News blackout in Saint Paul

In the media world, it’s all about the latest technology to get people the information they need, wherever they are. These days, that seems to be about smartphone apps. Before that (and obviously to a great extent now), it’s the Internet. Email newsletters — so-called “push technology” — was the next hot thing, before it wasn’t.

Sometimes we forget that the simplicity of basic — somewhat outdated — methods of communication are still pretty important and we came across an anecdote today that bears that out.

On the World Headquarters of NewsCut, there’s a message board that flashes the headlines of the day. It reached its most prominent visibility with some iconic photos during the 2008 Republican National Convention.

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But it was there doing its work for years when few paid attention, too.

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Recently, it stopped working and was shut down pending installation of a replacement or at least a fix. We newspeople didn’t think much about it, what with our radio, and our Internet, and our smartphone apps and the occasional email newsletter to focus on.

But today, a homeless man walked into the building. He was in reporter Julie Siple’s recent story about the Dorothy Day Center and its need to come up with a new approach to serving people. He wanted to hear how the story came out.

But he also had a complaint: His source of news had disappeared.

“He has coffee twice a day at Mickey’s,” Adam Caillier, the man who is the face of MPR in our lobby said. “Every morning, he’d stop to read about what happened overnight, on his way to the diner. When he was having his evening coffee, he’d step out to smoke and read what had happened during the day. However limited, it seemed like his primary source for general news.”

And, apparently, this is true for other people in downtown Saint Paul — some homeless people in need of information, some not.

The thing always seemed like a better building decoration than an informational tool.

We learned today that’s not the case. We hope it comes back soon, too.

(h/t: Jennifer Vogel)

  • Jeff

    When I worked at MPR in the early/mid 90s I took my job of updating the news banner seriously. I always had two international headlines, two national and two local. I updated it twice during my shift (overnights: 8pm – 4am). I always assumed that SOMEONE noticed and appreciated them. I know that I always read the banner when I drive past it now. I hope it comes back.

  • Bob Collins

    On its previous installation, I broke the news on the ticker via the headline “Bob Hope dead at 94.” He died 6 years later at the age of 100.

  • Phillip

    I loved that sign! It’s so classic it was one of the things I always looked for when we drove into Downtown. I hope the new one is good like the old one. No new bells and whistles but that style ticker just seems so… fitting?

  • John Bergstrom

    The MPR news ticker at their headquarters on Cedar Street in downtown St Paul is iconic and highly symbolic of the importance of MPR in our state and region. It’s been dark for weeks or longer. Please bring it back as soon as possible.

  • Andy

    In the summer of 1999, I started an internship at WCCO. Among my duties (apparently) was to type new headlines into the news scroll they controlled in downtown Minneapolis. But I didn’t hear that part and I didn’t do it. It was 6 days before anyone noticed.

  • elsagrace

    I miss it too. It was still not working when I walked past it a few days ago. I’m hoping to see it working again soon.