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Wow, Pat Reusse nails it - who would have thought!

I'm not usually a fan of sportswriting. Something about sycophantic drool and the Sidnification of it all bothers me.

But Pat Reuse has nailed it in this wonderful piece:

>I've worked for a daily newspaper in the Twin Cities for the past four decades. Whether in St. Paul or now Minneapolis, we monitored the content that was attached to our names.

There was a dignity to the pursuit of news and an ethical threshold that had to be reached in expressing opinion. Certainly, outsiders often questioned the direction of that pursuit, and the threshold might not have been difficult to reach as many people desired.

For sure, you couldn't make up out of whole cloth a collection of lies, or say anything about anyone you choose, and do so under the banner of the St. Paul Dispatch, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

This included the time-honored letters to the editor. These were read and edited by a trained journalist, and the addresses were checked before appearing in the newspaper.

I was reminded again on Friday morning of how far we have fallen in recent years, what with the financial crisis in the newspaper business and the desperate attempts to find a way to make money with websites.

David Brauer, the media reporter for minnpost.com, recently offered a couple of articles on the willingness of newspapers to allow readers to make anonymous comments on nearly all articles posted on their websites. We had Brauer on the morning show a couple of weeks ago to talk about the issue.

My understanding for the motive is that posting and reading comments gets readers to stay on the site for a longer period of time
- and the longer the average stay, the better the chance to convince advertisers that there's potential in advertising at sites such as startibune.com.

We have paid a tremendous price when it comes to dignity, ethics and standing behind content while taking this dubious step ... when was it, four, five years ago?

Behind the dream of helping on-line ad sales, the people making the decision no doubt comforted themselves with the thought that this would give the public a chance to offer insight or participate in a reasoned debate on the subject at hand, and to do so with immediacy.

There were major flaws in this, including the following:

A) The people posting comments could so anonymously, unlike those folks who penned letters to the editor for the previous 150 years of daily newspapering in Minnesota.

B) In an era of newspaper cutbacks, there was no manpower provided to monitor comments and to delete those that went beyond the limits of decency. My observation is that the monitoring actually has lessened as the comment sections have become more popular.

C) Most normally functioning have better things to do with their lives than to come up with a Web name, and then navigate to a site, in order to engage in a diatribe against Nick Punto, or to suggest that Barack Obama is purposely ruining America because he's a secret Muslim and wasn't born in this country anyway.

As a long-time sports columnist in the Twin Cities, there was no requirement for a comment section for me to attract negative reaction. Letter writers and then e-mailers have been besmirching my opinions, knowledge of the sports topics and girth since the day I became a columnist.

That was on Feb. 5, 1979, for the afternoon St. Paul Dispatch. And as Frank Howard, the coaching legend at Clemson and then retired, said when I called for an interview before the 1985 Independence Bowl:

"St. Paul DISS-Patch ... does that paper get out of the city limits, boy?''

To me, I enjoy getting folks worked up. It's part of the job. And as for the fat part, geeze, that shocks me every time that someone would suggest that I have a problem with my weight.

Keep those coming. I could care less. But when the hand grenades are aimed at the bystanders, I get nauseated over what has happened to our standards for content.

On Thursday night, there was a short story posted that said William Pohlad was going to be a partner in the start of a film-making studio. He had been successful in this field since producing the Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain.''

William is the youngest of the late Carl Pohlad's sons. Jim and Bob are his brothers. Jim has taken Carl's place as the ultimate authority with the Twins.

So, there were a couple of quotes concerning the Twins, and then came this post from someone using the name "jmlandry'':

POHLAD'S Are Scum of the Earth!!!!

"Free stadiums, tax benefits, values of their DT properties skyrocket as they get their free stadium. At the season opener, all of the Pohlad's came out on the field, everyone cheered and I almost threw up. Why are these people honored, what have they done. NOTHING! Silver spoon in their mouth, government scam contracts and preferential treatment all the way to bank. I hope the Pohlad's end up in Siberia where they belong. A anthema to Capitalism. They are the worst type of scum suckers! hope their movies fail and they go bankrupt.''

Nut jobs like this have done more than highjack newspapers' website. They have stolen our dignity. In the case of startribune.com, they have stolen the heritage of the newspapers I grew up reading as a kid on the Minnesota prairie.

Idiots that don't know the difference between a plural and a possessive are allowed to bark "free stadium'' when the Pohlads will be on the hook for more than $200 million when Target Field opens next spring.

Idiots that throw the word "scum'' at the family of a man who started with nothing and worked his way to a billionaire ... at a family that gives millions upon millions to charity.

The idiot "jmlandry'' offered the comment under the innocuous story on Bill Pohlad's film studio before 10 p.m. on Thursday. It still was there at midafternoon on Friday.

If we can't have dignity and heritage at my favorite newspaper, how about having enough shame to monitor the bile?

Right on, fat Pat. You have my undying respect. Bill

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