Wednesday, March 8, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Journalist's Education

I have been working as a professional journalist for

more than fifty-one years, but I have not ever attended 

a journalist class, nor ever enrolled in a journalism


I did attend the Writers Workshop at the University of

Iowa, received a masters degree in creative writing,

but learned quickly that earning a living in writing,

especially writing poetry, was not a promising economic


In fact, very few creative writers make their living with

their work. It’s true that a small number of successful 

and best-selling authors make enormous sums from 

their novels and subsequent movie rights, but most 

serious writers become college professors, and others

don’t seek a day job.

Circumstances, more than planned intention, led me 

to be a self-taught journalist in the early days of 

neighborhood and community journalism.

After graduating from Iowa, and a short stint teaching in

public schools in my hometown of Erie, PA, I moved to

Minnesota with the intention of founding a literary

publishing house as well as writing poetry and fiction.

Economic reality quickly set in as I found myself with 

an office, a new computerized typesetter, lots of debt,

and few resources. I lived at that time in the first Title IV 

new town, one that was literally started from scratch

out of rural farm fields. It occurred to me that this new

town (named Jonathan) had no newspaper of its own,

and was growing in population rapidly. Its own newspaper

seemed like a good idea, and being young, I went ahead

and created one, oblivious to the obstacles that might 

discourage a professionally-trained journalist.

That began, in 1971, a fifteen-year career as a community

journalist, a career that required me to be not only a writer

and reporter, but also an editor, publisher, lay-out designer,

ad salesman, bill collector, delivery boy and janitor. It also

gave me a much more practical and useful education than

i had received in my Ivy League undergraduate university

and later in graduate school. 

I soon started a second newspaper in a neighborhood

called Cedar-Riverside near downtown Minneapolis, which

also had a Title IV new town, and which had a much larger 


The issues which faced the rural new town were far less

complicated than those in the new-town-in-town. The

Title IV program, begun in the late 1960s, eventually saw

the creation or planning of about 20 new communities, but

these federally-guaranteed developments did not survive 

an economic downturn in the mid-1970s, environmental

lawsuits, and community activism. Jonathan still exists as

a subdivision of the city of Chaska; and Cedar-Riverside is

now primarily an ethnic neighborhood, but their original

corporate entities and urban innovations are no more.

My Cedar-Riverside newspaper lasted fifteen years. It was

not the first Twin Cities neighborhood newspaper, nor the

largest, but it was immediately different. The neighborhood

was a performing arts center in those days, so my paper

was filled with reviews and arts coverage. Local politics

then was burgeoning, and the city’s large daily newspaper

did little community coverage. I had a lifelong interest in

national politics, and again, the city’s large daily fell short,

so I wrote about state and national politics. Early on, I

predicted a surprising upset in city elections, and acquired 

readers from outside the area. But a feature I had casually 

added in each issue: reviews and recommendations of Twin 

Cities restaurants, became one of the most popular features, 

garnering me considerable local attention and advertising.

In the 1980’s my editorial forays into national politics even

got noticed outside Minnesota. I covered my first presidential

campaign in 1972, but took a more active role in 1976 with

early notice of Jimmy Carter. In 1982, I predicted the rise of

an obscure Colorado senator named Gary Hart — which, 

after the New Hampshire primary in 1984, had national

columnists calling me. A year later, I wrote a front-page

article predicting the emergence in 1988 of another

obscure senator to become president. His name? Joe Biden.

I made only a very modest living from the newspaper, and 

the work was exhausting, so by 1987 I had shut down the

publication, and was writing freelance articles about politics

and restaurants. I had continued doing my literary writing 

all this time, and my poems and short stories were

widely published in magazines, anthologies and even

a few books. It was time to move on to new careers, but

my experience in community newspapers had been not only

an invaluable education, but a rich grass-roots experience

that I would call on again and again in later life.

Forty years ago, there were more than three dozen Twin

City print publications serving neighborhood, community, 

cultural and other local interests. The internet, social

networks, inner city political correctness, the pandemic and

its aftermath, and print economics have now reduced their

number sharply.

But today, more than a dozen neighborhood and community

newspapers are still going strong in Minneapolis and St. 


These small local print news sources also flourish across

the nation. One notable example is The North Shore 

Leader. a Long Island, NY community weekly that exposed

the misrepresentations of local congressional candidate

George Santos weeks BEFORE the 2022 election. Their

scoop was ignored by local Democrat and Republican

campaigns as well as the major nearby daily newspapers 

and broadcast media until after the election when The 

Leader’s community news story became front page 

national news.

Community newspapers can give their readers news and 

information the dailies and other media do not, and 

contribute to the local identity and spirit in this difficult 

urban time. They can enable their local businesses and 

community organizations to thrive. Community print  

media defy reports of their demise. I honor their service, 

and salute their survival.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


Monday, February 13, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Perilous Puzzle For Democrats In 2024

It is now clear that Democrat party leaders have shut

down successfully any serious efforts to challenge

incumbent President Joe Biden for the party’s 2024 

presidential nomination — at least for now.

Mr. Biden is obviously planning to run for re-election

with a formal announcement expected any time in the

next few months.

Following better-than-expected results in the 2022 

national mid-term elections, a growing movement by

Democrats and the establishment media to dump 

Biden evaporated as the president briefly surged in 

the polls, and insurgents lacked a major party figure to 

rally around.

The prospect of former President Donald Trump being

the Republican nominee in 2024 further diminished 

the apparent need, party leaders reportedly felt, for a 

new Democrat ticket next year.

Quickly, however, the political environment shifted.

After a prolonged effort, the Republicans chose a new

speaker of the House of Representatives, ended

the Democrats control of the lower body, and soon

inaugurated investigations into the activities of the

Biden administration and Mr. Biden himself. Many

allegations had been made previously, and now these

charges will be aired publicly over coming months.

Impeachment proceedings were also begun against Mr.

Biden’s secretary of Homeland Security.

As the Mexican border crisis worsened, and inflation

continued to rise, the president’s brief surge in the polls

ended, and his unfavorables returned downward in

double digits. A controversy about dealing with Chinese

reconnaissance balloons flying in U.S. air space, and a

leaked report alleging that Mr. Biden had ordered a

strike against the Nord Sea gas pipeline, did not boost

his foreign policy standing with the general public.

Mr. Biden’s choice for vice president, Kamala Harris, has

been by virtually all accounts a bust, and she has even

more unfavorable polls than the president. He has

already indicated that she would remain on the ticket in

2024, and considering public concerns about Mr. Biden’s

age and physical condition, this further raises doubts

about a Biden-Harris re-election.

With his opponents, and now even the media, putting  a

spotlight on the president’s increasing number of gaffes

the 81 year-old chief executive seems to be getting more

publicly frail.

Polls currently indicate that despite the party establishment

rallying around the president, only about half of Democrat

voters want him to run.

On the Republican side, Mr. Trump’s initially likely

re-nomination is now in some doubt following Florida

Governor Ron DeSantis’s singular success in the mid-term

elections and his popular administration in that state.

Mr. Trump still leads in most national polls, but Mr. DeSantis

is ahead of the former president in several key state polls.

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is about to

announce her presidential candidacy, and Senators Tim

Scott of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Ted

Cruz of Texas, as well as former Secretary of State Mike

Pompeo are among several other well-known Republicans

thinking of running.

With no opponents in the Democrat race, and several major 

candidates in the GOP race (all of whom will be criticizing

the president), Mr. Biden’s normal domination of the news

cycle will likely have to compete with the Republican contest.

There are paths to a Biden victory in 2024, but they will

depend on several factors mostly outside his control. As 

always, the economy will be extremely important. If 

inflation is receding, the stock market is then rising, 

unemployment falling, manufacturing and production

booming, Mr. Biden will benefit. If he resolves the border

crisis, the war in Ukraine ends, conflict with China fades, 

his campaign will be greatly helped. Should the 

eventual Republican ticket fail to appeal to its own base 

or to independents, Mr. Biden’s chances will greatly 

improve, and if the economy is also going well, he would 

likely win.

But that’s a lot of ifs. Many of them will be more clear

about a year from now, and should Mr. Biden then decide

not to run, his party would have to scramble to come up

with a replacement ticket, having given the GOP a big

head start.

The alternative would be for Mr. Biden to decide to retire 

now, a lively Democratic nomination contest, and a new 

liberal-progressive presidential ticket. History shows that 

forcibly ousting an incumbent president for re-election, or 

even seriously challenging that incumbent, makes 

re-election in November unlikely.

The most promising scenario for Democrats, a Biden

retirement now, is apparently not going to happen.

But as 2022 indicated, political outcome predictions are 

very risky, especially this much before election day.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 27, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Shadows of 2024


Although this early in the 2024 presidential race

incumbent President Joe Biden and former President

Donald Trump are the favorites for their respective

party nominations, nothing is settled.

Mr. Trump has already announced his candidacy,

and Mr. Biden appears intending to do so soon.

There is one additional announced GOP candidate,

former national security advisor John Bolton who is

considered unlikely to receive much support. No

notable Democrat has yet announced they will run.

Although he leads so far in many national polls. the

former president faces likely serious challenges in

the party primaries. Most notably, Governor Ron

DeSantis of Florida, who has not yet announced he

will run, already leads Trump in some state polls.

DeSantis, perhaps the biggest GOP winner in 2022,

appears to be the leading challenger in 2024. Former

South Carolina governor and later cabinet member,

Nikki Haley, shows some support in the early polls,

and is considering making the race. The conservative

party also has an impressive “bench” of potential

other candidates, including Governor Kristi Noem of

South Dakota, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas,

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, Senator Marco

Rubio of Florida, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina,

Mike Pompeo, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Democrats do not seem to have as impressive a

“bench,” but they do have a number of rising stars

who could run for president in 2024. Two names

frequently cited are Secretary of Transportation

Pete Buttigieg and California Governor Gavin

Newsom. Buttigieg, not yet a candidate, in fact led

Biden in a recent New Hampshire poll. Less

nationally well-known are Secretary and Commerce

and former Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo;

new Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro; and new

Maryland Governor Wes Moore.. Raimondo was

a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University with a law

degree from Yale and a successful businesswoman

before entering politics. Shapiro previously was state

attorney general, senior congressional staffer and

state legislator — and, like Raimondo, has a reputation

for moderate progressive politics. Moore, the first black

Maryland governor, was also a Rhodes scholar. An

army veteran and former investment banker, he was 

also a TV producer.

Some Democrats who ran in 2020 (and lost to Biden) 

could also run, but for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth

Warren age would be an issue in 2024.

For now, however, major Democrats are holding back

in deference to their sitting president. It is no secret

that many Democrats hope he retires, and the brief

surge he enjoyed in the polls after the 2022 midterms

has already dissipated following the revelation of 

classified documents he took home when he was vice 

president. His age and physical condition are likely to

become an issue if he runs for a second term.

For now, the 2024 presidential race, less than two 

years away, remains a match in the shadows. If

there is no incumbent running, there will likely be

many more candidates in both parties than named

above — just as there was in recent cycles,

Beginning with President Biden’s decision of whether

or not to run, the current tentative candidacy shadows 

will disappear, and be replaced with the names and 

faces in what promises to be an epic political contest.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 9, 2023



The protracted balloting to choose a new speaker

of the House of Representatives, anticipated by

The Prairie Editor on this website in late December, 

has now been resolved after more than three days, 

and considerable debate with the election of  Rep. 

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to the key post.

Mr. McCarthy had been selected as the new

Republican majority’s choice in a caucus vote by

a wide margin in December, but because the GOP 

has only a narrow 222 to 212 lead in the full body, 

it was possible for a small group within the majority

caucus to prevent Mr. McCarthy from receiving

the 218 votes necessary to be elected.

Before the January 3 vote, a group of five GOP 

members expressed their unhappiness with the 

rules that had governed the House under 

Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and contended 

that Mr. McCarthy as speaker was likely to

perpetuate them. They said they would not vote

for him. Another two dozen GOP members indicated 

they might also vote for someone else.

In spite of some concessions by Mr. McCarthy to 

this unhappy bloc, he received only 202 votes on

the first ballot, 16 votes short of the necessary

majority. Democrat Hakeem Jeffries, Nancy Pelosi’s

successor, received the vote of every member of

his caucus, 212, and he continued to receive that

number of votes in all the remaining 14 ballots.

Then began a series of negotiations which eventually

brought 14 of the dissidents to vote for McCarthy, 

while the five hardliners agreed to vote “present,”

thus enabling Kevin McCarthy to be elected speaker.

Reactions to the three-day spectacle and its

conclusion have been predictably partisan. The

Democrats, now in the minority, boasted of their

unity in the voting — despite having their own

factions, including the five members of the leftist 

group known as “The Squad.” Democratic leaders

during the balloting understandably used the occasion

to repeat the liberal mantras of their policy issues.

Some Republicans, after the balloting, reflected some

uncertainty, having put Mr. McCarthy in the

speakership, how the GOP agenda would be able to

proceed, especially with the return to the old rule

of one member being able to challenge the 

speaker’s tenure.

This uncertainty was expressed by some in the GOP

establishment, many of whom felt the public display

of discord within their caucus weakened their voter

support. This view was also echoed by the Democrats

and the establishment media which routinely has

supported President Biden and his very liberal


Another view, however, suggests that the Republican

House majority, albeit small, will now be able to be 

more effective as a check on the Biden administration, 

the Democrat Senate majority, and their efforts to 

promote and enact legislation and policies which 

conservatives oppose.

The reality is that, regardless of any personal motives,

the GOP dissidents have brought back a much more

transparent House of Representatives. In enforcing

Democratic “unity,” former Speaker Pelosi had

concentrated power in her office and her leadership

coterie. Debate on the floor and the ability to offer

amendments to legislation was prohibited. The right

to hold the speaker accountable was effectively

eliminated; the ability of the opposition to participate

in House business was curtailed. Further, Speaker

Pelosi had effectively sealed off the House from

public access under the rubric of security concerns.

Speaker McCarthy will inevitably face disagreements

within his caucus, but he has already given several

of those who are members of the more conservative

Freedom Caucus and others who initially voted against 

him more prominent  committee roles, thus significantly 

reducing incentives for caucus conflict in pursuing their

conservative agenda.

The bottom line appears to be that the Republican

House will more likely be able to be a consistently

conservative opposition as the new political cycle 

leading to the presidential election in 2024 now begins 

in earnest.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.