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"Duluth" News Tribune's McCain endorsement


Today, the Duluth News Tribune endorsed John McCain for president. For a struggling daily in a decidedly blue town, this position seems remarkably out of touch with the community. In 2007, former Forum executive, now DNT publisher, Steve McLister declared the DNT would be used to “shape and mold the community to be business friendly”. He also said “The power of our company is strong. We can change that mindset.”

I guess we shouldn't be surprised at the direction the DNT is taking. But should the DNT still enjoy its status as a local newspaper, while a heavy hand from Fargo is on the wheel? Does the DNT deserve our continued support and patronage?

To be fair, all Forum Communications newspapers endorsed McCain. For more about their endorsement process:


I went through the DNT for today and counted up locally originated content and compared it to the amount of stories from sources outside the area. If you exclude the classifieds, sports scores, obits and everything else you wouldn't consider a story as well as the editorial section, you will find 23 stories from local sources and 40 from the wire (AP, Star Tribune, McClatchy, etc). Of the original/local stories 6 are sports stories, 7 are Outdoors section stories, 2 are fluff pieces that dominate page A1 about who has the best view in town, 1 is a story about referendum info, 1 is about how the teenage brain works and 6 are in the local news section. By comparison of the 40 wire stories 11 of them are in the "local" news section including a story about a St Paul man who stole some piggy banks and another story about a Northfield professer who stole some McCain yard signs. How is this a local paper?

I've only been a Duluth resident for 3.5 years, but I know that the DNT was a MUCH better paper when I moved to town. Now, it is embarrassingly slim, fluffy, and nearly absent of valuable journalism. It's sad, really. The have laid of dozens of staff in the last couple of years, and the paper is still going downhill - fast. Their new website is god-awful, too. I want to support the local daily, but I just can't anymore. It's just so very, very bad.

sean42 - I'm not saying it's a good thing, but I don't think you're going to find the ratio of local to non-local stories any different at any other daily paper in a similar sized-town. Do your analysis on a paper from Eau Claire, or Rochester, or St. Cloud, and let us know what you find.

What's remarkable is that those 23 stories were produced by (according to the DNT Web site contacts list) 18 total reporters. The fact that that many local stories are being produced after all the cutbacks is evidence of the hard work and dedication of those who are left.

Also, please keep in mind that the reporters have nothing to do with the editorials.

I agree with Vicarious. I've been here 3 years and the paper was much even 2 years ago. In addition, we were just on vacation so I called to hold the paper for a week. Got home a week's worth of "news" piled up at the front door. The decline seems to be happening through-out the operation.

As for the endorsement, to parrot the whole "socialist" McCain spin was the straw that broke it for me. My wife and I are probably going to cancel, as hard as that is (it's a routine-thing). I've never lived in a town where I didn't support the local paper. But I can't anymore.

"Isn’t that who you want placing his hand on the Bible?"

I used to buy it daily 7 years ago, over the years dropped to Thursday and Sunday, and then eventually to never.

Raise the price higher than better (not necessarily good) & just as easily available papers, make your website a corporate template which causes me at least to use it much less, hold a position in opposition to most people in the area--sounds like a great plan, doesn't it? Ship 'em back to Fargo.

Did they stop publishing the Wave or just stop distributing it free?

The DNT is (or at least was, last I heard) the most profitable paper under the Murphy McGinnis umbrella. Why? Large and surprisingly loyal readership; few employees. They seem to be testing the waters to see how little local news they can get away with. DNT has become Duluth News by name alone and the parent corporation(s) seems to know that. Maybe?

I would have no problem with the endorsement of McCain if I thought there was even a tiny chance it came from the actual DNT editorial board. They explained exactly how they come to a consensus on endorsements. They tried to play it off as if it was a decision reached by the members of the board. But they were quick to point out that McLister or Forum Communications could at any time step in and tell them whom to endorse. Which leads one to wonder how independent these editorial boards really are when all the papers in the Forum family choose to endorse McCain(and Coleman for the papers in MN). Are we to believe all these boards in all these cities came to a consensus on McCain? Bullshit!

I wish I could tell them to piss off. But there are still aspects of the paper I enjoy reading on a daily basis. I suppose I could get most of it online, but I still am hooked on the daily ritual of reading an actual paper. And until I get past that, I'm stuck.

dlhmr- True, the points I mention are an industry problem, but that really doesn't excuse the decision to put out a joke of an endorsement that doesn't include any real consideration of actual issues. To compound it they in effect buried their endorsement at B1 and sold the paper on "what's the best view in Duluth?" What an embarrassment.

I agree and believe that the DNT is on the same road to demise as the SDT. My perception is that on most days they have more column inches of ads then news.

Their endorsement, given for whatever reason, is misguided and will be proven wrong over the next four years.

1. Why is it surprising that a newspaper, which depends on a strong business community to make money, would be pro-McCain? (BTW, I'm voting for Obabma.)

2. All local newspapers, from the LA Times to the Strib to Newsday, have less local content. The DNT is no different. Their profit margins have gone from obscene (30% under K-R) to respectable (10%) and that freaks our shareholders into a panic. Hence, the smaller paper. What would you do if you were management.

3. Why is DNT even bothering to print a weekday paper anymore? The Christian Science Monitor pulled the plug on its print version. What a cost savings.

I'm pretty disgusted with a company in Fargo, ND calling the shots when it comes to a Duluth, MN newspaper's political endorsements. I used to think the DNT was pretty good for a local paper. Now, it's just huge headlines, bigger pics, and fluff pieces. Look at today's paper. Not only is the DNT one of only like 70 newspapers nationwide to endorse McCain over Obama, but it's probably the only paper in the country not to have an elections-related story above-the-fold on the front page. It's embarrassing, the Sunday before the most historic election in our lifetimes, bar none.

We canceled our subscription to the DNT last week, largely because of falling local content focus, the firing of good reporters (including Ann K. from Arts), and an increasingly "tabloidish" feel to the paper. The decision to endorse McCain, despite the realities of the local market's political landscape just seems like one more reason to support our decision. Guess we'll be counting on PDD to keep us informed on significant local stuff--oh, oh, that seems like a dubious decision....

I had to read the article twice. In all my life I don't remember the DNT endorsing a Republican and I can remember back quite a ways.

C'mon Brad...Ripsaw! The time is ripe!

How is Obama not "pro-business"?
Being a pro-gressive, I don't see my self as any less pro-profit. I guess the difference is a sense of responsibility. Pro-gressives want all boats rising, "Conservative" profiteers look out for themselves. The DNT can shove it's tabloid tripe up it's right-wing arse. They should save a few trees and stop printing the rag until it has something real to say...be kind.

I'm not in Duluth anymore, and I hate what the implications could be on all the reporters with DNT, but I've been talking with most of my family that's left up there, and they've all canceled.

Such a shame, I used to be such a fan of the Tribune. Family members worked for them their whole lives, too.

LOL newspapers.

I grew up in Fargo, so this endorsement came as NO surprise to me. The "Fargo Foolum" has earned little respect from me in the 30 years I have been trying not to read it.
What disturbs me greatly is the lack of COUNTERPOINT. I would expect any commercial newspaper to provide a dissenting opinion directly below their editorial endorsement, either provided by a brave member of the staff or an independent contributor. The endorsement article read like a stump speech, and had little specific logical reasoning within; it simply implied that the ownership is republican and so goes the endorsement. If the recent termination of so many local writers was not reason enough, this is, my subsrciption will be terminated forthwith. Now I just need a new source for kindling a fire....

Not a single reporter, photographer or copy editor likes what's going on with the community's newspaper. The editors and the publisher have decided to turn it into a tabloid in hopes of increasing single copy sales, and the rank-and-file are powerless to stop them. Notice that more and more stories go without bylines? That's a protest.

So please, if you want the newspaper to improve it's quality and stop aiming for the lowest common denominator, write the publisher, Steve McLister, or the editor, Rob Karwath, and tell them to stop fucking with the newspaper.

I too am hooked on the ritual of reading the paper, but from now on it will come from the T.C. dailys or the NY Times.

I am so disappointed with the DNT, but realize how hard it is for any newspaper to keep itself in business these days.

I've considered dropping my subscription but that thought gives me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's like giving up on the idea of local newspapers all together. I just can't do that yet.

I like print, I like the sense of connection to my locality, I have a very long habit of reading the paper with my breakfast. I hate to see this source of information bite the dust, but perhaps it already has?

I'm guessing, though, that some time in the next year I'll decide that the 8,000 point headlines are just not worth reading. Sad...

My family and I discussed yesterday whether to drop our subscription to the DNT and just stay with our beloved NY Times when we need our print fixes. But my kid loves her daily cartoons. So what we're going to do is write a letter to Forum Communications and protest their meddling with a newspaper they might own, but should reflect the concerns and the values of the community it serves, and no longer does. If the DNT continues its downward spiral into irrelevance, then we'll probably drop our subscription, and just read it online. I remember when I'd make my road trips, come home after a week, and spend days reading back issues of the DNT. Doesn't take me very long to read back issues anymore. I just came back Wed. from a week away, took me that evening to catch up on a week's worth of the DNT. It's all wire stories I'd already read in other media while away, or puff pieces I don't waste my time on.

For communication class I send HCIS students to use the micro-fiche at the library. They're amazed to find out that at one point duluth had two papers, evening and morning editions and line art ads for "rupture braces".

A general question: If the DNT goes away, what will replace it? Blogs? TV? Something else?

Love it or hate it, even in its diminished state the DNT is the only media outlet in town that offers coverage of city and county government, the schools, crime, the courts, etc. - and does it day in and day out. Sure, a blog or some other outlet may offer sporadic coverage, but it isn't sustained. Maybe someday there will be a viable alternative, but there isn't one right now.

So for all those canceling your subscriptions or wishing the DNT would go away, how will you stay informed about the decisions of local government, how tax money is being spent, etc.?

Newspapers don't have to be the only way of getting that news, but again, right now in Duluth the newspaper IS the only way. But maybe no one cares about that kind of stuff anymore. Are we becoming a society of ignorance?

I agree with dlhmr above that local media is essential for staying informed about local government, taxes, etc.--and I agree with magus that the tactility, locality, habitual use, etc. of a local newspaper with breakfast is really hard for me to give up--but I just can't stomach being taken for granted as a reader simply because the DNT has a monopoly on the local daily newsprint market.

It is possible to stay informed by getting city council agendas and action items (you can get these from the city web site), by reading on-line materials, and by talking to your neighbors, elected officials, etc. It's going to be a whole lot more work for me, but I've had it with the fluff and blatant pandering to lowest common denominator interests, and the silly idea that only one party or political perspective or the other cares about economic vitality round here.

I will be writing a letter to Forum communications, and I'll be hitting you all up for your knowledge of local events when appropriate.

I don't blame the reporters, and appreciate their energy and savvy. But the publisher and editors of the DNT need to assert their knowledge of the local market and get corporate to back off and let them do their job and make a meaningful contribution to the local culture, while at the same time keeping the paper viable for the local market.

Can you tell I'm angry? I love reading a daily, local paper, and this decision, while I think it's necessary, makes me really sad.

I don't vote for someone because some newspaper endorses them. In over 50 years of reading the Duluth paper(I used to read only the evening and Sunday) I can't remember once actually reading an endorsement. I do read and write letters to the editor. While I'm of neither party it was refreshing to see someone other than a Democrat endorsed. I would have rather it was a third party endorsed but will take at least some deviation from the norm in Duluth.

Apparently it's just going to be the new Norm now.

Surprisingly I find myself agreeing to a certain extent with Anarchy. I agree that newspaper endorsements are generally completely useless, especially in a presidential election. They might carry some weight in a non-partisan city council or county board election, but mean very little when your talking president or US Senate. And even though I'm a life-long Democrat I agree that seeing the DNT endorse a Republican was a bit of a trip. But here's the problem. McLister, Chuck Frederick, Ken Browall, Leslee Leroux, Deb Williams, and Lisa Hansen did not sit around a table and hash this out in some idealistic Alqonquin like round table of deep political thought. Had it happened that way, I would have no problem with the endorsement even though I'm voting for Obama. It is blatantly obvious this came down from the bigwigs in Fargo. Which in my opinion tampers any refreshing quality to the endorsement. Rich corporate f*cks acting like rich corporate f*cks does nothing for me.

Agree with most points here. Truth be told, I think it is odd for newspapers to endorse candidates.

In the end, we canceled our subscription. It was sorta like paying to watch Fox News. We will be back when the ownership changes.

In the meantime, if you are displeased but can't bring yourself to quit: consider sharing your newspaper with a neighbor. Parlay the savings into an alternate media of your choice.

When I moved up to the region in 2001, I thought the DNT was about the best commercial daily I had ever read. Plenty of locally and regionally relevant content, a real newsy front page, seemingly less rightward slant than your average corporate newspaper, reliability - these were the features I valued. In the seven years I've been here, particularly in the last 2, the DNT has gone from this pleasant, readable publication to near-total trash.

Every day I see the front page, I get more and more disgusted. I work with "at-risk" middle school kids in Duluth, many of whom deal with alcohol-related abuse regularly. Our class gets a stack of papers in the morning (side note: the quantity of papers bought by the Duluth School District is probably playing a significant role in keeping the DNT in business at this point). I was downright embarrassed to have those papers sitting in our class the other day, when the screaming front-page headline was, "Can This Man Bring Liquor to Lakeside?" Disgusting and totally inappropriate.

When 3/4 of your front page is taken up by a badly-pixellated picture of a playing card with someone's face on it, that publication hardly deserves the title of "newspaper."

I grew up in a city that faced a major newspaper scandal when I was in high school, which resulted in the virtual takeover of the newspaper's editorial board by the same multinational corporation that once ran Cuba. I constantly found the ultra-conservative politics of that paper very frustrating. But looking back on it, even if they had Foxesque spin, at least they had some real news. The DNT's decline is all the more frustrating to me considering how refreshing I once found it.

I do wish the jobs of the paper's staff would be saved, but that's not going to happen with Forum at the helm. One possibility would be to form a nonprofit community trust to buy out and run the paper. This would be challenging. Otherwise, we probably have more independent publications per capita than just about any other Midwestern city - the Reader, Hillsider, Zenith, Labor World, Transistor, and I'm sure I'm missing a couple, not to mention the blogs. Then there are 3 local public radio news crews, several private radio ones, and 3 TV stations. I'm certainly not worried about missing the news if the paper goes out the window.

I took advantage of their 'what do you think of Hillary coming to town' question to say I thought she'd get a better reception than the Fargo News Tribune's endorsement of McCain.

Cancel your subscritpion and just read the blogs you agree with. Best way to stay informed.

So the newspaper endorsing Senator McCain is offensive? They are not allowed to have a real thought beyond those of the clones of Senator Obama? My goodness, we are tolerant aren't we. Free speech as long as it is your speech. Good luck to you in your little world.

Jim -

The problem is (if you had read Chuck Frederick's column below the endorsement) that it WASN'T the News Tribune's endorsement. It was the endorsement of Forum Communications, which owns 35 papers throughout the midwest. It was an order. That's not freedom of the press, if you ask me.

If Forum Communications owns that portion of the press and they are endorsing who they want to endorse, then it is indeed freedom of the press. Nobody in the government is telling Forum Communications (the press) who they can or cannot endorse.


Following that train of thought, shouldn't the DNT then be called the Forum Communications Tribune?

No. They're paper, they can call it anything they want (or keep the name as is the case). Forcing them to change the name would most-decidedly violate their freedom of the press.

DAMNIT! I hate it when I do that.

I meant "their paper" and not "they're paper" in the above post.

I'm a moron.

"Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one."


The calculated take over of Newspapers and other media comunication by the conservitive rich (that try and run this country) has been going on since before the Rockefellas'. It will continue to go on and the only way we can abate it is by grass roots talk and websites such as this one.

Education is power and the more people that know that this is going on, the more people will be aware of the propaganda that is sometimes printed by these media moguls.

Hope you guys voted!!!!!!!!

Power to the people!!!!!!!!!!

No Danny, you're not a moron. You're a psychopath.

Wow. Psycho-Troll and now Psychopath. Wow.

Congrats on your night, guys. You all deserve it.

Well, now we all know who to blame(or praise) for Al Franken's loss..... The Duluth News Tribune. The DNT should be ashamed.

Damn Buhl and Endion; you'd a thunk those darn things had come with directions.

Why is everyone so mad over the endorsement. It is ridicules; many of you are cancelling your subscribtions because of this. Who cares what other papers do, it is the opinion of the paper (or company) to make the decision. You all have been driking way too much DFL koolaid. If George Bush decided to call himself a democrat, you would all love him. Get over it. The article was cheesy the way it was written, but that shouldn't be grounds for you cancelling the subscibtion to the paper.

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