Minnesota’s thin skin earns Washington Post scorn

  1. Listen Christopher Ingraham talks to MPR News’ Tom Crann

Well, swell. Our thin Minnesota skins have earned us a new national reputation.

Presumably, this all started when the New York Times claimed grape salad was a staple of our Thanksgiving diets last year and Minnesota reacted with horror and a way-too-serious response.

It’s likely the Washington Post knew all about our thin skins when it trolled us with its ranking of the most beautiful counties in the country, as gauged by scenery and climate.

Of course it was a subjective list; all of these lists are subjective. Just check out the map and notice how some of the most beautiful areas of the country are listed as “average” for proof.

The least beautiful county in the United States: Red Lake. Our Red Lake County.

Minnesotans circled the wagons, which only made it worse. A subsequent reference by the Post blogger referred to “Indignant Minnesota Twitter.”

All of this, of course, played right into the hands of Washington Post blogger Christopher Ingraham, who today feigned a mea culpa, while clearly delighting in the opportunity to (a) get a blog post on a slow day and (b) double down on Minnesota’s flaws.

Soon, the denizens of self-proclaimed “Indignant Minnesota Twitter” started sending photos and testimonials to refute the notion that Minnesota is somehow lacking in beauty of natural amenities.

This isn’t going to end well.

Now, here’s the interesting part. Minnesota wasn’t the only state that doesn’t look great according to the USDA’s natural amenities scale. Iowa and Delaware don’t have any counties ranking at average beauty or above. A number of states — North Dakota, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin among them — have just one or two counties of at least average beauty.

But I didn’t hear a single word of protest from folks in these states. No sarcastic Delaware hashtags. No photo tributes to the natural splendor of Indiana. No petitions from outraged North Dakotans. Only Minnesotans have taken a public stand to defend their state’s honor. Why? I asked some of the folks I’d heard from what the deal was.


Fair enough. So if Red Lake County isn’t the least-beautiful place in the nation, what actually is? I posed this question to Privratsky. “I wouldn’t be doing my job as a born and bred Minnesotan if I didn’t tell people to avoid Wisconsin,” he said.

Franken was more pointed in his response. “A survey taken in the Franken office determined that the least desirable place to live in the country is actually inside the Washington Post’s headquarters,” he said.

Touché, senator.

In case you’re not from Minnesota, Ingraham took a blow torch to us using classic Minnesota passive aggressiveness.

Let it go, Minnesota.

He works for Jeff Bezos.

  • Gary F

    They never drove down MN State Hwy 76 from Houston to Caledonia.

    But, like the NYTimes, it’s readership is declining and becoming more and more of a non factor. An inside the beltway paper for the left of center.

    • Tim

      They ranked the counties in SE Minnesota along the Mississippi higher than the rest of the state (except for the North Shore), which I’d say is about right, honestly.

      • Kassie

        Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? I find Southwestern Minnesota to be breathtakingly beautiful. Blue Mounds State Park may be my favorite.

        • Tim

          Yes, it’s subjective. I’ve spent a lot of time in SW Minnesota. There are some nice areas, and it can have a certain austere beauty at times, but I like water, mountains or hills, and trees. YMMV.

      • lindblomeagles

        Large parts of the country frankly don’t know where Minnesota is, let alone what’s in it so I’m not surprised the Washington Post didn’t take us seriously or that the results came out the way they did. A lot of the nation’s slight to us has to do with our geographic location and the population centers close to us. We’re the furthest northern and western destination east of the Mississippi River. The next great western center is Seattle, Washington, so many miles away across a Great Plain and the Rocky Mountain ranges. Meanwhile, to the East, lies Chicago, Detroit, and Saint Louis, of which, none of those cities are as beautiful as the Twin Cities. Yet, these cities have icons and glorified histories that motivate the country to think of them differently than us; icons, for example, like the Sears Tower, the Gateway Arch, and Motown Records, and histories like the Chicago Fire and Commodities Exchange, Budweiser Beer and Dred Scott, the Ford Motor Company and the birth of the Big Three Auto manufacturers. Beyond our winters, which frankly haven’t been that much different than Chicago’s or Buffalo’s or Boston’s, we don’t have an icon, and while we’re home to several Fortune 500 Companies, our claim to fame is the old milling industry. That doesn’t exactly drive people’s socks up the pant leg. Washington is not only the Nation’s Capitol, it has a ton of things to do and see even though its not all that more attractive, visually, than we are. Icons and histories matter.

  • Nick K

    More laughable East Coast nonsense (the thin skin thing). If Ingraham really wants to set Twitter alight all he needs to do is talk about the flaws of New York City or Boston. As proof of point, I received 12 angry emails for even thinking that NYC could be less than perfect.

    • Joe

      Holy smokes yes. Bostonians rush to defend their city faster than anywhere else I’ve ever seen.

      • Tim

        I think there’s a difference between defending a place in spite of its flaws versus refusing to acknowledge the flaws in the first place. I expect people to do the former, but Minnesotans do seem to do the latter IME more than others. And I think that’s what the Washington Post story is getting at.

        Of course, this list is rather strange to begin with, and highly subjective to boot.

    • johngary66

      Whatever possessed this guy to write an article on such an incredibly boring topic. It’s no wonder he didn’t spend five minutes doing any research. At least he’s not a political pundit.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    Washington Post guy for the win. Would love to get his thoughts on the state fair.

    • Khatti

      I never go to the state fair, I very much prefer the Renaissance Festival.

  • John

    MN inferiority complex strikes again.

  • Kassie

    I think if you live somewhere where people don’t defend it and love it, you should move. Who wants to live somewhere that everyone thinks is ugly, boring or trashy?

    • Dave M


  • John O.

    More trolling to come, I suspect. meh.

    • Khatti

      I suspect meth too.

  • Joseph

    Like the NYT the WAPO is sliding into oblivion. It w ill be interesting to see which organ replaces it. It will be more interesting to see which the Times or the post start running two headed baby or UFO stories on the front page.

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      The Post is trying to do what the upstarts do. Lists. Lots and lots of lists.

      • Khatti

        We love edgy until we are the ones who are cut by the edge.

    • johngary66

      I can’t believe this guy missed the alien spaceship landing in Wisconsin in January. That would have been more interesting.

  • Jerry

    I didn’t know it was so easy to quantify beauty.

  • John

    This list has flawed criteria. I just spot checked a few places outside of Minnesota. The map says Cape Cod has average natural amenities, and Bayfield and Door Counties in Wisconsin are low natural amenities. That doesn’t reflect reality. Heavily skewed in favor of western third of the country. Only 23 below average counties are there, and if you throw out eastern Montana, there are only seven.

    • kevinfromminneapolis

      Good point. That map is basically the map I would put together, which would be heavily skewed toward warm places without bugs.

      • johngary66

        Butterfly’s are bugs?

  • Dave M

    The map is one of relative data. It’s not that there isn’t natural beauty around here, it’s just that the natural beauty out west blows ours away. I’m guessing that a lot of the mad people have never driven in any remote areas of the western US. There are spectacular things to see that are practically unknown to most people.

    As for climate, well, I think MN’s speaks for itself. Suffice to say that this is the coldest large city in North America. Really only Winnipeg has worse weather than us.

    But of course Minnesotans are going to interpret it as an insult.

    • PaulJ

      As I try to impress upon my Coloradoan family, big dry rocks don’t stand against a cold December’s white capped lakes

    • johngary66

      I guess you have never spent anytime in Chicago in the winter. The wind off the lake cuts right to your core. It may not be colder than Minneapolis, but it sure feels colder. Add to that we get far more sunny days in winter here. Check the statistics if you don’t believe me.

  • Jerry

    Minnesotans are so defensive about being unique that they even think their defensiveness is unique.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    So I took a look two counties in NY that I’m familiar with one is where I grew up (Rockland: Rank 926) the other is where one of my nieces now lives (Sullivan: rank 1341). Rockland county is dominated by suburban sprawl. It is a small triangle of land wedged between the Hudson river and the New Jersey border. The third side of the triangle is a straight line from West Point to the NJ border. Yes the part of the county along the Hudson is nice but natural amenities? I don’t think so. As a contrast Sullivan county is Catskill country. It was home to most of the great Catskill resorts of the past. It was vacation country for New Yorkers in the same way that cabin country in Minnesota is where people from this metropolitan area go to escape. There is no way in my opinion that Rockland should rank higher than Sullivan when talking about natural amenities.

  • Khatti

    My ancestors were interested in black, productive soil. Had they been interested in scenic they would have stayed in Norway, Sweden, and Germany.

  • Khatti

    Look at it this way: the part of Minnesota I live in sits in the same latitudes as Aquitaine, Provence, Piedmont, Lombardy, etc.. The climate is very much different, but the light patterns, and much of the landscape is very much the same. The sunsets we have here are like those of Southern France and Northern Italy–what could be more romantic? And I have a renovating tip for you: think of those amber-colored walls and terra-cotta roofs the next time you want to do something with the exterior of your house. Those colors look great in our light.

  • Khatti

    Finally: do you know what Minnesota and the Twin Cities need? A comic book. I am genuinely serious. Think of what icons Batman, Superman and Spider Man are. And I would think a good comic would be far easier to produce than a winning college or professional football team.

  • Eric Nelson

    Way too meta. Why to “journalists” write articles about each other all the time?

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins


      How so?