Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
March 2, 2006

More Dangerous than Danish Cartoons

After I returned from a brief trip up the North shore I found an envelope waiting for me in the mail. It contained excerpts from my recent Reader Weekly column in support of the DECC expansion. It had been the intention of the ArenaYes Committee to publish these excerpts as an ad in the Duluth News Tribune. When the Tribune refused to publish their ad, the frustrated ArenaYes folks decided to print it instead and mail it to ten percent of Duluth ís voters. Thatís all the money they had left.

Why didnít the Trib print the ArenaYes ad? It must have been as dangerous as a Danish cartoon!

I certainly didnít take the rebuff personally. Over the years Iíve given Trib reporters hundreds of interviews and quotes and been featured in numerous stories. Iíve even been a banner headline! Theyíve published dozens of my letters-to-the-editor and five or six columns that I wrote especially for them. The Trib has even endorsed me for public office a few times. I like the Trib. Iíve been a subscriber for thirty-two years. Every day I spend an hour or two reading it. While I was pondering the Tribís censorship of my excerpts I calculated that Iíve spent a year and a quarter of my waking life reading Duluth News Tribunes.

Why heck, I even published a defense of the Tribune in the Reader Weekly (A Kind word for the Trib, March 3, 2004) after the Trib was roundly criticized for asking Fred Phelps what he thought about our Ten Commandments controversy. (Fred is the unpleasant, gay-bashing, Kansas , minister, whose latest outrage is protesting at the funerals of Iraq veterans.) Iím sure the Reader Weeklyís editor gritted his teeth but he put that column in without complaint.

But the Tribune can not reciprocate. It seems that it has a policy very different from the Readerís. The Trib will not permit the Reader Weeklyís mention in any advertising no matter what the public purpose. Before I twist the Tribís nose any further I must make it plain that the Tribune had every right to turn down the ArenaYes advertising. Itís their paper and their policy is sort of a newspaperís version of a ďno shoes, no shirt, no serviceĒ sign.

Iím not entirely surprised. After an ArenaYes fellow thanked me for my column I suggested that, because the Tribune has ten times the circulation of the Reader, ArenaYes ought to ask it to publish the column just like it does editorials from other newspapers. This is how I put it: ďÖburn this email. If the Trib ever found out that I was promoting my Reader column in their pristine pages . . . they wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.Ē

The ArenaYes fellow quickly emailed back writing that the Trib would laugh in his face if he made such a ridiculous request. But he assured me that they couldnít turn down excerpts from the column if ArenaYes paid for them to be run as an ad. We both underestimated the Tribís ten foot pole. It was more like a twenty footer.

Whatís the Tribís problem? Could it be vanity? The Trib is the serious newspaper in town. (Did I explain how much time I spend reading it each day?) It would probably be very painful for them to see anything from the disreputable, local, tabloid reprinted in its pages. I mean the Reader has a motley assortment of contributors like the flaming Uncle Barbie, Fanny Footloose, the Gonzo scientists, conspiracy theorists and, of course, me.

The funny thing is that I was invited to write columns for the Budgeteer just before the Trib swallowed it up. I turned the Budgeteer down despite the possibility of a ten fold increase in audience. I was flattered but I felt some loyalty to my Bohemian, little tabloid. I felt grateful to the Reader for inviting me to write for them. I also chose to stay with the Reader rather than the Budgeteer for much the same reason that a painter would prefer to paint in an art studio rather than a lecture hall.

When someone from ArenaYes explained to a committee of the Chamber of Commerce that the Tribune was unwilling to concede any advantage to its miniscule competition the committee had a good laugh. Well, maybe itís not so funny. The election results just came in.

ArenaYes got its proposal passed 61 to 38 percent. They did it without putting any ads in the Duluth News Tribune. They did, however, put the excerpts from my column in a Reader Weekly ad. That sure says a lot about where your advertising dollars do you the most good.

Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com