Nora McInerny (photo by Brandon Werth)
Nora McInerny, author, podcast host and nonprofit founder, announced Sunday that she would no longer hold another title — Mpls. St. Paul Magazine columnist. McInerny quit her gig with the magazine over its new cover story about Garrison Keillor.
"This coverage is a privilege afforded to a certain kind of man," McInerny said in a post explaining her decision.
Keillor already has power, money and a platform, she said by phone Monday. The magazine shouldn’t be giving space to “a man who expresses no reflection, no remorse.” Instead, it should spotlight Minnesotans doing good work, for whom a cover story could “change their life, change their careers.”
Keillor has begun to reemerge as a public figure two years after Minnesota Public Radio ended their nearly 50-year relationship over accusations of sexual harassment. MPR said an internal investigation found he had engaged in “dozens of sexually inappropriate incidents … over a period of years” with a female subordinate for "A Prairie Home Companion."
As of Monday morning, McInerny's post had garnered more than 8,000 likes and 500 comments, many of them thanking her for taking a stand.
Mpls. St. Paul Magazine editor-in-chief Jayne Haugen Olson said editors knew "Keillor is controversial and this was a careful decision."
"There are a lot of important and valid personal histories that make up MeToo. … Our hope is that our readers will read the piece and use it as an opportunity to continue the discussions that surround the MeToo movement. They will hear from Keillor in his own words his thoughts, feelings, and reflections."
In response, McInerny argued that “if you really want to have a conversation about #MeToo and #TimesUp, what these movements mean, you don’t center it on the man. And you don’t let a man write the piece.”
In her Sunday post, McInerny said “this cover is proof that no matter how effective #MeToo and #TimesUp have been in some cases, no matter how many people and institutions say, 'we don't tolerate this kind of behavior' — they DO tolerate it! And they celebrate it. Because these men STILL GET THE FRONT PAGE. They STILL GET THE COLUMN SPACE. They still get the time and the attention and the documentation. They do not have to be sorry, or even pretend to be.
"They get to be multi-dimensional in a way that accusers and survivors do not."
In the lengthy profile — part of a package called "Hindsight 20/20" — writer Steve Marsh anticipates backlash. "Many readers ... now won't elect to read a word of this piece or, after seeing the cover, even open the magazine. This new political understanding would posit that it's a waste of our platform to devote these pages to a male malefactor. Why not write this story about a woman whose creative career has been stymied by sexual harassment?"
He continues: "Other readers likely felt a decided unease —if not outright disgust — with what was reported about Keillor's actions. But based on the details of his case — understood or maybe underestimated — these people may not be ready to lump him in with accused rapists, gropers, masturbators, and frotteurs like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., and Mario Batali.
"Couldn't a disgraced Keillor be worth documenting?"
McInerny has been writing for the magazine since September 2018. Haugen Olson said by email that editors saw a comment McInerny made on Twitter in November about Keillor's new book and reached out.
"We realized there was some history there," she said.
McInerny has been critical of Keillor before, arguing in a 2017 essay for Time.com, “Let’s Leave Garrison Keillor in the Past Where He Belongs.” Keillor responded on Twitter with a pair of limericks ridiculing McInerny and poking fun at her Twitter handle @noraborealis: “That mist round your head as you lie there in bed is aroma, not an aurora.”
Haugen Olson said by email that a magazine staffer called McInerny, letting her know Keillor would be in the January issue, "and offered her the opportunity to submit a new column for that same issue to share her important perspective. She was not able to make the deadline work."
McInerny said she was given only 24 hours to respond, and without a chance to read the Keillor interview first.
Editors subsequently sent her the issue, Haugen Olson said, in hopes she might share her perspective the following month. "She made a decision that is right for her, and the magazine respects and supports her decision."
At other points in her career, McInerny had to stay at jobs that protected and celebrated men like Keillor, she said by phone. This time, she can quit.
“It is worth the financial hit. It is worth losing part of my audience” — two things that are important to a writer, McInerny said. “But I don’t know, nothing changes if nothing changes.”