How NPR can improve (5X8 – 6/2/11)


Alicia Shepard, the longtime ombudsman for NPR, has turned in her pass card and left the network she spent years questioning. It was her job to publicly question her employer (the world would be a better place with more ombudsmen). She reveals a few secrets in her final column, including a revelation that now-ousted boss Vivian Schiller accused her of “piling on” when she wrote a second column about NPR’s botched report that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords died in January’s shooting in Tucson.

But in her final column, she whacks her employer — former employer — on a fact that gets lost in the usual debate over whether NPR has a political agenda: It’s an awfully white news organization:

But the invitation list is still pretty much limited to highly educated white folks with money. Why would Hispanics or African Americans (each only about 8 percent of the audience) listen to NPR if they don’t hear themselves represented on the air? It frustrates me to hear endless white males quoted in stories and not more women in positions of authority.

She has more suggestions in today’s final column.


We have a new leader in the biggest-remaining-pile-of-snow-in-Minnesota competition.


Chad Burma of Austin, Minnesota wrote after reviewing the St. Paul entry in a post on News Cut yesterday…

“I think we in Austin have your glacier beat. It’s about 8-10 feet high and 50-60 yards long. Also, its only one of two in town,” Chad writes.


Austin’s pile also now leads in the ugliest-snow-pile-in-Minnesota category. It’s located near Marcusen Park.


Beat that!


There are 30 Major League Baseball teams. But only one has signed onto the It Gets Better campaign. Yesterday, the San Francisco Giants became that team:

Major League Baseball has latched onto causes as part of its marketing strategy. It uses pink bats to call attention to the fight against breast cancer. It makes its teams wear camoflauge hats to show its support for troops and raise money for veterans’ organizations. But, at least so far, the bullying of kids because they may be gay is a cause too hot to handle.

Meanwhile, one of the great baseball success stories is happening in cities all over Minnesota this year. Miracle League baseball fields are being completed, so that kids with disabilities can play the game. The Miracle League of Central Minnesota begins play this weekend, the St. Cloud Times reports.

“My wife wrote a note one day that said, ‘If you do good things for yourself, those things will go with you when you die. When you do good things for others, they last long after you’re gone.’ This field will definitely be a momento to that idea for sure,” an organizer who helped make a Miracle League field possible said.

All of the players will wear “3” patches in honor of Harmon Killebrew, a big supporter of the Miracle League.


There is an entire month for politicians in Minnesota to avoid a government shutdown, but it’s a game of chicken. When’s the last time you saw a game of chicken decided at the beginning?

MPR’s Tom Scheck advises readers to pay attention to the words being used by the the pols…

Technically, Republicans are right when they say the state is spending $30 billion in the current budget cycle. But they’re also leaving something out. They’re careful to use the term “state spending” because the state’s obligations are much larger than that.

Total state spending in the current budget is $34 billion, given $2.3 billion in federal stimulus money and $1.9 billion in delayed payments to school districts. Those budget decisions made under former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the then-DFL controlled Legislature are now coming due.

“There is definitely more revenue coming in the 2012-2013 biennium than in ’10 and ’11 but the spending demands are much higher than that,” said Bill Marx, chief fiscal analyst for the Minnesota House.

Marx, a nonpartisan staff member, said the state is providing $34 billion in services during the current budget cycle. That level of services and the commitment to release the delayed payments to school districts means the state’s obligations are $39 billion in the next budget cycle.

Online polls are notoriously not accurate and certainly not scientific, but the Marshall Independent’s survey today shows people blaming the Legislature for the mess by about a 2-to-1 margin at last check.

In an editorial today, the Star Tribune says someone’s taxes are going to go up, it’s only a question of which ones…

It should also be noted that Republicans fight a higher income tax top rate for sound reasons of business competitiveness — reasons Dayton should take to heart.

If both sides in the budget battle would concede that the real question before them is “Which tax?” they might also see that they have more and better revenue-raising options than those they’ve brought to the table.

The state’s too-narrow sales tax base could be expanded. Tobacco and alcohol taxes could climb.

Do those things, and the ill effects of both a higher income tax and higher property taxes — and of a government shutdown after July 1 — could be avoided.


When you grow up in Massachusetts, you grow up with certain myths. For one, the mountains will protect you from tornadoes. That’s not true (although there are no mountains in Springfield; it’s quite flat). And tornadoes won’t cross big rivers. The most compelling video from yesterday’s tornado in Springfield proves that’s a lie, too.

Bonus: I posted a video from Terje Sorgjerd a few weeks ago from the highest mountain in Spain. He’s out with one from the Lofoten archipelago in northern Norway. He’s filmed “The Arctic Light,” the color that naturally occurs two to four weeks before the Midnight Sun.


What message would you give the class of 2011, if you had only six words to say it?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: What makes a great commencement address?

Second hour: The history and future of protest music.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Will expanding college admissions downgrade college standards?

Second hour: Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edmund Morris, author of ” Colonel Roosevelt.” He spoke about Theodore Roosevelt at the JFK Forum Series in Boston.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Military medicine, and what we’ve learned, about preventing and treating PTSD

Second hour: The promise and perils of fracking

  • Jim Shapiro

    Dear Bob –

    Thanks for posting the time lapse video.

    A reminder that in spite of all of the challenges, there is still plenty of beauty, glory and wonder.

  • Jamie

    Yeah, that was really nice.

    Re: #4 the budget…

    One thing that often does not get mentioned in the debates about the state budget is that we have ever-increasing needs and a growing population, especially the population of people with needs the state has met in the past and should continue to meet (not to mention some needs that haven’t been met but should be). That is why Republicans’ rhetoric about “balancing the checkbook” and treating government spending like a family’s spending or like a business is fallacious. Families and businesses don’t have to provide for the things that government should provide. If the gov’t doesn’t meet those needs, nobody else will instead, despite what conservatives claim about charities stepping up. Many people fall through the cracks currently, and charities have not been stepping in there.