Another Stool at the Bar…

Or is “another stoolie behind bars” a better analogy?

Damned if I know.  I’m still trying to get my head around it being 2010.  According to the science fiction future historical timeline, this was the year in which Dave Bowman comes back to terraform Jupiter’s Europa, there are colonies on the Moon and Mars and everyone has a nano-scaled tech implanted in their heads to augment their wetware.  Instead, we’ve got Glenn Beck, ride sharing with the Russians to the International Space Station and the iPhone.  Somehow, I feel short-changed.

But, I digress.  As usual.

My actual purpose in writing today was to introduce a new member of the Crowd, Brian Lambert.  Observant visitors will note the appearance of his “gravatar” on the left side of the page or  may have read of his imminent arrival in David Brauer’s MinnPost column over the holidays.

Mr. Lambert is one-man media band with  gigs ranging from MinnPost, where he’s one of the authors of the Daily Glean, to blogging at the Rake and MPLS/St. Paul magazine, yakking on KTLK-FM and writing for the Pioneer Press where I first met him as a media critic. Starting next week, he’ll be co-hosting a 7-9 PM show on FM107, aka “The Chick Station.”  He’s probably done more stuff I’m forgetting, but I’ll leave it to him to embroider as he sees fit.

I’m not sure when his first post will appear or the topics he’ll be writing about (not surprising since I don’t know these things about myself), but I almost always find Mr. Lambert’s musings interesting, insightful, entertaining and fun.  He’s also enjoyably snarky and gossipy about the local media scene when the spirit moves him.  In short, he’s a fine addition to our group, especially since he promised to buy the first round for everyone who makes it to our next meatspace gathering. This alone sets him apart from the rest of us.


– Austin

Photo credit:  Dick Kraus.  “Brian Lambert helps his dad shovel a heavy snowfall from the steps of their rented house in South Huntington in 1996″certified payroll nice

What Happened In Rochester Better Not Stay In Rochester

Whatever magic Al Franken unleashed this morning in Rochester to secure the DFL endorsement with 62 percent of the votes ought to be vacuumed up off the floor of the Mayo Civic Center and bottled for the fall. According to MinnPost’s Doug Grow, today’s Al was sincere, articulate, persuasive and effective, qualities not much seen to date from the man who gave us Stuart Smalley. See for yourself:

Maybe he read Loveland’s post.

– Austin tax preparation business fine

The Man Who Mistook a Web Site for a Newspaper

Mike Hatch ducked an interview with MinnPost‘s Eric Black on the grounds that he mistakenly thought it was the Rochester Post asking for an interview about his tenure as AG and that of his successor.  He was shocked – shocked! – to find “that in fact you represent a blog called the Minnesota Post.”

This strikes me as the funniest thing I’ve read today.  Mr. Hatch is one of the most media-adept politicians I’ve ever observed; does he really expect me to believe he doesn’t know what MinnPost is or where Mr. Black is coming from?

– Austin free invoice fine

If You’re Not Outraged….

Doug Stone’s “Where’s the outrage?” posting on MinnPost today, coupled with Dr. Loveland’s musing on the state of the newspaper industry, has put me in a bit of a grumpy mood this afternoon. If an article as well-researched and well-placed as the New York Times’ analysis of the Pentagon’s use of retired military officers as a fifth column can’t rouse us – regardless of our political leanings – then the state of our union is pretty worrisome and the future of the newspaper industry looks pretty bleak

For those who can’t be bothered with the full version, the NYT last weekend ran a huge front-page analysis of how the Pentagon has systematically targeted a group of retired military officers serving as “analysts” for various news media. Turns out that these individuals 1) have been regularly exposed to special briefings, backgrounders, talking points and other spin from the Defense Department; 2) are often employed or are otherwise affiliated with companies that depend on the DoD for substantial revenue and; 3) these relationships were seldom if ever disclosed to the news organizations or their consumers.

This is the kind of reporting media experts say newspapers should focus on in our brave new world – in-depth, long-form, entrepreneurial, context- and content-heavy. This is the kind of reporting that – as Mr. Loveland correctly points out – often fuels the rest of the media and the blogosphere.

Except when it doesn’t. As Mr. Stone reports, the reaction to this massive heave has been – to say the least – muted. Despite the amount and quality of research involved (after more than a week of carping from the “liberal media” theorists the only correction made so far is the misidentification of one analyst’s service branch), despite the placement (front page of Sunday New York Times is as close as we get to a national agenda), there has been relatively little follow on by other media and very little evidence that the populace is particularly upset.

Mr. Stone cites several reason for this collective yawn including our cynicism (“Of course they’re doing this, everybody does it.”) and the unwillingness of the media to criticize itself, particularly in an age of media concentration and where the finger of criticism was pointing in the mirror.

Regardless of the disease, though, the symptom is what concerns me.


Our system depends on checks and balances and not just between the branches of government, but between the various elements of the larger society. Government excess is checked and balanced in part by a strong and active press and by an engaged and informed public. What we’ve experienced in this decade has been a surge in the government – the executive branch in particular – seizing new powers and rights for itself while the media has been in a relatively dysfunctional phase of timidity, navel-gazing and economic turmoil even while the public has been relatively distracted and disengaged.

Oddly enough, especially coming from a guy like me who believes the negligence of the current administration nearly meets the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors”, I don’t begrudge the administration using the opportunities presented to it. Every president – regardless of party or philosophy – has tried to expand his powers and to use the powers of its office to implement its agenda. Outreach to the retired military officers makes sense.

I do, however, fault the media for 1) not knowing about the relationships with the DoD, 2) not disclosing the relationships and 3) not acting to clean itself up in the wake of learning of these problems. I also fault us – the public – if we don’t take this fact – and many others – into consideration when we go to the voting booth.

– Austin investment advice kind