Kersten, the Strib, and the Scourge of Affirmative Action
In the past week, we've heard the word around the Strib is that the conservative columnist position the paper will be filling (reported last Wednesday at citypages.com/weblogs) has been ordained for a female writer from the start. Strib editor Anders Gyllenhaal--sort of--says that isn't so: "We've been working on this idea for about a year, collecting names and talking to people, here and around the country. Our candidates have included men and women, a pretty wide assortment of experience and backgrounds.
"It's part of a broader push to expand the paper's reach.... I hope we're getting toward the end of the columnist search, but there's no set time for making a decision."
But still the buzz that the Strib means to hire a woman persists, perhaps fueled by a look at the paper's present roster of columnists, where the score is Boys 14, Girls 4. Who could take issue with changing that? Katherine Kersten could. The Center of the American Experiment screed writer, who is one of the two top candidates mentioned for the job (along with Sarah Janacek), has had very nasty things to say on the subject of affirmative action. Several years ago she wrote an op-ed piece in the Strib that endorsed Thomas Sowell's view of its sins and summed them up thus:
"They [affirmative action measures] tend to benefit the more fortunate members of preferred groups.
"Even when portrayed as temporary, they usually expand in scope--both in terms of groups and rewards covered.
"They contribute to group polarization, sometimes sparking violence.
"They encourage fraudulent claims of membership in preferred groups."
Maybe Kersten, after years of failing to convince the whole world that programs like affirmative action are wrong and destructive, now intends to prove as much by other means. This is a Metro section column we're talking about, remember--it's got to at least feign interest in people and scenes; it's got to possess some kind of color. Some excerpts from the job description:
"As with all columnists, the emphasis would be on deeply reported columns, storytelling off the news, pieces that can best be told with a columnist's leeway.... Qualifications: The columnist must possess excellent writing and reporting skills.... The columnist should be a strong reporter who can bring new insights and original reporting to the section...."
Now, this could be a problem. Kersten a) is not a reporter of any kind by training (nor is Janacek) and b) as a columnist has tended to write tedious, sanctimonious polemics tarted up with the air of classical reflections on values--part of the Bill Bennett claque stylistically, or maybe an indigent person's George F. Will. You can find loads of her typing at the Center of the American Experiment's publications page, and under every category heading to boot.
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