Save the Strib?

I have a few friends and acquaintances among the reporters and editors at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and I wish them all well. I really do. I want no one to have to look for a job in the current economic environment.

But the Star Tribune’s news and editorial coverage dominates the media in Minnesota, and I think the Star Tribune’s relentless liberalism has had a corrosive effect on the civic life of the state. I can think of many examples in the area of public policy, where the Star Tribune has never met a tax it didn’t like, but smaller examples such as we discussed in “The Star Tribune defames a hometown hero” also come to mind.

While my opinion on this score is debatable, I think it is demonstrably the case that the Star Tribune has proved itself incapable of covering big stories in its own backyard when the story line conflicted with the political correctness that paralyzes the paper’s editors and reporters. Take the case of Minnesota Fifth District (Minneapolis) Rep. Keith Ellison, which I took a look at in “”Louis Farrakhan’s first congressman.”

Ellison was of course to be Congress’s first Muslim member. Who was the Star Tribune to stand in the way of history? Ellison’s disgraceful public record was sent down the memory hole once Ellison emerged as the endorsed Democratic candidate to fill the seat. With the exception of the work done by Katherine Kersten in her discontinued metro column, Ellison’s public record remains a deep secret that the Stat Tribune has faithfully kept from its readers over the past several years.

Most recently, the Star Tribune served as the vehicle for Ellison’s conflicting stories about who paid for his hajj. When Ellison’s office told the Star Tribune that Ellison himself paid for it, the Star Tribune reported it. When Ellison subsequently told the Star Tribune that the Muslim American Society of Minnesota paid for it, the Star Tribune reported it. On each occasion, Ellison’s statements were carried in puff pieces about Ellison. We noted the discrepancy and the underlying issue in “Who paid for Ellison’s hajj?” What kind of a newspaper is this?

The Star Tribune is now in bankruptcy. AFP reports that Star Tribune employees have launched an online campaign on Monday in a bid to save the Minnesota newspaper. Employees have established the site Save the Strib, featuring testimonials from readers including former Star Tribune reporter and current Mayor R.T. Rybak. Elsewhere on the site the deep thoughts of readers give way to the deep thoughts of the Star Tribune reporters’ union:

The Newspaper Guild has taken a leading role nationally in exploring ways for communities to invest in their local newspapers and preserve a vital community institution.

Because it’s so obvious the current business model for newspapers doesn’t work, we’ve been proactively investigating alternative ownership and business models that may ensure the Star Tribune will serve the Twin Cities community for many years to come.

These ideas include a low-profit limited liability corporation, the public television/radio model, micropayments, the Green Bay Packers model, non-profit/endowed organizations, employee ownership, and cooperatives.

The Guild is supporting federal legislation in Washington that would include newspapers among businesses that offer a “social benefit” to the community under current Internal Revenue Service rules. This would pave the way for a unique hybrid ownership model called an L3C – a low-profit limited liability corporation – that qualifies as a charity under IRS rules, but is operated as a for-profit business.

We’re engaged in creative thinking to Save the Strib. We deeply care about this longstanding institution because we live in this community. And we’d like to hear your ideas, too.

Surely there’s a story here somewhere. In the Age of Obama, L3C may just be the next big thing! You too can be a charity case, working for a fashionably low-profit company and living on the kindness of strangers. While someone digs out the story, the idea I would like the Newspaper Guild to hear is that Minnesota would be better off without the Star Tribune. Discuss among yourselves.

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