James Liieks' weekday blog The Bleat is my second stop over breakfast every morning (right after my news browser that gives me the chance to win money every day). When he's not Bleating over the weekend, I stop by the homepage of his employer, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, to read his "Daily Quirk" columns that are published in their paper six days a week. So I couldn't believe what I read in this morning's Bleat:
Yes, friends, it’s finally happened! Synergy! Synthesis! Brand consolidation! In a move that was as welcome as it was unexpected, I’ve been moved – you could almost say promoted – over to the StarTribune online division.OK--allow me a brief moment to push the PG-13 envelope of this blog and say...WTF??
I’ll be developing new content, both video and audio, as well as blogging throughout the day in a new, improved, evolving Bleat!
[...]Hah! Just kidding.
That didn't happen.
As it happens, they've killed my column, and assigned me to write straight local news stories.
Sure, I realize that most corporate (empty) "suits" don't have a creative bone in their bodies, nor do they really have all that much talent for management, either. The vast majority of them could be blasted into space on a Golgafrinchan "B" Ark and the world would be none the poorer (OK, except that maybe their wives and kids would miss them). But how could they "reassign" a talent such as Lileks to a beat-reporting job? Isn't that like having Leonard Bernstein in your employ and only letting him conduct a middle-school orchestra?
It's been said that newspapers are a dying breed. I'm one of the rare ones who still subscribes, mostly because I can't/won't carry my laptop everywhere (and I have my doubts that a good, sanitary way to take one into the bathroom will ever be discovered). But what I read a newspaper for is not the front section, because everything in there ends up being something that I already read online 24 hours ago. I read the paper for local news coverage, sports, the comics and a few columnists. And I would have never been to the Strib's site, and read their ads, were it not for Lileks. But I bet the empty suits never thought of that, did they? It's amazing how a dying medium could obliterate so much of their readers' goodwill by marginalizing one of the brightest stars in their universe.
Needless to say, the blogosphere is abuzz about this. There's a good roundup over at InstaPundit, as you might imagine. Here's one of the better reactions, from Vodkapundit:
It probably won't do James much good with his bosses for me to point this out, but how dumb do you have to be to spike Lileks? You're talking about the best-connected and very likely best-read online columnist in America, and what do the geniuses at the Star-Tribune do? They demote him and strip the paper of his signature in-print work.Even Dave Barry weighs in:
Ideological payback? Maybe. Dinosaur thinking? Obviously. Stupid? Without question.
If the Strib had any institutional sense whatsoever, they'd make James the poobah-in-chief of their online division, and turn him loose. They'd have the best online paper in the country in less than a month. What they're doing now is an idiotic waste of talent.
This is like the Miami Heat deciding to relieve Dwyane Wade of his basketball-playing obligations so he can keep stats.I have no doubt that Lileks will land on his feet, but as someone in the creative industry, I just really hate to see fellow creative types getting shafted by the aforementioned empty suits. Is that "B" ark ready yet?
Sometimes I don't understand the newspaper business. What's left of it.
And while it's not like Lileks is going to have to give up Jasperwood or eat Ramen noodles anytime soon, feel free to buy some of his stuff.
UPDATE: I should also point out that, despite what I'm sure is still an overflowing inbox, the man himself took the time to respond to an email of support within an hour of when I sent it to him. (He liked the Bernstein analogy, incidentally.)