Saturday, January 08, 2005

Fraters Libertas: Wrong but Accurate

It’s been a tough week for Saint Paul of Fraters Libertas. Not only did I eviscerate his ill-advised criticism of Randy Moss, but he found himself apologizing to Nick Coleman for inaccuracies regarding the employer of Mr. Coleman’s “stepmother” at the time of Mr. Coleman’s entry into the newspaper business. Although I’m known as one of Nick Coleman’s biggest defenders on the internet, in this case I must come to the defense of Saint Paul: While his post may have been wrong in fact, its suggestion of an appearance of nepotism continues to be accurate.

In a letter to the Fraters Libertas ombudsman, Jim Geraghty at National review Online, Nick pointed out that his “stepmother” was an editor with the Minneapolis Star at the time Nick was hired by the Minneapolis Tribune. Nick implies that this removes any thought that nepotism could have been involved in his hiring. But it seems likely that all of the big editors in town know each other, and it’s not out of the question that one of them might place a call to a colleague at a different paper and say, “Hey, I know a bright young reporter who’s now editing the Minnesota Daily and is looking for a reporting job. It might look bad for me to hire him at my paper sine he is my ‘stepson’, so I thought I would do you a favor and bring a promising young reporter to your attention. Besides, I don’t want him moving back into my basement.”

There will always be a perception of nepotism in this case because the general public will have no way of knowing whether or not such a conversation took place. Nor will we ever know for sure whether the son of the soon to be Majority Leader of the State Senate is being hired to curry favor with a potential source. Does this mean that the “stepchildren” of editors should be banned from working in the newspaper business? Does it mean that the children of powerful politicians should be banned from any employment whatsoever? Of course not. Opposition to nepotism is in fact a violation of human nature. We have an evolutionary need to look after the best interests of our own children. Nepotism is also good for society as a whole. For example, I’m sure that Minneapolis Tribune readers benefited from the fact that Nick Coleman’s reporting was enhanced by exposure to his father’s political career. I recommend the book “In Praise of Nepotism: A Natural History” by Adam Bellow, especially to you, Nick Coleman. Perhaps reading it will improve your self-esteem.

I will continue to have your back, Nick, despite your unfortunate politics, because you are a fellow member of the economic/political/media elite. But you could do two things to make it easier for me to defend you: stop denying that you are wealthy (and thus implying that there is something wrong with wealth) and stop ripping nepotism.


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