Since the dailies on the Iron Range went behind an online pay wall last year I’ve not read my region’s largest paper, the Mesabi Daily News, as often as I once did. I live on the other side of the Range where I subscribe to the Hibbing and Grand Rapids papers. It is telling, however, that the MDN, by way of editor/co-publisher Bill Hanna, leaves the paper’s unsigned editorials outside the pay wall, the only part of this valuable product afforded such status. It is as though having people read these editorials is more important to someone at the paper than the vast profits no doubt secured by the web strategy of the multinational corporation that owns this group. To give away such fine content must surely pain the bean counters, but the magnanimous gesture endures.
On Jan. 6, I wrote a commentary for Minnesota Public Radio entitled “Iron Range needs answers more nuanced than jobs, jobs, jobs.” Within, I describe a common theme in my writing, that Rudy Perpich’s famous description of the Range’s needs, “jobs, jobs, jobs,” is so often bastardized to justify haphazard, expensive and often unsuccessful economic development efforts when our problems stem from deeper economic and demographic concerns. You know, nuance.
Well, tucked away in an otherwise benign Jan. 15 MDN editorial congratulating Tony Sertich on his appointment as commissioner of the IRRRB is this turn of phrase:
The “jobs, jobs, jobs” mantra for the [Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation] agency must never be replaced by a more “nuanced” approach to economic development. It needs to be jobs, jobs, jobs and then more jobs.
Nuance as an abstract concept is not normally a target of MDN scorn, so I have to assume this goes back to the philosophical differences William and I have developed and the timing of my essay.
What am I supposed to say here? More nuance? Nuance, nuance, nuance!
I’ve got to say, the opposite of jobs is not nuance. The opposite of jobs is what we’ve had on the Iron Range since I was a child and Bill Hanna first blustered into town. The opposite of jobs is desperation and compromised logic. The opposite of jobs is humiliation at the hands of fast-talking developers. The opposite of jobs is the disappointment of educated professionals seeking a viable, self-sustaining economy that can endure fluctuations in copper or steel prices. The opposite of jobs is driving young people away.
Yelling “jobs, jobs, jobs and more jobs” is no solution. The solution will require additional nouns and verbs, and a couple thousand new Iron Range residents who aren’t retired. Bellowing the same trite nonsense serves only to embarrass those trying to engage people in this state in a serious, 21st century discussion about the great potential of the Iron Range. We’ll get jobs, jobs, jobs when we use our brains, brains, brains.