According to a story in this morning’s (Oct 28) Shopper of the Twin Cities (oops, Star Tribune) Glen Taylor, owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Minneapolis publisher Vance Opperman want to acquire a 25 percent to 35 percent stake in the paper.
Trying to allay fears of readers and the community, they expressed their belief that the Star Tribune is a community asset that should have strong community ownership, and that they’re just the ones from the community that should be part of the Strib’s ownership group.
I beg to differ. These are some of the last two that should be anywhere near the Strib or any other Twin Cities media enterprise.
While they have considered the Strib as a media outlet (“It’s important to have good writers. It’s important to have a good editorial staff.”), they clearly are trying to get this stake in the Strib for financial reasons. “The challenge is how do you do advertising in this environment?” Taylor said. “Vance and I have talked about it. We’re not sitting here with the answers but the goal is to make the paper a profitable enterprise.”Beg pardon? Trying to make the Strib profitable first and then good journalism second is what got it in trouble in the first place. Trying to make any enterprise (auto manufacturer, bank, candlestick maker) profitable first and a good enterprise (auto manufacturer, bank, candlestick maker) second is one of the primary reasons our economy’s in the tank. (You say ‘recession,’ perhaps; I say depression.) The purpose of any business enterprise is to serve the public good, not maximize profits to financial investors. The only enterprise with the legitimate mission of ‘making money’ is the U. S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving. Every other enterprise’s primary mission is to serve the public purpose. (Ref: “Tyranny of the Bottom Line,” in “New Rule, Not Everything Has to Make a Profit,” http://evergreene-digest.org/content/new-rule-not-everything-america-has-make-profit )
That readers have abandoned newspapers because they have failed them (readers) as a journalistic enterprise is (almost) self-evident. As Timothy Egan wrote in the New York Times (“Save the Press,” http://egan.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/02/save-the-press/ ) “People are not deserting these complex and contradictory summaries of our collective existence. It’s the business model that needs to be figured out.” It’s because newspapers have failed in their public purpose–serving as the nation’s single most vital conduit for democratic participation with integrity–that they have failed as businesses. The idea that an enterprise has to be profitable before it can go about the business of what it does is absurd on it’s face. The tail of profitability does not wag the dog of journalism.
That the Star Tribune is a failure as a journalistic enterprise hardly need be labored here for knowledgeable readers. One example from this website should serve my purpose, however. In a story in yesterday’s TC Daily Planet (Star Tribune scrubs Kiffmeyer’s name from stories on faith-based bank closure, https://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2009/10/26/star-tribune-scrubs-kiffmeyer%E2%80%99s-name-stories-faith-based-bank-closure) it was noted that the reason for the omission was, according to Strib business reporter Chris Serres, “We had very tight space in Saturday’s paper and had to cut information on the story that ran online, so I cut out Kiffmeyer.” Read the story to find out why that excuse for sorry journalism doesn’t wash. Another shining example of how our local corporate dominated media, in a mistaken effort to make a buck, are lying and spinning to us so much that it is impossible for reasonable minded citizens to make informed decisions on issues of the day.
And the situation will not get better as long as profiteers, not journalists, run the show. And, clearly, Taylor and Opperman, being two prime examples of the former, are not what the Strib and, more importantly, this community, needs right now.