Funeral for a friend

The first Minneapolis newspaper employee I ever knew was a kid named John Maiers. Every afternoon after school at Annunciation, John would go to the shack near the parking lot of Beek’s Pizza on South Lyndale and pick up a large stack of that day’s edition of The Minneapolis Star, sling a yellow bag over his shoulder and start walking and tossing.

I helped him deliver his route a few times, never forgot the thrill of how it felt to drop the daily news on a doorstep, and now that that quaint ritual of Americana looks to be going the way of the Edsel and Hummer; now that Star Tribune is on the ropes; now that the very real possibility of waking up some morning soon to no more hometown newspaper on the doorstep looms, I feel a need to say a proper goodbye, and I need to say it somewhere it is guaranteed to be printed — here in the pages of a newspaper where delivery people, local ownership, and community ties still matter and thrive.

The Star Tribune has declared bankruptcy, but its editorial troubles started long before that. Like so many visionless politicians, it has taken to pandering to the loudest squeaky wheels with the likes of Katherine Kersten, a columnist who never had an original thought in her head, to the obsession with Edina, as evidenced by a recent story in which youngish former Edinans whined about not being able to afford a move back to the ‘hood.

That’s the kind of crap — not the advent of technology, or the oft-cited "broken business model" — that makes a newspaper irrelevant to its readers, and once a newspaper crosses that line, it is difficult to scrub the irrelevance stink off it, no matter how many free coupons it gives away. But this is a eulogy, not a kiss-off, so let’s get on with it.

When I was in third grade, my father told me that the best way to learn was to "read the paper; not the whole thing, but the headlines and maybe the first few sentences of the story." Thus began my lifelong love affair with newspapers, and to prove it, I have stacks of them in my basement, and a few photo albums worth of clipped out stories from every newspaper this area has ever produced.

But ah, the Star and the Tribune … I have read it on porches and couches, in tents, cars, cabins, bars, chairs, diners, doctor’s offices, bath tubs, and beds. I can quote headlines and passages from great writing over the years, and I can cite things they’ve done that have made me want to march down to Portland Avenue and force a coup.

I can tell you about working there, in the circulation department, and getting yelled at for four-and five-hour stretches by customers who missed their morning fix. I can tell you about my first job in the newsroom, monitoring the police and fire radios. I can tell you about scoops I got, historic events I reported on, and the myriad great newspaper people and characters I met — many of whom still work there, gutting it out for the common good that is at the heart of journalism, no matter what the business model says.

I can tell you that I have written for many publications, some of them prestigious, but it’s doubtful that anything will ever match the thrill of my first byline in the Minneapolis paper — over a "Where Have They Gone?" feature in the sports section on Minnesota Twins pitcher Eddie Bane — just as it’s doubtful that anything will ever match the romantic early-morning sound of …

Plop.

Dog barking.

Footsteps.

Plop.

Footsteps.

Plop.

Shuffle.

Car engine.

Plop.

Plop.

Plop.

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.