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March 6, 2004
Someone Issued An Opinion! AAAAGH!

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune once again gives new meaning to the term thin-skinned in its headline article on the recent bus strike, skewing the reporting with a bias so obvious it's laughable:

The bus strike was quiet on all fronts Friday -- until the Minnesota Taxpayers League lobbed a grenade into the battlefield.

"Transit just isn't that important to the smooth functioning of the Twin Cities transportation system," said league President David Strom. "That's the obvious conclusion to be drawn from the lack of chaos engendered by the bus-system strike."

If indeed any strike could be called "quiet", the Strib's coverage of it certainly doesn't give that impression. Today, for instance, the Strib has two articles on the strike, including this one, and has headlined the strike since before it began. Yesterday the Strib ran seven stories on the impasse.

Besides, while the Taxpayers League has been an active and influential conservative political movement, it hardly qualifies as a player in the bus strike. Currently, the union and the Metro transit district is negotiating on several issues, most problematically the workers' contribution to soaring health-insurance costs. The impact that a conceptual statement like Strom's would be negligible at best on strike negotiations, although I am sure Strom will be prepared to present evidence for them during the next budget cycle at the Legislature. Using prose like "lobbed a grenade" is so far outside of reality, it's almost a satire of the Strib's collectivist nature.

Beyond that, Laurie Blake first prints Strom's assertions, and then prints five rebuttals from people with vested financial interests in public transportation. The Strib includes a picture, presumably of someone who normally rides the bus, walking through the snow with a cane over a caption that reads, "Walking Farther Due To Strike". (I wonder how Marlin Levison managed to get that 'candid' photograph.) Finally, Blake includes this little zinger in the midst of the rebuttals:

In a rare moment, Strom's comments bound the union and the Met Council together in opposition to the Taxpayers League, which was founded by a small group of wealthy Republican conservatives.

Oh, yes, those eeeeeevillll wealthy Republican conservatives, making that poor man walk through the snow with a cane, all because one organization had the temerity to inquire whether the bus service was efficient and cost effective.

I think Strom, actually, is probably wrong in his conclusions, and as much as I hate driving behind a bus in downtown traffic, forcing the 650,000 residents of the Twin Cities into single-occupancy vehicles would quickly create New York-style gridlock. The result would turn the taxi companies into a private mass-transit system and lock non-residents out of the two downtown areas. But Blake's hysterical writing and op-ed instincts only inflames the already-accurate perception that the Strib is far more interested in editorializing on its front pages instead of reporting, and does further damage to its credibility, if such a possibility exists.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 6, 2004 7:31 AM

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