We cannot let this day go much further without stopping to observe that this week is the 17th birthday of the MPR website, a fact which probably doesn’t mean much to a lot of people because everybody’s got a website now, of course. It seems like a no-brainer to have websites because now it is a no-brainer.
It wasn’t always thus.
The day means a lot to a few old-timers who had to convince a radio broadcasting company that something that isn’t about radio broadcasting is a worthy endeavor. To its credit, that broadcasting company — in time — listened.
A gentleman whom you probably don’t know is behind all of it. John Pearson, who was at the time a member of MPR’s marketing department, single-handedly started the website and set about to prove that as an instrument of communication, it had real possibilities.
John has the rare combination of the ability to articulate a vision, the patience to wait until the doubting recipient reached the same conclusion, and the confidence to not mind that his idea was now someone else’s.
He worked alone, often. In its early days, there was no newsroom involvement in the website. So, John would lift scripts from our radio script system and slap them on the web. But he had to be choosey because they might sit on the page for days.
Eventually, he got some help in the technical aspects of the web — John is a great graphic designer — and the newsroom came on board in 1999.
He survived the “new media days” when the buttoned-down MPR created the blimp-flying, Nerf-ball throwing, jeans-and-sneakers-wearing MPR New Media Department, the forerunner of today’s mostly-buttoned-down digital team. Not everyone who works in the digital realm here may know the one person — one person who saves every e-mail he’s ever sent — who’s directly responsible for it all.
Times change. Good people have come and good people have gone but there’s one person — and only one person — who’s been a part of MPR.org since the day it started — John Pearson. This is his day and, really, only his day.
MPR’s Facebook page provides a little journey down a memory lane of MPR front pages.