Strib publisher: Coleman and Kersten too political for news pages

Categories: Media is dead
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In another response to the Star Tribune's decision to cut columns by Katherine Kersten and Nick Coleman, one reader on Kersten's blog received an email from the paper's publisher, Chris Harte.

The reader published the letter in the Kersten blog comment section which has hit 409 responses.

(Hat tip: Brian Lambert)

In the letter, Harte explains their decision to cut the Coleman and Kersten columns, saying their views were too extreme for the news pages. 

Both Nick and Katherine write the kinds of very political columns that most newspapers would be more likely to feature on their editorial or "Op-Ed" pages than in their local news sections, and we have decided that, at a time when the economy is in a deep decline and advertising revenue is suffering, we would rather use these two full-time positions for reporting the news than for expressing opinion.


Here is the letter in full:

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts about our columnists Katherine Kersten and Nick Coleman. We are responding with this group email because we have received about 100 emails, many if not most of them in response to a Minnesota Family Council "Action Alert." The overwhelming majority have expressed what the council's alert suggested, that Katherine's column was important and we shouldn't drop it. Both Nick and Katherine are accomplished writers who have had metro columns for several years now. They have starkly contrasting viewpoints and we believe it is our responsibility to present a wide variety of columnists to our readers. Both Nick and Katherine write the kinds of very political columns that most newspapers would be more likely to feature on their editorial or "Op-Ed" pages than in their local news sections, and we have decided that, at a time when the economy is in a deep decline and advertising revenue is suffering, we would rather use these two full-time positions for reporting the news than for expressing opinion. We will continue to have Metro section columnists, but they will write columns that are not as overtly partisan. And we will continue to run regular columns by Katherine and Nick on the Op-Ed page if they choose to do that rather than become reporters. 

Our decision to change the columnist lineup was not motivated by politics on the part of the newspaper, and it affects both a liberal and a conservative columnist. Neither Katherine nor Nick has yet told us what he or she will do. We will announce what they have decided and who our new columnists will be as soon as we have all their responses and have been able to decide on the new Metro section columnists. 

In the meantime, Nick's and Katherine's columns will still run. I would also like to remind you, in case you are not aware of it, that we frequently print columns by conservatives like David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, and Michael Gerson (as well as columns by liberals like Thomas Friedman, E.J. Dionne and Paul Krugman). 

We also have added Mitch Pearlstein as a frequent Op-Ed contributor, and have in recent weeks run opinion pieces by Minnesota conservatives Phil Krinkie and Andy Brehm. We are committed to publishing a diverse set of opinions in the paper, because we believe it is our responsibility and is what most of our readers want. 

Thank you for taking the time to write and for reading the Star Tribune. 

Christopher M. Harte
Lambert calls the Strib decision makers "out-of-their element, over-their-heads media subsidiary managers" for their reasoning. 
Rather than respond to an "economy ... in deep decline" with more of what your customers (i.e. readers) clearly find appealing (409 comments on a blog post) you instead perceive the "partisan" tones of two people on a staff of roughly 100 writers as detrimental to your survival. Moreover you announce that, dsespite needing every available body to "report" you will be installing new metro columnists who ... you read it there ... "will write columns that are not overtly partisan."
As much as people on both sides harp on the extremities of the columnists, will the Strib lose something when they are gone? If they can generate this much discussion, does that provide something to the community that could be lost if they stop writing or are only featured periodically on the OpEd page?


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