Star Tribune to birds: ‘Drop dead’

Nashville warbler after downtown St. Paul window strike (Tim Nelson / MPR News file)
If we had to guess — and we do since editorial writers don’t sign their names to their work — we’d guess the writer of today’s Star Tribune editorial is the same person who wrote the instant classic Strib editorial on Thanksgiving telling Target employees forced to work at midnight that they should just be happy they have a job at all.

The target of the Strib’s ire today? Birds, specifically the ones that might fly into the new palace for the Minnesota Vikings, whose builders and benefactors have refused calls to install glass that’s a little less likely to attract migrating birds.

It’s been a pretty big joke for the football crowd, a group that is often portrayed as being a little slow on proven matters of science and nature. Lighted buildings at night pose a risk for migrating birds; that’s proven. That’s why the Empire State Building — and even buildings in downtown Minneapolis — douse the lights during migrating periods.

It’s just a question of whether one thinks birds are worth investing the time and money to protect. One either does or doesn’t.

Put the Star Tribune in the “doesn’t” category with its editorial which says, basically, “No big deal. They’ll make more birds. If they don’t die here, they’ll just die somewhere else.”

The addition of one glassy building in Minneapolis won’t appreciably alter the mortality rate of the North American bird population. As the numbers suggest, it wouldn’t be unusual for birds to occasionally strike the building. But those collisions would barely register on a very long list of ways in which humans routinely interfere with nature.

This sounds callous, but individual bird deaths from collisions are almost meaningless as long as bird populations remain constant. To say it another way, a bird escaping death by collision is almost sure to die soon from something else, whether storm, poison, starvation or some other danger. “People keeping their cats indoors would have a far greater impact on bird survival than whatever happens with the stadium,” said University of Minnesota ornithology Prof. Robert Zink.

Truth is, no one knows how the stadium’s design will interact with birds along the Mississippi Flyway until it’s up and running. To single it out as a “cathedral to bird killing,” as some critics have already done, is hyperbolic.

The sports authority’s point about keeping the clear glass isn’t about the $1.2 million it would take to replace it. It’s about a promise made to Minnesotans — and especially to neighbors in Downtown East — that the new stadium would not be an ugly blight on the cityscape, as the Metrodome clearly was.

The bird enthusiasts are not impressed.

  • gary f

    How ‘ bout windmills? Is that different?

    • This is where the logic fails. Because it’s not as if bird science people were saying “wind turbines? Excellent idea!” Indeed, guidelines were created over the objections of developers to try to protect eagles.

      And the opponents said, “come on, if these don’t kill them something else will and there are worse things in the world than wind turbines as threats to birds.”

      Then the stadium comes along, and the football crowd says, “hey, what about wind turbines?”

    • David P.

      The proposed window upgrade will still kill birds, just not nearly as many as the current spec windows. Just as windmills will kill birds, just not nearly as many as a coal plant.

  • L. Foonimin

    unless the Vikings fans have bird brains they won’t see the tiny dots in the bird proof glass, (assuming they are sober, if not who knows what they see e.g. a winning team?) … the point is the utter arrogance of Ms. Kelm-Helgen and the Wilfs. For a mere insignificant fraction of the 1Billion dollar cost they could buy some badly needed good PR … but then they don’t think they need it.

    • ForrestalMN

      Before you start calling other people arrogant, I’d suggest you reign in grotesque stereotypes and cheap shots. Take the suggestion for what it is.

  • Dave

    This is one reason why I quit reading the Star Tribune (well, this, and me not caring how awesome the [insert rich suburb]’s [insert sport] team is). I now get 99% of my local news from MPR. It’s just a more thoughtful source with articles that are less inflammatory, for lack of a better word. A lot of the content on the Trib’s site is divisive, and designed to rile people. No thanks.

    • Independent1

      Thank you for articulating this. I have done the same thing for the same
      reasons. MPR and NPR are not perfect, but they maintain a high level of
      journalistic integrity and professionalism, which raises the bar for other news

    • Ali E.

      Yes, I also depend on MPR and Minnpost for my local news. We are sustaining members for both sources because they are very valuable to us and we read each site every day.

    • ForrestalMN

      Well, keep that dial on the droll commentary and the wit of MPR. Newspapers are a different animal.

  • David P.

    “The addition of one glassy building in Minneapolis won’t appreciably alter the mortality rate …” True. But so what?
    The addition of one more piece of trash won’t appreciably alter the cleanliness of Minnehaha Park. Or being exposed to just one cigarette’s second-hand smoke won’t appreciably alter my prospects for a long life. That doesn’t make either idea acceptable.
    The questions are: Why would the Wilf’s willfully choose to create something that will kill migratory birds? Why does the Strib endorse the idea?

    • tboom

      Because the Wilfs are all about making money without regard to the costs imposed on society or environment. Presumably the same for the Tribune.

      • David P.


    • ForrestalMN

      I can’t speak for the owners like you can, but maybe they feel if they give into this demand, everyone with a grudge and a gripe will be next in line.

  • Michele

    I keep looking for a good reason to pony up the $100+ for an annual subscription to the Strib. Like everyone I have a budget and I already spend over $200/yr for online general news journals so I would have to end one of my current subscriptions if I wanted to add the Strib. Fortunately, the Strib editors are looking out for me (even if they aren’t looking out for the birds).

    Seriously though, the main reason I don’t take the Strib is that it’s a bad value if you unless you happen to be a sports fan. With a few limited exceptions (Brandan Stahl’s work comes to mind) most of the original journalism at the Strib is to cover local sports and the remainder of content is mostly to be “churnalism” off national wire services or fluff. As mentioned above, this costs subscribers $100/yr. Considering that I can take that same $100 and read the NY Times, which features a much wider set of topics and at a generally much higher level of reporting and writing, why should a reasonable person pay to read the Strib?

    What…to read about local/regional news you say? But there are plenty of ways to read the local news…MPR, Minnpost, websites for the local television stations, to name a few. The fact of the matter is local sports is the only consistent original journalism coming out of the Strib. So maybe this helps explain why they stand so firmly behind the Vikings organization, the Wilfs, and the ultimately the Vikings fans…

    • theoacme

      I disagree – local news coverage, at the local community level, is iffy at best, as the Twin Cities is too large for any under-resourced news organization – and even though MPR is the Clear Channel of United States public radio (owning radio stations in California, destroying KCAL’s uniqueness by illegal hostile takeover and turning it into a Lake Woebegon version of an alt-music station, which we don’t really need, its corporate leadership failing to hold the executive and the board of the Minnesota Orchestra to a very public accounting during the lockout, sounds like a Wall Street-ized greedy private corporation like Clear Channel to me!), its news operation is grossly under-resourced – it can’t possibly cover anywhere near every important local story.

      And every other local news source also fails to come close to comprehensive local news coverage, including the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune. Although MPR does probably the best job in Minnesota, it would get a 4
      out of 10 overall, at best (the Star Tribune, MinnPost, the Pioneer
      Press, and the Sun, as well as every television station, maybe gets a 2,
      at best).

      Even the local Sun newspaper doesn’t do well at local coverage – a huge example of this is for my mayoral election in Brooklyn Park (they do have a BP edition) – for further proof, Google and Bing “Brooklyn Park mayor election”.

      The search results make me wonder why we consider America a democracy or a republic – the United States is a republic the way Rome under Caligula and Nero was a republic – bread (yay! Twinkies are back! Super delish food at Target Field! Food trucks in downtown Minneapolis!) and circuses (Vikings, Timberwolves (like watching the Amy Senser incident in one’s mind, that load of dross is!), Twins, Adrian Peterson, Roger Goodell, pull-tabs to pay for this bird-killing monstrosity which my wallet is being raped to pay for so two racketeering real-estate fraudsters from New York don’t have to, you know, get financing at Wells Fargo or US Bank to pay for it themselves, in the best Galtian manner, which the current owner of the Star Tribune embraces for everyone except for corporations and the rich gaily).

    • ForrestalMN

      keep looking for a good reason to pony up the $100+ for an annual subscription to the Strib.== I’ll give you one. Support local journalism.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    I’m outraged…that our state’s largest newspaper devoted space to this two weeks before an election. I happen to think the issue is ridiculous, but other’s don’t and that’s fine. However I’m also sure the issue could have waited a few weeks while the board pondered more substantial issues our state and nation is about to vote on.