McFeely: We've heard your concerns about Port's obsession with Sen. Heitkamp
Yes, valuable readers of The Forum and other Forum Communications Co. properties, we hear you. Rob Port, the company's conservative blogger/columnist, writes about Democratic U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp a lot. And he trashes her a lot. A ... freaking ... lot. Not every day, but it sure seems like it.
Same goes for listeners of 970 WDAY radio, the Forum Communications radio station on which Port has a two-hour weekday show. We hear you. He talks about Heitkamp a lot. A ... freaking ... lot. Almost every day.
We hear you, in your emails and phone calls and social media messages. And, occasionally, in face-to-face conversations, which in more than one instance in my case have begun with a question.
"So, is Port being paid by the Cramer campaign?"
That's a reference to Rep. Kevin Cramer, the Republican running against Heitkamp for her North Dakota Senate seat. It seems clear by Port's constant stream of Heitkamp-bashing that he supports Cramer. Thus the question.
My answer: I don't think so.
We hear you, too, because many of us under our corporate umbrella feel the same way. The word that comes up often is "obsession." Others are "embarrassing" and "unprofessional." Port's never-ending Heitkamp fixation—"And frankly, I am outraged, something ... something .. Heidi Heitkamp!" to steal a line from Forum contributor Tony Bender—strikes us as odd and unnatural. Port has been handed multiple platforms from which to write and talk about anything—anything!—he so chooses. More days than not, he chooses Heidi Heitkamp.
With all due respect to the Senator, that seems to most of us to be suffocatingly limited and boring.
To answer a couple of questions probably bouncing around your head:
No, I have not spoken to Port about this. It's not my job, nor is there any personal or professional relationship between us. I have often voiced my concerns about the one-trick-pony nature of Port to my bosses.
And, no, this isn't about politics. My ideals are left of center, no question, but I believe Port (and anybody else) has the right to support or oppose who he wants. This isn't an attempt to censor Port. From what I understand, this column is likely to make him more obstinate and determined to write more about Heitkamp, because he believes any criticism proves he's doing the right thing. So be it.
This is about the readers, who must believe in the quality of our product and its credibility. Repetitive, predictable, cliched writing is bad for business. And when I have readers (aka customers) asking if Port is part of the Cramer campaign, it tells me they have suspicions. That bothers me.
Those complaining about Port's obsession have grown in numbers in recent months, and they cover the political spectrum. It's not just Democrats whining, it's also Republicans wondering if there isn't something else Port could write about.
Our hope together, dear readers, is that he'll have the self-awareness to understand that when you scream "Enough!" he isn't hearing "More!"
Don't hold your breath.
Readers can reach Forum columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 241-5379