While basking in the glow of Barack Obama's victory last week, Minnesota Independent gave its writers the pink slip.
Just days after helping to elect Obama, the Center for Independent Media—parent company of MnIndy and several similar websites in places such as Iowa and New Mexico—cut staff writers Molly Priesmeyer and Andy Birkey and terminated the entire freelance budget, which had paid such stalwarts as Britt Robson and Jeff Severns Guntzel.
CIM goes to great pains to position itself as a neutral news outlet independent of Democratic Party influence. Its mission statement begins: "The Center for Independent Media is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that operates an independent online news network in the public interest."
"To have it so soon after the election makes me wonder what their goals were to begin with," says Priesmeyer. "I wonder if their intent was ever to create a sustainable site, or if we were really shills for the Democratic agenda."
After the layoffs hit the news, CIM deputy program director Robin Marty, a Minnesotan, sent out a memo telling reporters that talking to the media about the reorganization would be "grounds for immediate dismissal." CIM president David Bennahum issued a vague statement about "streamlining operations with a more centralized editorial system." Neither Marty nor Bennahum returned calls requesting comment, despite the fact that CIM routinely criticizes politicians who refuse to talk to them.
Jane Kirtley, a journalism professor at the University of Minnesota, says the post-election layoffs could be akin to Macy's laying off temporary workers after Christmas. However, she says, the memo lends credibility to a more sinister interpretation.
The timing of the layoffs could potentially call into question the nonprofit tax status CIM enjoys as a nonpartisan organization. Robson says emails sent by CIM brass during the Republican National Convention caused him to question the organization's intent. Specifically, Robson says the emails implied that the six regional publications should write about the same thing: "The emails practically instructed all the sites to follow up on an item that made Sarah Palin and the Republicans look bad," says Robson.
Kirtley finds the email sent by Marty to be particularly troubling. "How foolish does a news organization look when it tries to gag its employees?" —Erin Carlyle
Election-button beat down
Augsburg College freshman Annie Grossmann says she got beat up on Election Day while wearing a McCain/Palin button.
She reported to police that four black women celebrating Obama's victory in the street stopped her on her way to her dorm and accused her of being a racist. Then they proceeded to punch her in the face, causing her to slam into a brick wall. Grossmann suffered blurred vision and a possible concussion. Authorities say they have no reason to suspect she was not assaulted.
Grossmann, a freshman hockey player and Delta Junction, Alaska, native, is a huge Palin fan.
"She's a positive role model," says Grossmann. "Yeah, she is from what people would call a hick state, but people don't understand her real beliefs."
Grossmann says it has been hard to adjust to Minnesota, where "liberalism is pushed on you." Though she plans to stay, she has found her left-leaning campus to be judgmental of her conservative values. "I think it is sad that some people are just that ignorant and don't understand that people's feelings can be different, and it is not a matter of right or wrong because here in this country we are allowed to believe whatever we want." —Beth Walton
The youth vote
Republicans tried to scare children with a colorful rape and porn comic-book mailer, but it didn't work: Al Franken still got the youth vote, as in "too young to vote."
More than 75,000 students in about 40 school districts participated in the mock election, dubbed Kids Voting Minnesota. After the votes were tallied, Democrat Al Franken beat incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman by 681 votes. Unlike with the real election, the organization will not do a recount.
In case you're wondering, the presidential vote went 22,414 for John McCain and 49,648 for Barack Obama. —Emily Kaiser
Recession-proof American Girl
In an economy that's swinging more wildly than Derek Boogaard, there's one thing we can bank on: American Girl.
Yep, those high-priced dolls that little girls pine over more than Zac Efron. Last Saturday, the doll maker opened a retail store in the Mall of America, and the girls are coming in mobs. While Starbucks is cutting back its staff and stores, this company is looking for bright, talented youth to give trims, styles, and washings to American Girl hair.
"There is lots of excitement and pent-up demand to see and touch our product," says Stephanie Spanos, company spokeswoman. "We're very excited for the holiday season." —Bradley Campbell