidize news gathering organizations … little local Web sites that share links through the Chamber of Commerce. It’s cheaper, and likely to be better targeted to potential customers. Lileks might get 1,000s of hits a day, but how do you market that to a local or even regional advertiser? Gopher State Tractor Sales isn’t going to want to advertise on a site whose readership is primarily national. They’re going to spend money where ads will be seen by people who might want to buy a tractor somewhere in Minnesota.

    I don’t think anyone knows what will happen to print, but if I were emotionally invested, I wouldn’t be at all optimistic. You hammer out stuff for college alumni magazines … our local university’s public relations staff is bigger than the newsroom of our local daily newspaper. Word from the two Detroit dailies is that everyone on staff is working like mad to get hired on by the P.R. department at the University of Michigan. Translation: You might be nervous about the distant future; newspaper reporters are terrified about tomorrow.

    Hyperlocal? They’ve been saying this since the early 90s. That means investing in shoe leather reporting staffs, which costs money. I’ve also seen reports on how the big box stores are drying up ad revenue, so while hyperlocal might attract readers (it’s certainly helped small dailies), they might starve for lack of advertising dollars.

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  100. Cynthia said on May 7, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    That was the most brilliantly written piece you’ve posted since I started reading you a couple of years ago. I hope you can keep your motor revved that high all the time. Brava!

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  101. Janice said on May 8, 2007 at 12:19 am

    Do let the Strib reader rep know what a mavelous decision this was.


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  102. spencer said on May 8, 2007 at 9:16 am

    “far less glamorous”; “shake the Hoosier dust from our feet”

    Seriously, Kat, this is exceedingly mild stuff. If this is your definition of “slagging” Indiana, then a previous commenter is correct – you Hoosiers are waaaay too sensitive about your home state.

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  103. Tricia said on May 8, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Wow. I mean wow. Hire somebody who knows how to design a website, will ya Nancy?
    (You could go to lileks.com to see how someone with a good eye does it.)

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  104. brian stouder said on May 8, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Mr Lileks seems to be answering back, today

    This was the first time the blade had fallen in a long time; not since the papers were merged, the Star absorbed into the body of the Trib, had the Reaper roamed the halls, laughing loudly. I should also note that there’s no reason we should be immune to this sort of thing. I’ve seen all my friends go through this, no matter which industry they’re in. I should also note that if I’d been fired outright, well, that’s life. If I’m not producing enough to justify my salary, make me write one or two features per week in addition to my column. And make me write longer columns!

    My dismay had to do with the nature of the specific reassignment, not the fact that I’d come hard up against Reality. Just so we’re clear.

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  105. David said on May 8, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Also here via Atrios. Great column.

    Isn’t anybody going to take on the “newspapers exist only to make advertising” nonsense?

    Yes, that’s why some people own them, sell their stock, and hire and fire employees–to maximize their profits. And anybody who works for a paper is doing it in part to make a living. Or rather, they couldn’t do it full time if it didn’t provide a living wage.

    But please. Their are other reasons papers exist. They provide information, give pleasure, and for several centuries have helped ground cultures in a common pool of knowledge. Maybe that’s coming to an end b/c of new technologies, but I really resent it when it’s implied that we’re nothing but money-driven robots.

    And that brings me to Lileks. He could be funny once in a while. Occasionally REALLY funny, but even when he was being funny I got the impression that he didn’t care for people much and had little sympathy for them. So when I discovered his right-wing side all the jokes got a lot less funny. The back fence stuff often seemed like a world view with the (conservative) conclusions left out.

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  106. Danny said on May 8, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Tricia, you can’t be serious. Just as brevity is the soul of wit, so a clean, simple design is the soul of a website.

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  107. Eric B. said on May 8, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Well, it certainly doesn’t appear that he has faced reality. The problem isn’t that he writes too short, or that he could add a feature or two. There is no longer a market for a full-time humor columnist, even if they write the occasional feature story, whose salary is just shy of six figures. There probably isn’t a market for a general assignment reporter whose salary is that high, but then again, it’s a union shop.

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  108. MarkH said on May 8, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Danny, you said it.

    There are lots of artsy-fartsy blog sites out there with no real substance. Go to them if you like, people.

    Mr. Burns does a great job. If this design suits our web madam, it suits me just fine, too.

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  109. Wally Whateley said on May 8, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Lileks’ generally crude blog posts, where he fantasizes in fairly gruesome detail about the violent murders of people he doesn’t like, make it clear that he’s not really a person who should have a column in a newspaper. He’s a person who should be closely watched by the police to make sure he doesn’t start stockpiling weapons…

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  110. Hattie said on May 8, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    All the neo-cons are being pulled from the tit, and they are screaming like the little babies they are.
    No sympathy here.

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  111. Carlitos said on May 9, 2007 at 1:11 am

    “Glad to know lefties resent anyone with “improper” views (even tho their never stated in the st) There is no talent on this site–only petty jealousy.”


    Umm… you do have at least a passing familiarity with the concept of irony, don’t you?

    Shorter joe says:
    “Those jerks are a bunch of namecallers!”

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  112. Carlitos said on May 9, 2007 at 1:32 am

    “No, he’s a victim of a company that can’t see that they already have in their midst a way to turn around the paper: with electronic dynamic content and ad revenue.”

    Yeah! Cuz he could have done all that! While eating a cheesburger! But they won’t let him!!!

    Wait, why are we even having this discussion? The man could singlehandledly rebuild the internet economy if only those damn liberals… I mean, cut-thoat capitalists… wait… capiltalists always serve the greater good, so they could not have made a mistake… logic of Teh Markets… maybe they are being infiltrated by Stalinists? Well, anyway, clearly he will be able to lift himself up by his bootstraps because all you need is a little spunk and good old fashioned American know-how (and Jesus and heterosexuality and just a dash of pragmatic paternalism) and Viola! problem solved. He has plenty of all that, so he will be fine! Plus he is a white male, so unless the lefties actually build that emasculating, gaymaking, colorizing lib-o-ray that Hillary has been secretly funding with all that White Water money, he has nothing to worry about. And they are stoopid moonbats, so clearly- nothing to worry about!

    Sheesh, and you guys were all worried.

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  113. Jason Cravat said on May 9, 2007 at 3:18 am

    “You’re just bitter.” “You’re just jealous.” The wingnuts can’t get you on substance, Nancy, and they can’t get you on style. (You’re a more elegant writer than Lileks by a factor of ten.) And those who add that Lileks’s newspaper column isn’t political aren’t posting here because his gnat-brained musings in the Strib make their lives worth living. They’re the ones turned on (as Wally Whately suggests above) by his martial tubthumping on behalf of this catastrophic war. (Those chickenhawks are the only readers the guy has left). Lileks will cope as he always does–by whining about the unfairness and rattling his tin cup. And it will never occur to him to feel sympathy for the reservists in his state being sent back to Iraq for their third soul-killing tours while benefits for their spouses and their own “Gnats” are slashed…

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  114. Michael said on May 9, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Wow! What a shrill and nasty column. Your jealousy of the man’s manifold talents is transparent.

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  115. Phoenix Woman said on May 9, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    The ONLY reason Lileks’ conservative defenders are here is because they want to tell Nancy that he’s really not all that conservative, honest! Except that if they actually read her post, they’d know that their efforts at gaslighting are wasted: She’s seen and studied his style enough to write a master’s thesis on it. (Suggested title: “For Me, But Not for Thee: Wingnut Hypocrisy as Expressed in Delusions of Entitlement.”)

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  116. VirginiaGal said on May 10, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    Skydaddy took the words out of my mouth.

    Jealousy is an ugly thing, and professional jealousy is particularly unpleasant. Nancy, if you covet what Lileks has achieved, stop wallowing and go seek it for yourself.

    Building up, not tearing down, is the secret to fulfillment.

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  117. Clancy said on June 5, 2007 at 7:43 am

    This really says it all:


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