Yesterday’s “statement” from Gov. Dayton’s office professing shock that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf had been involved in a civil racketeering suit filed by former business partners carries plenty of questions. That the governor had his office issue a statement instead of facing the media with what the Star Tribune today calls his “harsh critique” allowed the governor to avoid an uncomfortable question: “Why didn’t you know?”
Dayton’s contention seems clear: If Wilf ripped off business partners in New Jersey, what are the chances the deal he got for a new stadium from the taxpayers of Minnesota is similarly rigged?
The stadium bill’s other big-name cheerleader — Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak — told the Star Tribune he’s “surprised” to learn of Wilf’s legal troubles.
Do Minnesota politicians not know how to use Google? Absent a proper background check, a simple Google alert would’ve alerted the leaders as recently as April 2012 that the Wilf’s New Jersey empire had been the target of a 21-year old lawsuit and a two-year-long trial. That’s two weeks before the Legislature passed the public financing portion of the stadium plan, a plan we now know hasn’t worked so far.
By then the trial in New Jersey had been going on for 112 days.
In his opening statement — in 2011 — the attorney for the Wilfs’ former business partner said the brothers “looted and misappropriated tens of millions of dollars” in what amounted to “organized-crime-type activities” in their bookkeeping for the apartment complex, the Newark Star-Ledger reported.
That’s the sort of language that typically would get the attention of anyone about to do big business with the family.
Related:On the Value of Not Knowing (The Big Picture).
Meanwhile, back at the fortress: Vikings season starts with tight security rules at the Metrodome (MPR)
Maybe if newspaper people hadn’t worked so gosh-darned hard over the years not to change a thing about telling stories, there wouldn’t be so much caterwauling this week about Jeff Bezos of Amazon buying the Washington Post. The decline of the newspaper is portrayed — mostly by newspapers — as one of one technology eclipsing another. It’s more than that and this open letter to Bezos from former Post reporter Kara Swisher (now of All Things D) makes that argument (h/t: Than Tibbetts):
In other words, make it clear that it is possible to do great journalism in an Internet way — even more possible because you’re freer and, most of all, readers want to read it that way. That entails inspiring the staffers of the newspaper to create content that is — as it has been — accurate, ethically sound, of high quality, but also much more compelling, and delivered in a way that modern customers want to consume it. Formulate those big stories primarily on the Web, and allow a conversation with readers to bubble up from there.
Except in some cases, that is simply not happening at the Post, where the Internet still — still — feels like an afterthought. As much as I like Wonkblog, for example, I love Nate Silver so much more. (And why didn’t the Post grab Silver, rather than Disney, and let him do whatever he wanted?)
Think of that: I. Love. Nate. Silver. You need to find more reporters and writers that readers love again, for all the right reasons, and not because they can string together a clever listicle (though, if truth be told, I love a good listicle). Spend a lot for some, because talent — as you know — is a key element. Reward that talent, too, especially those with an entrepreneurial bent, instead of treating staffers as if they were some fungible cog in the old-media engine.
What does all that mean? Sportswriting is a perfect example of the problem facing traditional journalists. This is how the mainstream media traditionally tells a game story:
Justin Verlander toyed with Cleveland’s lineup for eight innings and Don Kelly hit a three-run homer off Justin Masterson, leading the Detroit Tigers to their 10th straight win, 5-1 over the Indians, who can’t seem to beat the one team they’re chasing.
Not awful. But not that interesting. Not anymore.
Now compare to this story. See, I can’t actually quote it because we’re a pretty old-school newsroom ourselves, but I would argue it’s a more creative, interesting, funny way to tell a story than the formulaic style of newspapers that set the journalism standard for decades.
It might well be that Bezos gets that and will push to make daily journalism be less “boring” and risk averse. But I doubt it.
Incidentally, Daily Circuit will discuss some of this, perhaps, in a segment this morning on the billionaires who are buying newspapers.
In Wilson, Wis. — between Hudson and Menomonie — Dave Anderson and his wife, Pam Dixon have developed a new niche farm. It’s a brewery. And a pub. But only two times a month, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says. Even skydivers drop in for the occasional brew.
How the couple came to land in Wilson is its own story. Anderson, a native of St. Louis Park, Minn., looked “at 80 or 90 hunks of property” on which to build a wind-generated, sustainable brewery. But, he said, the spot in Wilson “spoke to me.”
“When I first got out of the car, I was taken back by the incessant winds blowing out of the southeast,” he said. Anderson and Dixon built their home above the tasting room; guests can hear the couple’s three dogs barking or view the horizon from a deck off the second level.
Downstairs, the bar is constructed from salvaged barn board, and cedar telephone poles have been repurposed for the bar top. Signs for an old grainery have faded along with the wood, and noise bounces off the tin ceiling. A sign on the door calls this room the LaBrewatory, but the equipment has been swept aside for the tasting.
Friday is StoryCorps day, thank goodness.
Today, NPR provides the story of a young man who was shot and paralyzed in Chicago, and the mother who wouldn’t give up when things looked bleak.
“I’m not really too scared that it will happen again because it made me appreciate life more,” he said. “It gave me a second chance to make better decisions. Before I got shot, we really didn’t express our feelings to each other that much. We really didn’t hang out that much. We didn’t talk about everything like we do now, so it brought us closer.”
Here’s your daily pick-me-up.
Somebody broke into an agency that helps sexual assault victims in San Bernadino, Calif. There’s no sign on the building so they didn’t know what it was they were breaking into.
When they figured it out, they broke back in.
Bonus I: Corporations don’t give to charity: Why the most profitable companies are stingy. Written by former CEO of NPR. (Slate Magazine)
Bonus III: The Science Genius program is bringing hip-hop into the classroom and challenging students at nine New York City public high schools to rap about science. Finalists from each school faced off at the Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. (Bring Attention to Transforming Teaching, Learning and Engagement in Science) competition earlier this summer, NPR reports.
Bonus IV: “Hippie Dave” has died.
Are the new security rules during Vikings games excessive?
WHAT WE’RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Friday roundtable panel discusses why Minnesota can’t get its sex offender policy right, how adverse childhood experiences will impact healthcare policy, and what Minnesota’s educational and economic gaps mean for the future of the state.
Second hour: How to counsel parents of premature babies with birth defects or other serious health issues.
Third hour: Billionaires who buy newspapers.
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A debate from the Aspen Ideas Festival: “Is America Suffering from an Entitlement Epidemic?” The speakers are Doug Holtz-Eakin and Bill Galston.
The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – Plans to Reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the Horizon | Compensation Finally Comes to Family of Henrietta Lacks | The Collective Experience of PTSD
2 p.m. — Live coverage of President Obama’s news conference.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Is there room in the hyper-masculine hip-hop world for gay artists? Minneapolis rapper Kevin “Kaoz” Moore thinks so. He’ll talk with MPR’s Nikki Tundel.
Valerie June’s musical style has been called part spiritual, part pop, and now even part blues. She calls it organic moonshine roots music. The Tennessee singer-songwriter explains it all and talks about her new album, Pushin Against a Stone.