Behind the scenes at All Things Considered (Five by 8 – 10/5/10)


You probably don’t know the name Jeff Jones, but if you listen to All Things Considered on MPR, you know his work. He’s the producer, the guy who makes it all fit. He’s leaving the job this week to live the gentlemanly life with MPR’s Public Insight Network. So the other day, I did what I’ve never done in the 18 years I’ve worked here — many as the only editor — I followed a producer around for a day.

As you can see, real people tweet at All Things Considered’s Twitter account. Find it here and follow them.


Floodwaters reveal interesting things when they subside. Reader “rcmlynn” — you News Cut readers are a mysterious lot — has sent along images he’s shot in the last few days in the south metro:

Other secrets of the flood are being revealed as the water vanishes. Some of them aren’t quite so pretty.


A lot of music you hear these days is junk:

The New York Philharmonic is unveiling a piece this week that requires its players to hit up a junkyard near where they’re performing. The junk gives the piece “a local sound,” its composer says.


Minnesota is one of the largest producers of electricity generated by wind power. South and west of the Twin Cities, a crops of wind turbines sprout from the prairie. They may be changing the local weather, a new study outlined in Scientific American says. They’re acting like a blender, mixing up the air and creating warmer temperatures “downstream.” That may not be a bad thing. Some research says it protects local crops from frost. (h/t: Midwest Energy News)

Crops. Like corn. What if corn “has manipulated us to work for them,” the way bees work for flowers?

5) YOU ARE….

You are a firefighter in Obion County, Tennessee, where residents pay a $75 fee to the fire department for fire coverage. A home catches fire and when you get there, it’s blazing. You check the records and find out the family didn’t pay their fee. What do you do?

Do you let it burn or do what you can to put it out?online survey

Viral video pick

They have a shorter work week in France than we do. What do people do with all that extra time? This:

Cute eh? Now get to work. (h/t: BoingBoing)


The terror alert issued Sunday warns Americans in Europe to “adopt appropriate safety measures.” Have you ever changed your behavior in response to a terror alert?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Two Muslims working to promote interfaith understanding discuss America’s misconceptions about Islam.

Second hour: The Pulitzer Prize winning classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” turns 50 this year. Kerri Miller interviews a documentarian who gained rare interviews with Harper Lee’s sister and friends to help reveal the story behind the book.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Second hour: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, interviewed at the JFK Library

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: TBA

Second hour: The World War II sub veterans who inspired the book, No Ordinary Joes.

  • I just heard about the firefighter story.

    This is the sort of world Ayn Rand advocated in her novels.

    Is this what we want as a society? Is this what we really, really want?

  • To be fair, residents outside the city limits are supposed to pay the $75 fee in order to be ‘protected’ by the department. Inside the city, they are covered.

    If they want to cover the whole county, they need to have the county tax for it.

  • matt

    The $75 fee amounts to $1.50 a week (you even get two weeks of vacation a year). If you are unwilling to put in the 11 hours of minimum wage labor needed to cover the fire insurance you really have no business owning a home. I’ll bet even money that there is a friend or family member who would have shelled out the $75 if asked to assist, of course the story states that homeowner chose not to pay the $75.


    You mention that a Randian world is not where you choose to live but if you look around you see people paying for what are believed to be free public services because the public sector fails so often. MOA security, privately owned water towers, in home water purifiers, generators and much more. Meanwhile charitable giving exceeds public welfare and government support. Private schools, tutors and remedial education businesses are expanding. About the only govt service not supplemented is national security and prisons (see any room for improvement there?). We can hold out hope that with just a little more practice govt is going to get better at these things but in reality we see the govt getting fired by its constituents everyday. Sadly like the classic Seinfeld episode Costanza (govt) continues to show up, collect a healthy paycheck and destroy morale.

  • Heather

    Re: the $75 fee, the guy offered to pay it as the fire was in progress. I would say the right thing to do is pretty obvious under the golden rule, or under the general guideline of “Don’t be an [jerk].” Nice to see that the Judgy McJudgealots are out in force when someone has lost a home.

    Corn blog post — the title is boosted straight from Michael Pollan’s book, “The Botany of Desire”. It’s a TERRIFIC read. The potato chapter is phenomenal.

  • BJ

    So someone who doesn’t have a fire department called the closest city (who, for a fee will cover you) and didn’t get a service that they didn’t pay for?

    I don’t see the problem.

    If this was in the city, where they pay taxes that pay for the fire service, then I would have a problem with it.

    If the city didn’t offer the extra service at all would this have been a problem?

    Firefighters (police, etc) are not free. If my fire department sends a team to another city, guess what, that city cuts them a check.

    Sounds like the home owner should be pissed at the county for not paying for the fire protection.

  • Suzanne

    I want to work in that French office! Maybe that kind of thing can be Jeff Jones’ sendoff #2!

  • Ken Paulman

    Once again, life imitates the Onion (sort of).

  • davidz

    That’s the nature of insurance. You pay a little, all the time, and when the crunch occurs, you’re protected.

    The owner offered the pay the $75 at the time of the fire. Sorry, at that moment, the risk of him having a fire was not in question, and his risk pool was VERY risky indeed. 100% chance of needing service, right now.

    He should have offered to pay for the *entire* cost of putting out his fire, and then the fire department should have taken his offer and put out the fire.

    That’s the privatized/fee for service model.

    It’s not how I would want to live my life, but if the community chooses to operate that way, and the owner wants to save the $75/year in service fees, then there is no moral obligation on the FD to put out his fire. In fact, there is a moral hazard, because it sets a precedent for other people to not pay, recognizing that the FD will put out the fire anyway.

    Public services are not free. And services like this, where the likelihood of using the service in any given year is low, the cost to any one member of the public does not cover the cost of providing that service. It’s paying year after year and not using it that allows the FD to operate.

    The homeowner took a calculated bet. He lost.

  • Heather

    davidz, according to the story he DID offer to pay the full cost.

    “The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late.”

  • JackU

    With regard to the fire in Tennessee, I saw this report on Countdown (MSNBC) last night. The lead in made it sound like the “victim” was fooled by not paying for something that had been provided. When they ran the background before interviewing the poor sap, it was clear that this is a common practice in that area and that the fee had been in place for 20 years. Also the fire department didn’t come out to his house and then sit there and watch it burn. They only came out when it spread to a neighbor’s property that had paid the fee. They put out the fire on his property and then waited to make sure it didn’t spread back.

    As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

  • Matt W

    Thought you might find this interesting in regards to this fire issue:

    a .13 % in property taxes was too much for Obion county to stomach for folding the city fire departments into a new county wide fire system that would’ve covered everyone in the county (incidentally, the fee based option pitched to the county commisioners was $118, so the south fulton’s plan was a bit of a deal).

    From what I can gather from the scant resources I can find, South Fulton offered the $75 option to people in Crannick’s area after thsi county proposal died. Before then the area was not covered at all. Praticularly interesting to me is the part in the report that says that The county voeted in 1987 to form a fire department , but refused to give it any money. Which has prevented it from recieving FEMA and Community development block grants which would have provided a large amount of the funding needed to maintain it’s fire service.

  • brian

    My first thought was to say of course they should have put out the fire (and that is how I voted this morning). But after reading the article, I’ve changed my mind.

    I think this story is a good analogy to show why the health care mandate in the new health care law is a reasonable provision. If someone gets sick and doesn’t have health insurance, should we let them die without care? I think as a society we have trouble doing that, so some people get care that never pay (through unpaid bills or emergency room visits, etc).

    In order for the fire fighting system mentioned in the article to work, it seems like they have too options:

    1. Let fires burn when people haven’t paid the fee (as long as there is no danger to life, as is the policy for that fire department)

    or 2. Make the fee mandatory.

    It seems like we have the same choice as a country when it comes to health care and unless we are willing to let ALL uninsured go without healthcare we have to choose #2.

  • Mary

    Thanks for the “behind-the-scenes” video for All Things Considered. It’s fun to see how things work at MPR, not to mention being able to put faces with the distinctive voices. More please!