Running a liquor store in rural Minnesota seems like a great way to lose money, especially if it’s the town running the store.

The Minnesota State Auditor has found net profits for municipal liquor stores dropped nearly 9 percent in 2015 compared to the year before, the Rochester Post Bulletin reports.

It’s not that rural Minnesota has become a bastion of teetotalers; the stores have had record sales. But all 34 municipal liquor stores that lost money in 2015 were located in rural Minnesota.

One exception, the Post Bulletin says, is Mazeppa, where the town of 800 turned its liquor store fortunes around. Why?

The liquor store’s manager Heather Groby said the business is on track to do even better in 2016. So why the big turnaround?

Groby, who became manager one year ago, said there has been a big push to change the way business is done to help the small town “muni” better compete in today’s crowded liquor marketplace.

“I’m kind of a determined individual, and I love a challenge,” she said. “I grew up on a dairy farm so I’m a rural, country, small-town girl. I don’t want to see these towns going to ghost towns. We need revenue in these communities.”

More food, a patio with heaters, lowering prices, and sprucing up the joint helped.

Can’t every town do that?

The Post Bulletin went to West Concord, which, at $25,000, lost the third-highest amount in the state. It fired its store manager and put the city administrator in charge of things.

He wouldn’t talk to the newspaper, however.

Want to buy a liquore store? City Council member Ryan Fay says the town should sell it.

“It would keep a bar in town for people because they like having it. People don’t want it to be gone, but people don’t want to spend a ton of their tax dollars to keep it open,” he says.

And industry representative says many grocery stores are opening their own liquor departments.

But there’s another reason why it’s a struggle. Rural towns are dying off in Minnesota and even booze can’t stop it.

Singing and praying at Cannonball River, North Dakota. Doualy Xaykaothao | MPR News

A note from a listener passed my way this week asking MPR to provide on-site coverage of the Standing Rock protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline by sending a reporter there, arguing we didn’t have one.

We did. MPR News reporter Doualy Xaykaothao spent Thanksgiving in the winter conditions and remains on scene. Two other reporters have joined her, one more will spell Doualy next week, and two reporters are working the issues full time from the newsroom and MPR bureaus. That ain’t nothing.

It’s true that stories take awhile to get the attention they deserve, and in the era of social networks, that fact looks like a deliberate attempt to minimize a story. It’s not.

NPR is getting the same sort of feedback, judging by this afternoon’s weekly column by NPR ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen, who also says assertions that the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon got more attention than Standing Rock are wrong.

NPR did 65 stories over five months, including the recently-concluded trial in Oregon. Coverage of what’s happening in North Dakota will easily surpass that, she says.

But she also points out another challenge to traditional media in the era of Facebook Live.

Those who are particularly interested in it can tap into the frequent live streams on Facebook, no media filter needed (although the Facebook feeds are most certainly filtered, coming from the protesters’ point of view). That may magnify their impression that the story is not being given sufficient attention.

There’s another component: the story isn’t changing much. That’s the nature of standoffs.

The story is not an easy one to cover, given the remoteness of the site. NPR was not there as early as it could have been, but once it began paying attention, NPR devoted more time and resources than many other major news outlets.

That may be why some listeners are writing now to say the story has been underplayed. The importance of what is taking place would seem to warrant a story almost every day and yet, given the incremental nature of the developments, it’s not clear to me what those stories would report, without sounding repetitive.

Jensen says underplaying the use of force by law enforcement has been a mistake.

“I do think the Standing Rock story is critically important,” she writes. “I hope and expect it will continue to stay on the story. Just this afternoon, All Things Considered posted a call-out on Facebook asking what questions NPR’s listeners and readers want answered, with a promise to look into them. The numerous replies so far show that there is indeed a deep desire for more in-depth information on the story.”

Credit where it’s due dept: That’s an idea that originated with MPR News Editor Sara Porter and is a great example of using more innovative ways to more quickly connect the news audience with the story. Expect to see and hear more of it.

The jury in South Carolina reported today it’s deadlocked in the trial of the police officer who killed Walter Scott.

They deliberated 14 hours over three days and decided they can’t decide whether this constitutes murder.

As I wrote at the time, what would have happened if someone hadn’t been filming the whole thing? At the time, it seemed obvious that a guy, stopped for a broken tail light, ought not be shot in the back running away. Who could disagree?

“When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” the city’s mayor even said at the time. “If you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or just a citizen on the street, you have to live by that decision.”

What is the jury seeing here that few others seem to see? Or not seeing here that everyone else can see?

This afternoon, the jury had sent the judge a message that they wanted to read the transcript of the testimony of a man who took cellphone video above. The judge said they could listen to the testimony but they responded that that wouldn’t change anything.

“It was an injustice what I saw,” Feidin Santana, who filmed the killing, had testified.

The defense attorney questioned Santana about lyrics to a song he’d earlier written, lyrics with an anti-police view, he said.

“I am against police brutality,” said Santana. “I don’t tolerate injustice.”

The police officer testified that he feared for his life when he shot the 50-year-old Scott in the back as he ran away.

The jury can return a verdict of voluntary manslaughter, which is killing someone in the heat of passion. A murder charge required the jury to find an evil intent.

He provided free cake, ice cream, and coffee for the vets and, we suspect, regularly contributed to the booster clubs, and yearbooks and school functions. He gave scholarships to graduating seniors. He sponsored local youth sports teams, and provided all the reasons local residents should shop at a local grocery, even if the prices might be a little cheaper at the big chain at the edge of town. Read more