Journalist catfight: the Strib's Jill Burcum vs. Minnpost's David Brauer


Modern day journalists fight like pussies. It wasn't so long ago that newsboys bloodied each others' noses as they competed on the streets for readers. Nowadays, the fights happen in the comments section on blogs, which like watching a slap fight between Axl Rose and Tommy Hilfiger. With that in mind, we bring you a play-by-play of the latest journalistic kerfuffle between the Star Tribune's Jill Burcum, and Minnpost's David Brauer.

The occasion is Brauer's latest Minnpost piece, in which he accused the Strib's editorial board of a potential conflict of interest. Brauer pounces on the fact that Strib owner Avista Capital Partners has interests in off-shore drilling that weren't disclosed in the course of the editorial advocating for same. Little did he know that it would provoke a stinging rebuke from the Strib's Jill Burcum. We score the fight after the jump.

Jill Burcum weighs in at under 155 pounds, and represents the discipline of Strib-jitsu. Although some would suggest that the proper response to Brauer's antagonism is to go about her daily business, she can't resist throwing leather with him in the comments section.

David, I thought you read the paper every day for the pointless, commentless Daily Glean?

Right off the bat, Burcum identifies one of Brauer's major weaknesses: He's a parasite whose job is wholly dependent on summarizing the reporting of the very entity he's attacking. But Burcum isn't done yet--she immediately shoots for the takedown.

Let’s start with your reporting techniques. You only wanted to do an email interview with the editorial board to follow up on the editorial? You didn’t want to talk to anybody in person? Depth reporting does not happen via email and it takes guts to make phone calls to those who will question your conclusions. It makes me wonder how often you do email interviews and do not disclose this to your readers.

Burcum gets a double-leg and takes Brauer to the mat. It's well-known that the phone is his kryptonite and he prefers to do business over the computer. This is Ground and Pound 101, as she points out that Brauer criticizes others' reporting while not doing any of his own.

As far as disclosure goes, David, heal thyself. ...Has MinnPost ever disclosed its founders' and funders’ vast investment interests when it writes about various topics? No.

Using the hypocrisy submission, Burcum puts Brauer in a potentially fight-ending heel hook. Will Brauer tap out?

Brauer appears in the comment section of his own post to defend himself and his employer from the vicious assault by "Jabbin'" Jill Bercum. Brauer is more of a counter-fighter--he won't initiate, but rather looks for openings to return fire.

Your speculation about my anti-Strib motives are completely off-base. If I were all about destroying the Strib, why do I have so many sources inside 425 Portland? Why did several write me emails to applaud today's piece?

Although Brauer attempts to parry the jab, he foils himself with narcissism, coming off as defensive. As anyone who has watched pro-wrestling knows, self-celebration often leads to getting a chair-shot from behind.

I know the poohbahs don't like me, but that's no excuse for not calling a reporter back ... Please communicate your feelings about callback decorum to Nancy Barnes (who has never returned a call or email, though Rene Sanchez does) and Ben Taylor, who has also stiffed me since November. I certainly hope the Strib's sources don't follow management's pattern.

Brauer tries to score with a hypocrisy submission of his own but ends up losing position and getting mounted because he comes off as a crybaby. It also detracts from his previous argument about being sourced up.

I write more criticism than praise, because frankly, problems are more important than back-patting. I'm old-school that way. The Strib has abandoned its own public review by cutting the ombudsman position, which makes external oversight that much more important.

Brauer counters with the old "nobody writes about airplanes that don't crash" defense, but completely sabotages himself by declaring himself "old-school that way"--it's the classic example of a fighter writing checks with his mouth that he can't cash with his reporting. Although he feints with a nod to the Strib's decision to cut the ombudsman position, he can't capitalize and misses with the wild "external oversight" punch, tumbling to the mat.

And by the way, one of the nice things about Glean is that I can praise Strib things, which I do every day ... Your opinions about Daily Glean, etc. are fair comment, though I'm proud it's one of the most-read things on the site and that real, working reporters write me all the time to ask why something of theirs wasn't in.

Brauer tries to shrug off the punch, but that only means it landed square and hurt. He seems to beg for mercy by saying that he often praises the Strib--"Can't we all just get along?"--and almost agrees that he's not a "real, working reporter" and is desperate for their praise, sort of like the waterboy begging for a game-worn jersey. And saying the "Daily Glean" is the among the "most-read things on Minnpost" is like bragging about finishing first in the Special Olympics. If Brauer doesn't start intelligently defending himself, the ref is going to stop this fight.

Your point about my personal disclosure is offbase. Not many writers disclose their wives' conflicts - I do that in the Gray Plant case because it's material ...

A wounded Brauer tries to tag-in his wife, but that's not going to score points with the judges. He thinks this makes him honorable and above-reproach; most readers think he shouldn't be bragging about being a house-husband.

Your blanket statement that "Has MinnPost ever disclosed its founders' and funders’ vast investment interests when it writes about various topics?" is basically wrong. Read the disclosure here - - it's certainly more than anything the Strib publishes about Avista.

Brauer appeals to the judges but doesn't have much to support his case. Yes, Minnpost has a standard "About us" page that names who is involved, but there's nothing that outlines the interests and connections of the founders, nor those of the reporters under its umbrella.

Seeing Brauer struggling to defend himself, audience member John Olson climbs into the ring and lands the most solid blow of the fight:

Remember Ms. Burcum that you, your colleagues and your predecessors have skewered many public figures and institutions of all types and sizes over the years and it has had an impact at times.

BAM! Now that's the hypocrisy submission executed like Royce Gracie in his prime. How can Burcum complain about being held to the same standard to which she holds others? Somebody give this guy a Daily Glean ...

Although Brauer would be better off leaving well enough alone, and thanking the commenter for saving him from a beating, he can't resist climbing back into the ring over at



BTW, I disagree vehemently with Ms. Burcum's uncharitable reading of my MinnPost disclosure policy. I think acknowledging one's financial interest, and that of one's spouse, is worthy of praise, and not meaningless. Especially in a family with a lawyer and a journalist - you can guess who's the major breadwinner!

Brauer snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. Just when we were about to side with the commenter, and give Brauer the no-contest due to Burcum's hypocrisy, Brauer drags his wife back into the fight, which doesn't score points with the judges. We give the split-decision to Burcum, recognizing that in this fight, there are no winners, only losers.

DISCLOSURE: Brauer wrote about me here. He would probably say that this piece is too "testosterone-driven." My wife's job is none of your business. I didn't call anybody for this post; anybody who has a problem with it can meet me at Cuzzy's.

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