Cannon Valley flooding (5×8 – 6/15/12)

Following flooding, why don’t people follow the news, a Guardsman says goodbye, would painting blacktop white make a difference, and a walk over Niagra Falls.


One weather watcher reported more than 7 inches of rain fell in the Northfield area yesterday. Homes are being evacuated around the Cannon River and some drivers were stranded. The Northfield News has pictures here.

At Northfield Patch, Corey Butler Jr., reports about 5 inches of rain fell. He’s got pictures and video posted from area residents.

At around :40 of this video, you’ll see a truism of Minnesota: Nothing stops joggers. Nothing.

Weather permitting (doubtful), I’ll try to survey the area by air a little later, and obviously the newsroom will be expanding the story today.


This is a follow-up to yesterday’s dissertation in this space on the destruction of the New Orleans Times Picayune newspaper and the decisions we’re making to be less informed.

Surprise! Not everyone agrees. And by coincidence, Lester Graham of Michigan Radio, penned a commentary for the Radio Television News Directors Association (now named the Radio Television Digital News Association) in which he relayed what happened when he visited coffee shops to find out what the “news” was in various communities in his state.

He found, he says, that people don’t follow the news:

When I asked how they kept themselves informed about what’s going on, I expected the answer to be the internet. I was wrong again. They rely on friends and acquaintances to keep them in the know. A barber told me, “Look where I work! Anything I need to know, I’ll learn it right here.”

Now, I’ll grant you, this was all anecdotal. But the overwhelming disdain for news coverage as we know it was really disturbing to me. Actually, it kinda pissed me off. Here I am, thinking of my job as providing a public service, and it turns out the public just isn’t that interested in me or any of you (unless your name is Rush Limbaugh or John Stewart).

So, what’s the answer? I’m sure there are plenty of big-dollar consultants who know more than this reporter and they’ll have plenty of solutions. Too often we leave it to the consultants and other crystal ball-viewing marketing types to figure out what builds audience. I don’t think it’s sexing up the news, or more cute puppy stories, or better TV studio sets or better graphics for the web.

I think what’s missing is a connection to the everyday lives of people. Some of us are not doing a good enough job explaining why news is relevant to the people we serve. Whether it’s a story from city hall, or a story from the Capitol, or crime stories, our job is to explain what government policy, or crime sprees, or economic trends have to do with how people live. We need to connect the dots. We need to stop assuming people understand the “why” of news and explain exactly what it means to them. Every time.

Here’s the full commentary. Let’s talk. What news stories do you often hear — on MPR or anywhere else — that don’t fully explain why you should care?


Tad Vezner at the Pioneer Press has today’s story to rip your heart out. It’s the story of Minnesota National Guard Lt. Col. Mark Weber, who’s dying. Last night he spoke at the Minnesota History Center as part of a Flag Day ceremony. He sang the ballad “Tell My Father,” with his young son, a song about a Civil War soldier “wanting his father to know he fought and died well.”

You may remember him from last year’s State Fair…


Could climate change be collared if we painted all blacktop white? A researcher has done the math.


Nik Wallenda, who comes from a long line of high wire performers, is going to walk over Niagra Falls today.

Bonus I: A Father’s Day theme on today’s Story Corps from NPR. In 1996, a man set off for college with his one-year-old daughter in tow. “I actually thought that if Bowdoin College knew I had you, they wouldn’t let me come to college. So, I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone,” Will Smith tells his daughter. Must listen.

Bonus II: From the Department of I Meant to Do That (language warning):


The situation in Syria continues to worsen as other countries, reportedly including Turkey and Russia, send weapons into the conflict. Today’s Question: What, if anything, should the United States do to help ease the crisis in Syria?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The emotional life of your brain.

Second hour: A broadcast of Kerri Miller’s conversation, recorded at the University of Minnesota, about healthcare reform and what the Supreme Court’s decision on healthcare reform will mean for Americans.

Third hour: This week on the Friday Roundtable, our panelists look at the crises in Syria and Europe and what role, if any, the United States can play in defusing those crises.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): NPR’s Ted Radio Hour: “The Power of Crowds.”

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – A look at a census of microbes that live on and in each one of us. Plus: how the morning-after pill works. And bacterial armor up close. Hear more {today/ tomorrow} on Science Friday.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – A Muslim civil rights group has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate St. Anthony after its city council denied a permit for an Islamic center in an industrial part of town. St. Anthony Village says the decision wasn’t driven by Islamophobia – it doesn’t want tax-exempt religious institutions in parts of the city reserved for businesses. It’s an issue other Minnesota cities are also confronting as mosques and churches search for large tracts of land to expand their congregations, MPR’s Curtis Gilbert reports.

  • Ken Paulman
  • Kirk W

    When M/NPR’s primary coverage began last year, I started tuning out the news. I find myself turning off 91.1 during election coverage and forgetting to go back to the news for quite some time. A little election coverage is okay, but is has seemed quite disproportional to the rest of the news.

    It’s a sad day when I get almost all of my news from a blogger (who has a penchant for aerospace news) and his news coverage at 4:20 😉

  • Mark Gisleson

    But Lester Graham’s response tells you everything you need to know. For years my mother insisted she never listened to talk radio, yet in political arguments she would drop in “facts” that I would later find came straight from Rush Limbaugh.

    Then my brother told me that many of her friends were dittoheads, and that most of the seniors in my hometown got their news from Fox and talk radio.

    Both Fox and talk radio overwhelmingly preach that mainstream news outlets are corrupt and “liberal” (and when they say liberal, they mean #$%!).

    There’s one side gone. Then add to that the disgraceful way in which corporate-owned media responded to talk radio and Fox by moving to the right. Way to the right, thereby losing all their liberal readers/viewers, myself included.

    And, just to be fair and balanced, there is a substantial body of cricitism of public radio and public TV being overtly biased in many regards. The News Hour is legendary for having mostly white male guests, and NPR is often called National Zionist Radio by those who do not unconditionally support Israel.

    Bob, where do you go for unbiased news? Like a lot of Americans, I now rely on aggregator blogs to spot good news stories. They show up everywhere (even Fox occasionally runs a “good” story), but no media outlet seems to reliably produce a uniformly good news product nowadays. Everyone’s cranking about something, and if nothing else, media subservience to Wall Street is at an epidemic level (and no, editorials don’t take you off the hook if your business pages are wholly owned subsidiaries of the publisher’s portfolio and no, I don’t have proof of that, but more important — no one can prove otherwise because these things aren’t part of the public record).

  • Minnwhaler

    “It’s a sad day when I get almost all of my news from a blogger (who has a penchant for aerospace news) and his news coverage at 4:20 ;-)”

    Kirk, I would call that a happy day! Nomenclature / he said/she said. It’s enough.

  • BJ

    The ONLY news source i check in with on any regular schedule is news cut.

    I think the quote “I think what’s missing is a connection to the everyday lives of people. Some of us are not doing a good enough job explaining why news is relevant to the people we serve.”

    That quote describes what Bob does here, or at least you can see that he tries to.

    I get the newspaper on Sundays, and most weeks I don’t even look at the ad’s. It ends up unread completely 2 of 4 weeks. Obits or ad’s or book reviews are read the other 2 weeks.

  • Cara

    I hear the news on 91.1 but, as Kirk said earlier, the overwhelming amount of election coverage makes me tune it out. I hear but don’t listen. However Steve Inskeeps reporting from the middle east right now is remarkable.

    I peruse the Strib online occasionally and look at the site every day. And listen to the Daily Show at night.

  • Cara

    Dangit Bob, now I’m crying at work again. The story about Lt. Col. Mark Weber is so touching and inspiring. Newscut reliably does this about once a week, and inevitably someone will walk in my office while I’m dabbing my tears away. “I’m just reading the news”!

  • Loretta

    I can’t listen to the news anymore because reporters/radio personalities can’t complete a sentence without an er, um, or ah. MPR is getting just as bad as commercial radio and television. It drives me crazy. I prefer to read my news.

  • Tyler

    No offense, Bob, but in response to some commenters: how is getting your mews only from News Cut different from than friends & family getting their news only from Fox?

  • Bob Collins

    (1) I aggregate (2) I don’t do politics much (3) I see the value in presenting stories that don’t leave you wanting to blow your brains out.*

    (* = Not a complete list)