Fair and balanced journalism: let every idiot with an uninformed (if not willfully ignorant) opinion have a voice!

I have to admit it, I’m a glutton for punishment. While I may not be able to tolerate watching the narcissistic twentysomething drivel that’s on MTV 25 hours a day (what happened to music videos?), I do seem to be strangely drawn to that which I loathe in the media. It’s kind of like holding your hand over a burning candle or eating a habañero pepper: an endurance test. So occasionally I’ll turn on Fox News or flip the car radio over to the blowhards on KTLK, and just see how long I can stand it.

Such is the case with Katherine Kersten, a “writer” for the Minneapolis StarTribune, whose “column covers a range of topics reflecting her experiences and interests, with a special emphasis on American culture, politics, religion, family life and education” according to her bio blurb.

What are her qualifications for twice-weekly space in the state’s most widely circulated newspaper? Beats the hell out of me, but clearly I’m not the only person who’s asking the question…


And that’s just out of the first 10 results that came back on Google. (Of the other four, two were official Strib pages, one was an article she wrote for that bastion of fair and balanced journalism, the Wall Street Journal, and the other was for an anti-public education think tank.)

Suffice to say, Kersten’s empty-headed regurgitation of every imaginable right-wing talking point is scarcely worth dissecting, but that leaves unanswered the greater question of what possible qualification she can have for this job. Perhaps it’s just a sad reflection of the state of journalism in the U.S. today that so little attention is paid to getting the facts, as long as “both sides” (yes, there are always two—and only two—cut-and-dried sides to every possible issue) get their equal share of airtime and/or column inches.

And, of course, since the left has been and continues to be grossly over-represented in the media (just ask Rush Limbaugh… or Sean Hannity… or Bill O’Reilly… or— hmm…), it is now every TV, radio station and newspaper’s duty to graciously cede as much time and space as possible to any random Joe or Jane Redstate who has a larynx or basic typing skills.

After a little more digging to try to find any hint of Katherine Kersten’s journalistic credentials—specifically, changing my Google search from Katherine Kersten to "Katherine Kersten" biography—I came across this blog. (Yes, it appears that just about the only place online where her existence is acknowledged, besides at the Strib’s own site, is on blogs complaining about her appalling Strib column.) I’m still not any closer to her résumé, but I thought this blog was worth linking to anyway. It’s not easy to nail down exactly where this writer stands politically; unlike Kersten’s hackwork (and probably mine as well, but I’m not on the payroll of a major newspaper) his writing seems to be well-informed and reasoned, and removed enough from direct opinionated rant to allow the reader to form his or her own opinion.

Well, we have this unbiased source (check the URL), which identifies her impressively as such: “Katherine Kersten is Director of E-Pluribus and Distinguished Senior Fellow for Cultural Studies at Center of the American Experiment, a conservative think tank in Minneapolis.”

Hmm… fascinating. I’m not really sure what “Director of E-Pluribus” means (or even might possibly mean), and I also don’t know what it takes to become a “Distinguished Senior Fellow for Cultural Studies” at a think tank no one I know has ever heard of, even though it’s based right here in town, but I’ve just found a nice and tidy list of companies to boycott.

I harbor a secret fantasy: I truly want to believe that Katherine Kersten is part of the same realm of subversively parodic entertainment as the Weekly World News or professional wrestling. Perhaps she really belongs with the likes of Phil Hendrie (or to a less covert extent, Stephen Colbert). Maybe I’m just taking her too seriously; I’m not in on the joke. But sadly, I don’t think it’s a joke. Or if it is, it’s not a very good one.

The quest for truth continues. If anyone out there happens to know what Katherine Kersten did prior to writing for the Strib, particularly anything that might actually qualify her to write for the Strib, please let me know!

Scott Anderson is Director in Extremis and Distinguished Senior Fellow for Something Something Blah Blah Blah at Center of the Known Universe, a wondrous place that only he knows about.

MNDOT’s secret to reining in highway construction costs: Photoshop

I was just reading, in the StarTribune online edition, an article about the lane addition project that was recently completed on Hwy. 100 in St. Louis Park.

The article includes a map and “Before” and “Now” photos, which I found very interesting. Especially when I noticed that the exact same cars were in both pictures, just in slightly different positions (all, that is, except for the red truck that appears to have been parked on the overpass for the entire duration of the construction project).

Imagine the coincidence, taking pictures both before and after the project, and timing it perfectly that the same cars would be traveling that stretch. Man, some people’s daily routines really are rigid! (Also, the weather was exactly the same, the photo was taken at the same time of day, the autumn leaves on the trees were at the same stage of coloration, etc.)

Of course, I think what’s really going on here is that the “Now” photo is actually a Photoshop mock-up produced by MNDOT during the proposal phase of the project. Anyone with an eye for Photoshop techniques can clearly see what’s been done to the photo. Still, it’s rather amusing that the Strib — intentionally or not — is passing this off as an actual photo of the road as it appears today.

Addendum (October 27, 2006; 9:15 PM): I figure since I took this opportunity to call attention to the Strib’s gaffe, I also owe it to them to share with my reader [sic] the fact that I also emailed the Strib about this, and in less than 12 hours I’ve received two emails from them — including one from the Director of Photography — apologizing for the mistake, and they say they’ll be posting a correction tomorrow. (Therefore, I’ll also refrain from capturing the erroneous version to post here.)

Addendum (November 7, 2006; 11:35 PM): Since I’m not a crackpot, I will not be pursuing this any further. However, I feel it’s worth at least noting here that I’ve just checked the page and no correction was ever made.