[Keith Ellison gives the Netroots keynote on Saturday: the Minnesota politician the Star-Tribune chose to ignore.]
I sat down to have a nice departing breakfast at my hotel in Minneapolis yesterday morning after a satisfying Netroots Nation, and as is my custom on such occasions, I bought the local Sunday paper. In this case, that meant buying a copy of the Star-Tribune.
Now, I will admit I am impressed that the paper has thus far refused to succumb to the Shrinkage phenomenon that is reducing modern papers to the size of postage stamps. The Star Tribune is still printed on standard old broadsheet paper, and it is graphically quite appealing as well.
But what I went there to read was to see what coverage they had of Netroots -- easily the largest gathering of political bloggers in the country, and one of the most powerful gatherings of progressive activists in the country as well.
Now, I expect that local readers will tell me that the Minneapolis paper is a long-established right-wing Republican rag, and gauging from their Sunday editorial-page lineup, that certainly is the impression I came away with. And no doubt it is despised by the PowerLines of the world for not being right-wing enough, which then becomes their excuse -- "See? Both sides hate us! Therefore, we must be exactly right in the middle!"
So to be honest, I wasn't really surprised to see that the Star-Tribune, as I perused it over my coffee and hashbrowns this morning, had actually completely ignored the presence of Netroots Nation in their city and carried not a single word about events there. And indeed, if you check their archives, they couldn't even be bothered to send a single reporter over to the convention center this week to write about the many luminaries there. Instead, their coverage consisted entirely pieces filed by Associated Press reporters. Oh, wait -- there was one piece by a columnist that talked about Netroots and its deeper meaning without any indication he'd ever set foot in the convention.
That's just embarrassing.
But then I nearly blorted my coffee out onto the rag when I came across Bob Von Sternberg's loving coverage of the Republican luminaries at the Right Online conference, complete with big pictures of Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty, which meant that they not only sent a reporter, there was a Star-Trib photographer there as well. (Von Sternberg wrote a second piece, for online readers, about Right Online as well.
There was no indication whatsoever that the Star-Trib was aware that Right Online has ALWAYS been a deliberately imitative gathering -- they follow Netroots Nation around like a pathetic wannabe girlfriend, a creepy stalker, setting up shop in whatever city we gather in. Which means that next year, they'll be in Providence, Rhode Island too, no doubt.
Previous gatherings were truly pathetic. They first tried this in Austin, and it was hilariously tiny. The same thing happened in Pittsburgh and in Vegas last year.
But this year they made it ridiculously cheap for anyone to attend, thanks to heavy Koch Brothers underwriting, as Tina Dupuy observes. So they were able to boast some decent attendance numbers -- I saw one site claim there were in excess of 1,200 people, and my independent sources inform me that's probably correct (and not in the realm of the mythical 1.7 million who marched at the GlennBeckpalooza in Washington that in fact gathered about 90,000 people).
Moreover, the story did end with this nugget that in fact is almost completely wrong:
Meanwhile, a couple of blocks away, at the Minneapolis Convention Center, RightOnline's liberal counterpart, Netroots Nation, was holding its own conference with Sen. Al Franken headlining.
Yep, that's the entirety of the Star Tribune reporting staff's coverage of Netroots Nation. Meanwhile, Right Online gets two long pieces, photos in the print edition, and several videos in the online edition.
Moreover, it's true that Franken was indeed the keynote speaker Saturday morning -- but he was only one of several keynoters throughout the conference weekend. The "headliner" at the convention, if anyone, was Rep. Keith Ellison on Saturday night.
Now, I can just hear the Star-Trib's reporters and editors explaining their thinking: Pawlenty and Bachmann are from Minnesota, after all, and deserve priority for their readers, right?
That sounds good. Until you realize that both Franken and Ellison are from ... wait ... I need to look this up ... oh yeah! Minnesota! Huh! Whoda thunk?
You know, I love when mainstream reporters whine that blogs ruined their business and made them irrelevant. Incidents like this demonstrate just how they have managed to do that all by themselves. Bloggers just are filling the vacuum created by the black holes remaining in the spaces that were supposed to be occupied by their journalistic standards.
You may want to share your thoughts with the folks at the Star-Tribune about those standards. You can call their front desk at (612) 673-4000, or you can write Von Sternberg at firstname.lastname@example.org and let him know what you think. It might be useful to make your feeling known to Political Editor Patricia Lopez too.
Please be polite and thoughtful. It makes a difference.