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Lou Gelfand: No More Complaints

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How do you love an impossible task?12172013-tumblr_mq3xx8VvLd1rnbafjo1_400

In darker moments I wonder what good lies in all the words produced, day after day—especially my own words. But if words serve only to remind or tell again the story of a bright spot someone saw, then maybe that is enough. Because bright spots shine a bit of hope.

Lou Gelfand was a bright spot for me.

I am a casual newspaper reader. I read the StarTribune and various news sources on-line. But the StarTribune has been my go-to, privileged (and sometimes angering) source for many years. Lou Gelfand was the long-suffering ombudsman/readers’ representative. For nearly 23 years he listened to complaints and reader’s rants and charges of bias (a countless number, surely). And then he calmly worked it out with words on paper.

Mr. Gelfand’s “If You Ran the Newspaper” columns were a must-read for me because he seemed fearless in taking colleagues and readers and the process itself to task. He aimed for resolution and made everyone mad as he did it. But there was something satisfying in his assessments. His words produced a sort of end-game where conflict and anger were addressed, if not always resolved.

Here’s Mike Meyers, former Strib reporter and friend of Gelfand, on the mood created by Mr. Gelfand’s assessments:

“He was a guy who often ate alone in the cafeteria because reporters were so damned thin-skinned,” Meyers said.

Mr. Gelfand was a kind of pivot point between audience and the communication machinery that was the daily newspaper. It was a no-win position from the beginning—an impossible assignment—which Mr. Gelfand moved forward with  aplomb, sympathy and spirit.

His son called him “relentlessly fair” and Gelfand surveyed his own columns and found he split about evenly between backing the paper and the complaining readers.

Read Mr. Gelfand’s obituary here.


Image Credit: via Frank T Zumbachs Mysterious World

3 Responses

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  1. I didn’t know about Mr. Gelfand, so I enjoyed this post very much. Can’t imagaine having to constantly deal with complaints for that many years.


    December 17, 2013 at 10:27 am

  2. Imagine…


    December 17, 2013 at 10:28 am

    • Yes. Imagine. I appreciated the zest he brought to the highly visible lightening-rod position. I also appreciated how articulate he was. Thanks for reading and commenting so consistently, Wendi!


      December 17, 2013 at 10:35 am

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