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Investigative Excellence in Reporting on the Local Issues of Governmental Corruption

I would like to thank the Reader and your columnists Ramos and Martell for their investigative excellence in reporting on the local issues of corruption and exposing undemocratic activities of the governments in our fair city.   These reporters are doing what every journalist should be doing.  But such journalism is rare in the corporate/government/fourth estate cronyism that is rampant in Duluth and in most of Minnesota.  Small papers like the Reader Weekly, the Zentih, and the Timber Jay in Tower are now doing the only investigative journalism.  It is only you small independent papers that dare to question this government/corporate incest.

Part of the story you are exposing is how the “newspaper of record”, the Duluth News Tribune (DNT), has been such an embarrassment over the years because of its poor journalistic standards and its toady relationship with the bloated, unaccountable bureaucracies in Duluth. Examples of poor reporting recently exposed by the Reader have been DNT’s poor coverage of the City Library, the zoo, DEDA, and virtually every aspect of the cloaked governments in Duluth. 

The infamous example of poor reporting is the DNT’s news coverage and blind support of the Duluth school’s $315 million Red Plan.  As far back as 2010, school board members informed the DNT that money for loan payments were, and still are to a tune of $28 million, coming out of money that was supposed to go directly to education; but they refused to print that, even in letters to the editor, until 2013—and they still won’t print it in their news stories.  And the DNT still refuses to report on the $12 million in Red Plan administrative change orders that were hidden from the public by the school administration and that went directly to Johnson Controls, Inc.  One can laugh at the DNT’s editorial in 2011 where they gloated that the Red Plan had $35 million of extra money, but never apologized to the public when several months later it was found that the Red Plan was actually $20 million over budget. 

The most recent example of irresponsible journalism by the DNT is their reporting of the failed, expensive, yearlong attempt by the Duluth school administration to remove me from my twice-elected school board member position.  One can wonder at why a newspaper incessantly repeats, in my opinion, lies about me that had no evidence other than being fabricated by high paid school bureaucrats and their political enablers.  One can wonder why the Duluth “newspaper of record” never has once, during this whole fiasco, said anything about the issues of free speech, the importance of open political discourse, and the sanctity of elections in our democratic society. Apparently using the “paper of record” to promote character assassination takes precedence over democratic principals.

But a clue to the cluelessness of the DNT can be found in opinions made to me by one of their reporters that the school’s high paid bureaucrats are the experts and why would anyone question such experts because they are the experts?  Journalism at its best!

Another example of this blindness (or is intentionally donned blinders) is exhibited by DNT editor Chuck Fredrick when he stated in response to a Reader article on graft in the city, “I wouldn't run what was in the Reader. I do not trust the writer, especially considering his clear motivation. He's not an unbiased news reporter or in any way a journalist.”  What self-serving hypocrisy!   It is no wonder why the journalistic standards of the Duluth News Tribune appear to be so low.  Apparently, the DNT thinks that journalism only involves listening to the bureaucrats as they scurry into the DNT offices to set the narrative.  

I would go so far to say that it is such irresponsible journalism that is a part of keeping the status quo cronyism in place, and that that is a key factor that has stunted economic growth in our beautiful city for thirty years. 

Duluth ReaderWeekly

Art Johnston

School Board Member, 4th District

715 360 6629

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