The mother of online news

DMR011433-1_20101219.jpg There are a lot of people out there making a good living by claiming to be experts in matters of the Internet.

MJ Bear wasn’t one of them. Even though she was one of the original experts of the Internet, she didn’t parade herself as one.

Her funeral was held today down in Des Moines. She died last week after a seven-month fight with leukemia.

Those few of us who were around back when MPR was getting into the online news businesses, remember her as a friendly voice at NPR, where she headed npr.org’s development.

It’s easy to forget now just how revolutionary it was to answer questions about whether an NPR program can be streamed on a local affiliate’s Web site (it couldn’t), or whether there was any value in expanding online audio. Back then, MPR had a total of 100 live streams available between the classical service and news and after that, you got a message that you were out of luck. Back then, we only streamed Midmorning and Midday because there were no rights granted for the NPR programs, or even the top-of-the-hour news, for that matter.

But someone with a vision helped answer all of those questions. And MJ Bear also helped form the Online News Association, which at the time was a collection of online newsies who had a hard time getting the time of day from their core-media bosses and colleagues.

NPR undersold her contributions today when it cited her work “redesigning and overseeing NPR.org from 1996 to 2001.” It was so much more than that. It was hand-holding public radio Web teams across the country as they tried to do something new, in the face of opposition from those who felt it would undercut the role of radio.

MJ Bear was one of the first people to recognize that journalism and the Web were made for each other, and that public media was uniquely qualified to prove it.

  • GregS

    I am one of the many people who owe hours of listening enjoyment to Ms. Bear and am sad to hear that someone who touched our lives is gone.

  • Mary Ann B

    I was one of the lucky ones at MPR — serving as new media marekting director — who had the great opportunity to work with and get to know MJ. She was an amazing advocate of online news, and will be missed by all of those who knew her.