Disgrace of the Star Tribune

The Star Tribune fancies itself the newspaper of the Twin Cities and certainly dominates metropolitan if not regional news coverage. Yet it is a pathetic simulacrum of a newspaper. Take Keith Ellison — please. He is a national figure running for Minnesota Attorney General. He is both the odds-on favorite to win the election — no Republican has won the office since 1966 — and manifestly unfit for the office. This is the point I make in the Weekly Standard column “Can Keith Ellison turn lawman?”

The Star Tribune hasn’t gotten around to exploring the peculiarities of Ellison’s aspirations to turn lawman. Rather, it continues to perform glorified public relations for him. The Star Tribune’s most recent story about Ellison, for example, gives us Ellison’s day at the fair over the weekend. Hard-hitting it is not. Really, why bother?

I looked at the race to succeed Keith Ellison in Minnesota’s fifth congressional district in the Weekly Standard column “The anti-Israel seat.” In essence, the Star Tribune’s failure to cover the candidates or to explore the peculiarities of Omar’s candidacy was total.

I have corresponded by email with Star Tribune editor Rene Sanchez — the senior officer responsible for the paper’s content — over the past month. When he expresses appreciation of my civility, I understand that it is not par for the course. He must take a lot of abuse. You can’t please everybody. Sometimes you can’t please anybody. Yet he promptly responds to my comments and inquiries.

In my messages I have complained about the deficiencies of the paper’s coverage of Omar and Ellison. I explained how the Star Tribune had failed even its DFL readers — failed to inform them of basic background about the candidates that a good newspaper should afford voters they are given the opportunity to make a critical choice. I added that the real election in each case took place in the August 14 DFL primary. I cited David Steinberg’s intensely reported investigative piece on Omar for PJ Media as an example of the Star Tribune’s failure in Omar’s case.

In its August 15 story on Omar’s primary victory, the Star Tribune alluded to “some controversy” that Omar has attracted “with negative comments about Israel.” Anyone who gets his news from the Star Tribune would have approximately no idea what the reporter was referring to. In the course of the two-month primary campaign the paper never got around to covering Omar’s “negative comments.”

I was curious what Mr. Sanchez would have to say. Having gone around and around with the editor, I think I can fairly summarize his comments as follows. He is proud of the job the Star Tribune has done. He says the paper will deepen its coverage of the candidates as the election approaches. He shows no understanding of what I am talking about when I say the election has in effect come and gone. He doesn’t respond to this point. He doesn’t even acknowledge it.

I return to my assertion that the Star Tribune is a pathetic simulacrum of a newspaper and rest my case (not that I won’t repeat it as circumstances warrant). It fails even to serve its core DFL readers with anything approaching respectability. I infer from my correspondence with Mr. Sanchez that the failure comes from the top.

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