Mankato Mayor John Brady Admits Alcoholism, Won’t Resign

On Tuesday, Mankato Mayor John Brady said he will not resign after being arrested on Aug. 21 for driving while intoxicated with a blood-alcohol concentration level of 0.24 — three times the legal limit. Brady was also arrested for an alleged hit-and-run accident, an open bottle violation and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

Mayor Brady also admitted he’s been an alcoholic for “18 years or so,” though he’s had stretches of sobriety lasting up to three years. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “he cited the death of his son last November and a 2007 tragedy in rural Waseca. His stepdaughter is Hilary Kruger, who was severely wounded when a gunman entered her home and killed her husband and son.”

Mayor Brady still plans on running for re-election in November, where he’ll face the court of public opinion. Fortunately for him, Brady seems to have the Mankato Free Press on his side. On Aug. 27, managing editor Joe Spear wrote:

Now, the argument goes, people are really going to believe Mankato is all about excessive drinking. The mayor was caught driving drunk, a mayor who has been involved in efforts to curb excessive alcohol use. That’s certainly going to be a factor in how the community can measure Brady’s ability to be a leader going forward.

Things are not looking good for the mayor, but we’re obligated by our ethics and our sense of fairness to hear the whole story before passing judgment.

I’ve only read the online version of today’s Mankato Free Press, but Spear & Co. continued to avoid judgment and instead wrote an editorial about 2010 congressional elections. The paper’s silence speaks volumes.

Robb Murray, an education reporter at the Mankato Free Press, got some great quotes from city council members who expected Brady’s resignation. From Robb’s story – the best coverage I’ve read so far:

“I came here hoping he would step down,” said Vance Stuehrenberg, a council member who is currently running for a seat on the Blue Earth County Board. “I honestly think the mayor needs to recover, but I don’t think he should be doing it on city time.”

“John’s a good guy and an effective mayor,” council member Mark Frost said. “But this is a breach of public trust that cannot be tolerated.”

In an editorial published Jan. 21, 2006, the Mankato Free Press endorsed Brady’s initial mayoral campaign: “Brady brings the most to the table in terms of knowledge, people skills and most importantly an ability to rally the council to work together to bring the city to the next level.” It seems that ability is lost now, so it’s puzzling the Mankato Free Press wouldn’t be as willing to call for his resignation.

If I was Spear and had any desire to maintain the integrity of my newspaper, I would assign at least two reporters from my severely understaffed newsroom to blow this story apart today and be sure tomorrow’s edition included response from community members, political advisers, lawyers, law enforcement, former mayors and drug and alcohol counselors. This is the biggest story of the year in Mankato and it’s being painfully underplayed. When a story is the talk of the town on its own, you, as managing editor, have the responsibility to provide the facts and details your readers deserve.

Back to Mayor Brady: I can’t say I’m surprised he’s relinquished his grip on the mayorship. Thomas Jefferson said “Power is not alluring to pure minds,” By yesterday’s admission, the Mankato community has every right to be skeptical of Brady’s abilities and motives. If he’s truly committed to seeking assistance for his illness, he must admit he’s not fit to run a city at the same time. He can either face the levity of his situation and go on his own terms or wait until November and see if the community is then more forgiving.

(Thanks to Nate Brennan and the MSU Reporter for the above video of Mayor Brady’s press conference.)

The Marketing of Mormons

My name is Andrew, and I am not a Mormon.

I am, however, an appreciator of quality marketing, and the goods being put forth by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are second to none. You must’ve seen some of these ads from Mormon.org before. If you watched it with a group, someone said something. If you were alone, you tuned in. At the very least, these ads are drawing attention, and since getting one to convert to a new religion is a tough sell, I’m sure the Mormons are satisfied with the buzz.

Timing is everything, and those crafty Mormons keep catching me when I least expect them. I’ve heard their radio spots after a Lil’ Wayne song on the local hip-hop station. I’ve seen their commercials during the seventh inning of a Minnesota Twins game. The Mormons have shown ninja-like abilities to catch people off guard. They same can’t be said for their previous marketing campaign.

Timing is also curious when you consider Proposition 8 and the recent decision by a federal judge to allow continuation of same-sex marriages in California starting Wednesday. The Mormons played an integral role in passing Proposition 8 in 2008, and their efforts were the focus of a recent documentary called 8: The Mormon Proposition:

Ouch.

I have no doubt the Mormons employ a group of advisors whose sole purpose — no pun intended — is to improve the public image of Mormons. If that’s the case, they’re doing one hell of a job. (Still no intention.) This campaign, at the very least, normalizes a religion long seen as something on the fringe, extreme, different. Sure, they may have stolen from Microsoft’s commercials (“I’m ____ and I’m a PC”), but these spots have drawn attention and stirred dialogue.

What more can you ask for?

CNN’s Test Shows Kids Are Wary of Race

While it may not have the immediate newsworthiness of the BP oil leak, the Arizona illegal immigration bill or continue fallout from Wall Street, the issue of race has received excellent coverage from CNN over the past three years. It all started with “Black in America,” a program that had no singular focus, but rather took a survey of what it means to be black in America in 2008.

The latest CNN project aired last night on AC360. It was called “Black or White: Kids on race.” There was one poignant moment when a white 5-year-old girl took part in a pilot test that left her mother in tears:

This immediately called to mind a section from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, where elementary school students took an Implicit Association Test (IAT) that offered similarly disheartening results. Gladwell explained the test in 2007 on Oprah:

I’m no expert on matters regarding race. If I take a stance here, it’s to say the status quo isn’t working. I will say this is why I believe in diversity and I think it’s increasingly important for kids at younger ages to interact with kids who don’t look and act like themselves.

This is a touchy matter, I realize. I think I’d rather leave further discussion to the comment board:

  • Why do you think these negative associations originate at such a young age?
  • What kind of discussions should results from these findings?
  • What can be done for children to impact attitudes regarding race?

Social Media, Newspapers Need to Play Nice

In an average day, I post to my blog, check out Facebook several dozen times, browse my Twitter feed every few hours, look up a thing or two on Wikipedia and maybe watch a few clips on YouTube. I don’t consider myself anymore engaged in social media than you. I consider my activities to be very normal.

So does Erik Qualman, who’s book Socialnomics argues social media is no fad, but rather “the biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution.” In Qualman’s case, the numbers don’t lie, and he’s leveraged them in a YouTube clip — fittingly — to advertise his book. (You can find the clip at the end of this post.)

  • 96% of Millennials have joined a social network.
  • Social media has overtaken pornography as the No. 1 activity on the Internet.
  • 1 out of 8 married couples in the U.S. met via social media.
  • 60 million status updates on Facebook happen daily.

Socialnomics stresses the importance of businesses investing in social media campaigns to stay relevant with the times. I’m no MBA, but I can say this: Anymore, if I see a brand or business without a Facebook page or Twitter account, I immediately question its legitimacy. It’s kind of like back in the mid-1990s when URLs started showing up in ads. Such oversight feels to me like a serious disconnect, making it harder to trust a company.

My dad is part-owner of Millers & Hass Builders, Inc., a homebuilding company in Sioux Falls, S.D. that operates in the basement of our house. It’s a small operation — literally two Millers and one Hass — but companies like theirs can really benefit from smart usage of social media. They’ve started a Facebook fan page, and while they only have 66 fans, there’s potential just one of those people could pass their name along and essentially land my dad a contract to build a $185,000 home. There is no cost to maintain a Facebook fan page. Talk about return on investment.

As a newsman, this also worries me. A decade ago, my dad’s company would’ve gone to the local newspaper to buy advertising. This would’ve been the most practical and effective way of drawing interest. Now, that’s not necessary, especially for a small business with a conservative budget. In a very real way, Facebook is stealing revenue from newspapers, leading to Qualman’s grim statistic that “24 of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation.”

Here I am, a gluttonous media consumer who indulges in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia and several blogs everyday, while these things have the industry I hope to work in — the newspaper industry — in a stranglehold. Here’s why I don’t feel guilty, though: Smarter newspapers across the country are pumping resources into social media integration because they realize this isn’t a fad. My daily usage, along with yours, proves social media a worthy investment.

But why does it matter?

Arthur Miller once said, “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.” One could argue with Facebook and Twitter, who needs newspapers? Well, if you feel the civil discourse should be capped at 140 characters or a status update, that’s your problem. (Please don’t vote, by the way.)

What I mean to say is social media might be the right forum, but journalists are the right people. Once the two learn to play nice, it’s possible we can have our cake and eat it, too.

Why I Appreciate Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney won’t be around much longer, and that makes me incredibly sad.

The legendary commentator is 91, and he’s been doing his bit on 60 Minutes for just about 32 years now. What I do on this blog every day isn’t much different than what Rooney’s been doing for decades. The key difference, however, is Rooney’s been able to comment all these years about the subtleties and nuances of life without ever straying to a polarized stance.

Think about it: Most of us either love or hate something. That’s most apparent in the media, where debates and roundtables will feature guests with completely polarized views — the neo-conservative debates the bleeding-heart liberal; the pro-choice advocate debates the priest; the anti-war activist debates the general. The problem is our brain doesn’t necessarily operate within absolutes. Not always, anyway.

Rooney? His mind never does.

Sharp as an arrow after all these years, I try to catch Rooney’s segment every Sunday evening because he reminds me it’s OK, if not healthier, to just like or dislike something. Rarely will you hear Rooney say he loves or hates something. He operates within that 25-75 percent window from which most of us are outliers. His standard of deviation never strays far from lukewarm, and that’s probably why he’s going strong at 91.

Rooney’s taught me it’s important to appreciate small things, and certainly no waste of time to call attention to them. He realizes those who don’t like his commentary can certainly tune out or turn him off, and I suppose the same goes for my blog.

I was thinking about Rooney when a friend of mine invited me to an upcoming discussion between Frank Black and Carl Wilson. Black is a musician best known as lead singer of alternative rock outfit the Pixies. Wilson is an editor and critic for the Globe and Mail (of Toronto) who wrote a book called Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, which discusses how Dion is one of the most polarizing recording artists ever. (People either love or hate her music.)  According to the Facebook invite I received:

They’ll have a dynamic, irreverent discussion about the changing meanings of “alternative” and “underground,” the relationship of indie to mainstream, emotion in music, and how what we like defines, creates and possibly distorts who we are.

Now, given my limited knowledge of these individuals, both should have the predilection to use words like “love” and “hate” quite a bit. (Given the nature of the discussion, I would imagine we’ll more likely hear “fucking love” or “fucking hate,” actually.)

Could this discussion take place were Rooney a part of it? Yes. However, it might not be as lively to the audience, because we’re hoping these two great minds butt heads a few times or harmoniously praise or revile the same things. Rooney wouldn’t take the bait. He would say, “I don’t see why you’re getting so worked up about things. Celine’s music is perfectly fine, but you won’t find her work in my record collection.”

It’s not my style to operate within Rooney’s range of contentment. There’s no way I could go on writing about things with such harnessed feelings. Unfortunately, my feelings (and so my writing) runs hot and cold, rarely in between. What I will take from Rooney now and remember long after he passes is its OK to muse over the way you like your coffee every morning or grumble at the way jeans fit so tightly after just being washed. Those are the little things that make up the brunt of our lives, anyway. They’re frequent, but still infinitesimal and not worth getting too worked up over.

I hope when Rooney passes the producers of 60 Minutes are tactful when thinking his replacement. They should settle on someone full of like and dislike who everyone can love or hate, just like Rooney.

What Tiger Woods’ Apology Means To Me

Tiger Woods (with caddy Steve Williams) has never been shy about crying on the golf course. Can we expect the same water works during tomorrow's apology?

Tiger Woods is coming out of hiding tomorrow for an 11 a.m. EST press conference where he’s expected to address his troubled past for the first time and discuss his future plans.

That means nearly three months will have passed since we last heard from the world’s most famous, er, infamous athlete. During that span, there’s been countless mistresses who’ve come forward, wild rumors reported and several endorsers giving the peace sign. Friday is Woods’ first step to earning back the adoration of the general public and fans like me.

OK, maybe adoration isn’t the word. Friday is Woods’ first step to earning some forgiveness.

This is a tough one for me. Prior to what went down last Thanksgiving, I was all-in for Tiger Woods. Favorite athlete? Hell, he was one of my favorite humans. The guy embodied excellence, hard work, grace, determination, relentlessness. His golf swing? A master stroke, like Picasso at the easel or Mozart at the piano. To watch Tiger Woods was a privilege.

Was.

I’m a diehard golf fan and I love the professional game. I need someone to cheer for on the PGA Tour, and frankly, it’s always been Tiger. He was, after all, the reason I even started golfing back in 1997, the year he won his first Masters. Tiger made golf cool, and even inspired the latest generation of pros who are now taking over the tour. I’ve been trying to follow guys like Anthony Kim and Stewart Cink, but they’re just not…Tiger.

Now, I don’t respect Tiger, but maybe I don’t need to. I’m not trying to watch his family life when the majors are on TV. His marriage, his family, his transgressions — they’re all part of his private life. The problem is when I look at Tiger, I want him to be as good as the hype I was fed growing up. And it’s not like I went out of my way to assume he was a good guy. That’s just the line I was given by his management company, his charity work, and Tiger, himself. There was no reason to believe otherwise.

I have no idea what he’ll say tomorrow at this press conference. I don’t even know what I want to hear. Obviously, he’ll say he’s sorry. He’ll say he’s not perfect. He’ll say he’s been working on his flaws, that he respects the privacy he’s somehow found despite the relentless media and paparazzi. He’ll probably cry, speak to his imperfection, mention he’s a constant work in progress. I doubt he expects anyone to forgive him tomorrow.

I was texting my good friend Luke over the weekend about Tiger. We were in agreement that Tiger’s actions were only disgusting because he was married and had the kids. If that’s the lifestyle he wanted, he never should’ve started a family and put on the front of Mr. Dad. I said I could go back to being a fan but he would have to show me some serious humility and that he was a changed man. His demeanor would need to be entirely different. No more swearing tirades and throwing golf clubs on the course. No more cookie-cutter answers with the media. He would need to show some transparency, prove to me he has a heart.

I’m a bit ashamed this whole story affected me the way it did, as I’m now a 25-year-old man. I never wanted to be a fanboy, but it sort of worked out that I grew up with Tiger and felt his life was a model for success in every way imaginable. That model was a facade and I took it hook, line and sinker.

I look at it now as a crisis of faith. Who can I really trust? I’m not much a religious man, but I think Tiger speaks to the dangers of false idols and hero worship. Here forth, he’ll just be a golfer for me. He never should’ve been more in the first place.

Note: If anyone wants to throw together a montage with clips from Tiger’s apology tomorrow, I’ve got the perfect song:

So, what do you expect from Tiger’s apology tomorrow? Can you ever be a fan again?

UPDATE: Text of an alleged Tiger Woods’ apology has been leaked, but deemed false. You can read it here. I’m not going to lie – I would’ve gagged at the God-heavy finish. Tiger hasn’t been known to speak of his religious beliefs, so this would seem fake.

 

I’d Rather Watch Cool Runnings

Ilanaaq, the mascot for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, appears to lack athleticism and may suffer from proteus syndrome. (Look it up.)

The 2010 Winter Olympics begin tonight with the opening ceremonies, and though they’re just 300 miles away in Vancouver, B.C., I could probably win a gold medal for apathy.

I’ll tune in tonight for the opening ceremonies, because there’s going to be some pressure on Vancouver to one-up Beijing’s, but after that, the Winter Olympics become the reason I can’t see new episodes of Parks & Rec or The Office for three weeks.

I don’t actively hate the Winter Olympics. I just don’t care about them. I didn’t partake in any of the events growing up. I think that’s the biggest drawback here. Sure, many of you may have played hockey. But who among us can watch and say, Oh, this reminds me of my little league luge days?

I know figure skating or even some of the trick-oriented skiing and snowboarding events are big draws, but I shy away from sports that require judges. That’s too much subjectivity for me. That’s why I like golf, basketball, football, baseball and other mainstream sports.

In golf, you can tell it was a stroke because they hit the golf ball.

In basketball, you can tell it was a three-pointer because the ball went through the hoop and they shot it from behind the three-point line.

Switch it up to some of that half-pipe nonsense where a snowboarder is whirling and twirling and grabbing things and the announcers are using terms like “fakey” and “double-nose sick grind boom” and I’m completely befuddled. When they reach the end of their run, they wait for judges to measure their performance based on opinion. I’m sure it’s a well-informed opinion, but I, the novice, think everything the snowboarder did was awesome. Then the judge says otherwise.

That’s the problem.

Even with events measured by time, I struggle. Take the bobsled events, for example. The difference between gold and silver can come down to 1/1000th of a second. I mean, a team will train for a lifetime for their one chance and — God, listen to me. I’m starting to sound like a regular Bob Costas.

I’ve got a problem with the way advertisers have gone about hyping the Games, too. Is their some vicious rumor the American public is enamored by speed skater Apolo Ohno and skier Lindsey Vonn. Sure, each are dominant in their sport, respectively, but the public doesn’t need to be spoon fed its icons.

Ohno was on Dancing With the Stars. So was Aaron Carter. That doesn’t make him likable.

Vonn is in this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. That makes her exposed and overexposed all at once.

The bigger problem is stars like Ohno and Vonn steal the spotlight from the lesser-knowns whom the Olympics are supposed to be about. I like the stories of amateur athletes who bust their ass 40 hours week at a normal job, but just so happen to be outstanding athletes on the side. That’s what made the U.S. women’s softball teams so great. Not so long ago, the U.S. hockey team was built with amateurs, as well.

The downhill sports no longer have a low profile, either, thanks to numerous popularized pro tours and ESPN’s X Games. The Winter Olympics appear to be nothing more than the most recent stop for many of these athletes. Of course, they probably know the Olympics as “the one you get drug tested for.”

NBC already anticipates it will lose money broadcasting these Games. Their one lifeline is the fact they take place in a favorable time zone. American audiences won’t need to watch delays or re-runs, necessarily. I’m going in with the attitude I’ll probably get a lot of reading done over the next few weeks. But NBC can gauge the popularity of the Olympics on people like me, who don’t intend on watching, but haven’t completely ruled out Olympic fever.