The Washburn incident (5×8 – 1/23/13)

Write the Washburn story as you see it, the return of Crashed Ice, escape from the cold, playing for Prince, and the world is one big dance.

Note: Time to make another plea for the people you think I should talk to as part of NewsCut. Who are the people doing some special things or who have led fascinating lives with little attention? Tell me here. Here are some samples.


Some years ago a jetliner crashed on takeoff from Detroit, killing 157 people. As the newsroom legend goes, when a reporter contacted the airline, the response was, “we had lots of jets that took off and landed safety today. Why aren’t we talking about those?”

That anecdote resurfaced today while reading the Star Tribune’s letter to the editor, castigating the news media and Washburn High School officials for the handling of the story about a “dark-skinned” doll, hung from a rope in a stairwell.

Our local news media, school administrators and “interested” community members did their typical sensationalistic political two-step as they reacted to an unfortunate incident at in Minneapolis last week (“Washburn High curtails activities after racial incident,” Jan. 18). This “teachable moment” was quickly reduced to more of the same “leads if it bleeds” media coverage and an administration seemingly more interested in reaction than reason.

Rather than an honest look at what Washburn really is, school leaders allowed the story to move in a direction that was neither honest nor helpful. Washburn Principal Carol Markham-Cousins and other school administrators failed to stand with the truth or the students of Washburn. Washburn has become an inspired model of what a diverse urban school can be, and these leaders let that message get lost.

And what of the loyalty to Washburn students and families? Cousins’ failure to defend and define what Washburn really is simply left the kids to endure the whispers of community members, who may now see a Washburn letter jacket as meaning something other than what it meant only a few days ago.

Perhaps it is unfair to put all of this on Cousins. I’m sure her superiors were scrambling to figure out the “best” way to handle this. If she fought to defend her school, it is unfortunate that she lost this battle. I’m hoping the next time she faces a microphone, she steps forward and she steps up.


The writer doesn’t suggest how the incident should have been played by the media. Sure, the few details released show a racial incident, but the doll was a prop from a school play and, by the way, Washburn has an excellent theater program.

The letter writer doesn’t suggest what constitutes “honest” and didn’t provide the details he blames the media for not reporting.

But the writer is correct that the administration didn’t provide many details, citing privacy laws which protect the children who attend the institution. Whose fault is that?

But there’s another reality here: Some kids are scared to go to school.

There’ll be a community meeting to talk about racial tolerance today (5 p.m.).

You are editor: Write the first paragraph of the story as you see it. Alternately, you are the school’s principal. Write the letter home.

Related schools: Five West Fargo High School kids have died in the last month. (Fargo Forum)


The Crashed Ice course at the Saint Paul Cathedral is under construction for this week’s return to the city. We all got cowbells for Christmas just for this event.

Here’s this year’s course.

If you go, be forewarned: In most locations, you really can’t see that much, just a portion of the track. But go anyway, because it’s not everyday you see thousands of people jammed into a confined space in Saint Paul. And also: cowbells, people!


We now know how a snowmobiler from the Northland stayed alive during two nights in the weekend’s cold weather. Craig Friebe, of Superior, has told his story on his Caring Bridge site. He’s still in the hospital thawing out.

He ran out of gas and started walking, lighting fires along the way to stay warm, and hoping he’d find some help. He didn’t.

It became nighttime again, so I found a tree that had fallen over the river, and lit underneath the tree on fire to where it was warm. I crawled underneath it and started another fire to keep warm. I fell asleep and rolled in the fire — my clothes and hair were burned. I then rolled in a puddle of water from the fire and then was wet. I took off my boots tried to warm my feet. Then I put my boots back on and started walking again. Daylight was approaching on Sunday morning so I stopped and thought I saw a house up the ravine. I climbed up and when I got there, there was nothing. I climbed down and walked some more. I thought I saw lights from a bar and climbed up ravine again. No lights were there I walked along the ledge of the cliffs following the river and found nothing. I then climbed down and walked all day Sunday. I heard the search planes, and I lit pine needles to make smoke but they were so high. It was becoming dark and ran into my sled again which meant I walked a full circle.

There are also pictures on the site of what someone’s feet look like after two days wandering in sub-zero temperatures.

Related cold: Cold snap could be deadly for outstate homeless. (MPR)

And it’s water-main-break season in Coon Rapids:


From the Department of You Never Know. A week ago I wrote about how The Current local music blogger Andrea Swensson got around the ban on photography at Prince’s recent concerts at The Dakota, by sketching it out on a napkin.

Prince’s new trio have released a new song. The video uses her sketch.

Andrea interviews Prince’s new bandmates here.


Rémi Gaillard’s trademark expression is “It’s by doing whatever, that one becomes whoever.” It sounds better in French, which is what is is on the T-shirts that made their way around the world prior to this video posted this week.

Bonus I: The First Lady’s eye roll. It was about cigarettes. Or not. (Huffington Post)

Bonus II: How some U.S. evangelicals finance violence against gays in Uganda. A New York Times op-doc.


Gov. Mark Dayton yesterday unveiled a budget plan that calls for lower sales taxes on a wider range of goods and services, higher cigarette taxes and higher income taxes on Minnesota’s top earners. His plan also calls for higher spending, with much of the increase going to education. Today’s Question: What do you think of Gov. Dayton’s budget proposal?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The myth of nuclear necessity?

Second hour: Author Richard Ford talks about his latest novel, Canada, released in paperback this Tuesday

Third hour: Leaders of the Minnesota Senate.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): To mark 40 years after the end of Vietnam War, hear Sasha Aslanian and Gary Eichten’s documentary, “The Vietnam Tapes: Letters from a Willmar Soldier.”

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – A Chinese dissident artist has found a way to turn earthquake wreckage into

art. Activist Ai Weiwei uses that art to honor the thousands of Chinese who died in a massive quake five years ago. NPR looks at his new exhibition.

More adults in Minnesota were charged with murder last year, and more convicted than at any time during the last decade for providing controlled substances that killed another person. That’s according to court records analyzed by MPR News. Law enforcement officials say the increase in third degree murder cases is linked, in part, to the explosion in opiate-based drug abuse here in Minnesota. MPR’s Conrad Wilson will have the story.