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Friday, December 31, 2004

THE EMPEROR PUTS SOME OF HIS CLOTHES BACK ON 

I feel the dreaded Coleman Fatigue beginning to set in, but before I take the cure I ought to give credit where it's due. Nick's column in today's Strib is based on actual reporting, it tells a compelling story, and it doesn't wield a hatchet!

Nick writes about one Mary Peek, who died Thursday after decades of battling the injuries she suffered when a bomb planted by a teenager in the women's restroom of the St. Paul Dayton's store as part of a plot to kill police officers exploded while she brushed her hair in front of the restroom mirror. Her life after the blast was imbued with an equanimity and a largeness of spirit, particularly toward the bomber (who spent only three years in prison), that I doubt many could muster in similar extraordinarily unfortunate circumstances.

One quibble: Coleman tells us that Peek had "a lifelong dedication to women's rights and social justice causes that would eventually lead to her recognition as one of the 'Founding Mothers' of the DFL Party's feminist caucus and her selection to the party's Women's Hall of Fame." I suspect that if she had been, say, a lifelong pro-life activist or a big-shot Republican, Nick would have had slightly less interest in her story.

But that really is just a quibble. Coleman's column today is a fine example of one of the many functions that local newspapers can still perform, and perform better than the blogosphere can. It's what an economist would call their comparative advantage. Anyone with an Internet connection and a functioning brain can provide analysis of and opinions on the news--newspapers no longer have a comparative advantage in that realm--but someone still has to do the hard work of reporting the news in the first place. Blogs are ill-suited for that role, and contrary to the views of some, I think almost everybody on the right side of the blogosphere, or at least anyone worth reading, would readily acknowledge this rather obvious fact. Now, if only Coleman and his ilk in the mainstream media would correspondingly acknowledge that merely possessing a newspaper sinecure doesn't make one's opinions impregnable, maybe we'd get somewhere.

UPDATE: Perhaps I was too hasty in complimenting Coleman. A little Googling reveals that today's column is essentially an abridgment of a longer column Coleman wrote about Peek in the Pioneer Press on August 30, 2002. It's not exactly plagiarism if you steal from yourself, I suppose, but it doesn't seem entirely above board, either. If the Strib's editors ever manage to track down those elusive professional standards governing Coleman, maybe they can give us a ruling on this one, too.

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