Sunday morning’s aren’t nearly as much fun anymore. Not long ago I’d heft the Strib off the doorstep, chuck out the ads, the news and the sports and dig right into my favorite column, "The Readers’ Representative." Having worked for a decade and a half at a daily newspaper, I miss hearing first hand the way self-criticism is transformed in to self-congratulation, the way dense curtains fall over assurances of transparency, the way anyone and everyone higher up the company ladder is not only always right, but right and brave. And especially I missed the way a big, high-profile media company saved a bundle on PR flackery by having a compliant middle manager wallpaper over the corpses hanging in the living room.
But now I just miss the Reader’s Rep. Back in early October the kids up the ladder decided that, gosh, they were just so committed to giving us the latest health news — not so much on dark, complicated stuff like how local health insurance billionaires have goosed the cost of medical care and our collective stress level — but rather the importance of eating vegetables and getting annual exams, they "reassigned" the old Readers’ Rep to the health section and replaced her with … well nobody, apparently.
The last two Sundays have featured columns by the Strib’s top editor, Nancy Barnes. In the first one she displayed a lot of comaraderie with veterans like Paul McEnroe, a.k.a. "Mac", as she called him, much like she does when they bowl together every Tuesday and Thursday night, I’m guessing. This week she gave out a number that’ll connect you to an editor somewhere in the building (maybe) whenever you’re pissed off at Nick Coleman, want to give Katherine Kersten a wet kiss or point out that someone, maybe one of the new (and cheaper) hires on the suburban team had Stillwater on the banks of the Mississippi in the morning’s East Metro edition.
Somehow this isn’t as appealing to me. Obviously the old Readers’ Rep wasn’t actually "representing" readers so much as she was taking bullets for her paymasters, the now beached Par Ridder in particular. Not that Mr. Ridder’s myriad problems; a near complete lack of awareness of business ethics being just one, were ever addressed mind you. But the sheer spectacle of the Readers’ Rep’s elephant-in-the-room avoidance and the frenetic patter of her happy feet scurrying back and forth in search of any vantage point to laud the wisdom and bravery of her colleagues was reliably entertaining. You could read her and think to yourself, "Goddamit, I may have to spend eight hours in a cubicle working for psychotic nerds, but at least I don’t have to sign my name to that!"