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ISSUE 119 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/14/2006

Get your hands off our Mess

By Peter Farrell
Executive Editor
and Jean Mullins
Executive Editor

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Manitou Messenger's renown stretches far and wide. The paper is known nationally, and, in some cases, internationally, as the only news source worth reading in the Midwest. The Messenger's tough, no-nonsense approach to the news is legendary. Reading the Messenger is akin to entering Bill O'Reilly's "No Spin Zone" - the reporting is fair, balanced, levelheaded and never laden with sensationalist hyperbole.

It should be noted, however, that serious differences between the Messenger and the "No Spin Zone" do exist. After all, O'Reilly and his staff are a bunch of wimps, while the Mess staff photo alone inspires fear in the hearts of older Norwegian alumni and small children.

Seriously, the last time the Messenger staff and the Fox News staple met in battle, Executive Editor Jane Dudzinski '06 lifted the old man over her head and spun him in a circle for three consecutive hours, cruelly ignoring O'Reilly's well-documented aversion to circular motion. O'Reilly cried, vomited and later capitulated after supposedly "breaking" his hip.

But that's old news. Careful readers of the Messenger (we know there are at least a few of you out there) and the Minneapolis Star Tribune may have noticed some overlap. We're not trying to imply anything - the Star Tribune is a way better newspaper, and some here at the Messenger strive to be employed by a big newspaper such as the Star Tribune someday. But, we are just reporting the facts, and the Star Tribune has definitely taken a gander at the Messenger over the past few years.

In the Oct. 14, 2005 issue of the Messenger, the Variety section ran an article entitled, "From Istanbul to Ytterboe," reporting on the use of hookahs on the St. Olaf campus. Within two weeks, the Star Tribune ran an article entitled "Students get hooked on hookahs" in the Twin Cities and Region section of the Oct. 25, 2005 issue. Coincidence? We think not.

Was the Star Tribune aware of the article written in the Messenger that week? Kate Parry, a reader's representative for the Star Tribune, wrote in an e-mail, "We do read college newspapers although that usually means The Minnesota Daily from the University of Minnesota - Others we pick up and bring back to the office if we visit campuses and see something interesting."

While we have no evidence that a Star Tribune employee visited the St. Olaf campus that week, no doubt if someone had they would have been drawn to our publication and thus the hookah story folded into the Variety section. We certainly believe that this was no coincidence, even if our lack of investigative journalism leaves this fact unconfirmed.

The Star Tribune is also aware of our very fine (if we do say so ourselves) Sports Editor Ryan Maus '07, who was mentioned and photographed for a cover story called "Batty about blogging" in the Variety Section of the Oct. 4, 2004 issue of the Star Tribune for his baseball blog. The Star Tribune knows what we here at the Messenger have known a long time: Maus sure loves baseball.

Coincidences do not stop there. Local news channels contacted St. Olaf after an article written by Opinions Editor Stephanie Soucheray '07 reported on the St. Olaf administration's disciplinary actions after a student made comments about Public Safety on his profile. The article, "Facebook comments punished," published in the News section in the Feb. 24, 2006 issue of the Messenger, received airplay on the Cities ABC affiliate, KSTP Channel 5 News. The producers read the story online, and contacted Soucheray, other students and LaRue Pierce, associate dean of students, about the story. This was not the first story Channel 5 News picked up from the Messenger. Maus included a short article entitled "Streaking incident derails cross country" in the Sports section in the Oct. 14, 2005 issue of the Messenger, about the repercussions following a streaking incident by the male cross country team.

The Channel 5 News was so impressed by this story that they trekked out here to St. Olaf to report on the incident. The story aired Nov. 20, 2005. The reporter stood in front of the St. Olaf sign on Highway 19 and presented the incident as an example of hazing (which, for the record, Maus did not imply in his article). Channel 5 interviewed Ole runners in Buntrock Commons and tried to delve into the dark underbelly of campus life that surely does not exist here at St. Olaf.

The coincidences get local: The Carletonian, the colorless publication of that college across town, ran a story in response to the Messenger story in the Variety section of the Oct. 15, 2004 issue entitled "Carleton, undercover" by Nathan Hopkins '07 with their own reporter spending a day at St. Olaf. That article, "A day at St. Olaf" in the Nov. 5, 2004 issue of The Carletonian, tried to capture the magic of the Messenger's full page spread with color photos of the actual Carleton campus, but fell short with random pictures of diet Barq's root beer and college Pastor Bruce Benson and Ole the Lion pulled from the St. Olaf website.

Now, the Messenger is an award-winning newspaper (careful readers of the Messenger again may have noted that we are the winners of the General Excellence Award 2006 from Best of the Midwest). So who can blame these big wigs up in the Cities for casting an eye down to Northfield to get the pulse of the college-aged from our illustrious newspaper? We certainly don't blame them - we love the attention. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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