"The reason they're often on the front of the paper or a section is they're often doing some of our best work. The fact that Nick, Doug and Katherine attract a tremendous reaction is a sign they're doing a good job," he added. Coleman's recent trio of columns critical of television commercials supporting the war in Iraq were, to Gyllenhaal, a good example of a columnist "bringing the news home to readers." So was Kersten's rejoinder that she thought criticism of the ads by Democrats was hypocritical. Why does the paper put these columns on pages that otherwise contain news stories? Is there a difference between columnists whose work appears in a news section and columnists who appear on the editorial pages? Gyllenhaal thinks there are many similarities, but the emphases differ: Op-ed columnists tend to write directly about issues; metro columnists often get at issues by telling a story. They have license to push storytelling further than a reporter would and to add their two cents.
[snip stuff about confusing opinion columns with news stories]
"Our columnists are very capable, dedicated reporters. They occasionally make errors, but they're minor, not at the core of the column. Considering the battleground they're working in, their work stands up to tremendous scrutiny," Gyllenhaal said.
I think they both miss the point about Coleman. The problems I have with his work fall into two general categories. First, he has a nasty habit of getting important stuff wrong. He also tends to use his column to make personal attacks on people he doesn't like (mostly conservatives). The second problem is how the Strib seems to protect Nasty Nick. Where criticism of Katherine Kersten's columns often appears as early as the day after one of her columns is printed, critcism of Coleman on the letters page tends to be sparse and late in appearing. Why is that? Doesn't the Strib get reader mail critical of Coleman?