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Lileks Reassigned
Posted by: Dale Franks on Monday, May 07, 2007

I guess, like Hugh Hewitt and others, I'm supposed to get all upset about the news from James Lileks that the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has reassigned him.
As it happens, they've killed my column, and assigned me to write straight local news stories.

So the daily 250-word "Back Fence" column will be gone, and Mr. Lileks will be shuffling off to zoning board meetings and the like. Well, since Mr. Lileks is a newpaper union member in good standing,they probably couldn't just fire him with his seniority, but this is the equivalent ofyour boss telling you, "We're gonna need you to move over from accounting, and help out the night janitorial staff." That's the kind of thing that is not usually a sign that your boss doesn't fully understand your accounting skills. Instead, it means he wants to make you quit.

It's obligatory, apparently—judging from the imbrogio this has created in the blogosphere—to moan about how Mr. Lileks is a genius, and the Strib just doesn't grasp the essential timelessness of his prose.

Me, I think the Strib is wondering why they're paying the guy to write a brief, throwaway, daily column smaller than some letters to the editor, when they can put him out on the beat to replace some young reporter they could fire, in order to help delay the sinking of the financial ship.

I mean, from the Strib's point of view, Mr. Lileks is not the guy who writes the daily Bleat, or does the funny commentary to the money printed by heathen foreigners, or produces the multimedia Diner, or whatnot. He's just a guy who does a short humor column, and gets to collect a paycheck while staying at home to do it.

Moreover, Mr. Lileks is not a) a guy whose political views are consonant with the editors of the paper, or b) a guy who's been shy about denouncing many of the Strib's editorial positions as the utter foolishness they are. I doubt this has endeared him to his superiors at the paper. So, since they can't fire him, they're offering a job they know he'll hate, in the hopes he leaves of his own accord.

Chances are that, given the differences in the world views of the Strib's editors and Mr. Lileks, they really don't think he is a genius, just—in the context of the papr itself—a mildly amusing columnist with an easy gig, and neanderthal politics.

"Good riddance", they're no doubt thinking.

Now, sure, if they really liked him, and really had a clue about how to generate some online revenue, They might try to get him to produce online content for them, instead of at, and give him a relatively free hand in doing so. He is, after all, a smart, entertaining guy, who really does write very well.

But I've long come to the conclusion that the MSM sees the online world as a competitor, not a potential patner, and, until the current generation of old curmudgeon editors passes away, will continue to do so.

It may be stupid, but not surprising.

Besides, I have little doubt that Mr Lileks will find fulfilling online work elsewhere in short order.

Far be it from me to criticize the Strib's management for continuing to place the scuttling charges at their paper.
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Previous Comments to this Post 


Me, I think the Strib is wondering why they’re paying the guy to write a brief, throwaway, daily column smaller than some letters to the editor, when they can put him out on the beat to replace some young reporter they could fire, in order to help delay the sinking of the financial ship.
It’s worth noting that the Strib decided that the Back Fence column would be 250 words. Lileks, as I recall, offered to write a good deal more (I believe, something like 600 words, perhaps more) but the editors decided the length.

One of the recurring themes in his Bleats is how he’d like to do much more for the paper because he honestly wants it to do well. He disagrees sharply with the editorial decisions and the overall slant of the newspaper, but he has a great deal of affection for it. I’m fairly sure he’s offered to do much more for little to no additional cost.
Written By: Jimmie
I agree with Jimmie’s observations, but this action has all the earmarks of the very popular attempted constructive discharge.

I recall Lee Iacocca’s banishment from the CEO’s office to an abandoned warehouse by Henry Ford, when the latter tried to get him to quit before he was ready.

I suspect that Lileks will choose to continue to collect his paycheck.

Just to be mean.

Written By: vnjagvet
I don’t know what this means. I do know that it is significant and that it says something about at least the Trib and at most about America today. Bottom line? He is guaranteed to land on his feet and that is a lesson to all young people today.

OK, so much for the PC comment. I used to live in Minneapolis (just a normal citizen) and it is perfectly clear that Lileks will rise above the ...what was the name of that forgetable ... oh, never mind. Lileks is clearly in charge of this and we will see what he makes of it. The Trib? Luddite. Nuff sed.
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
That’s pretty much what I thought when I read about it. Personally I think the Strib is incredibly idiotic in forcing this move - but what else is new. I know Lileks will end up on his feet and will continue to write no matter what. Can’t say I feel the same way about the Strib itself as they seem to be shooting themselves in the foot every chance they get. (makes standing very difficult)
Written By: Teresa

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