What one man can do in a big media company


We cannot let this day go much further without stopping to observe that this week is the 17th birthday of the MPR website, a fact which probably doesn’t mean much to a lot of people because everybody’s got a website now, of course. It seems like a no-brainer to have websites because now it is a no-brainer.

It wasn’t always thus.

The day means a lot to a few old-timers who had to convince a radio broadcasting company that something that isn’t about radio broadcasting is a worthy endeavor. To its credit, that broadcasting company — in time — listened.

pearson_john.jpgA gentleman whom you probably don’t know is behind all of it. John Pearson, who was at the time a member of MPR’s marketing department, single-handedly started the website and set about to prove that as an instrument of communication, it had real possibilities.

John has the rare combination of the ability to articulate a vision, the patience to wait until the doubting recipient reached the same conclusion, and the confidence to not mind that his idea was now someone else’s.

He worked alone, often. In its early days, there was no newsroom involvement in the website. So, John would lift scripts from our radio script system and slap them on the web. But he had to be choosey because they might sit on the page for days.


(Photo:Michael Wells)

Eventually, he got some help in the technical aspects of the web — John is a great graphic designer — and the newsroom came on board in 1999.

He survived the “new media days” when the buttoned-down MPR created the blimp-flying, Nerf-ball throwing, jeans-and-sneakers-wearing MPR New Media Department, the forerunner of today’s mostly-buttoned-down digital team. Not everyone who works in the digital realm here may know the one person — one person who saves every e-mail he’s ever sent — who’s directly responsible for it all.

Times change. Good people have come and good people have gone but there’s one person — and only one person — who’s been a part of MPR.org since the day it started — John Pearson. This is his day and, really, only his day.

MPR’s Facebook page provides a little journey down a memory lane of MPR front pages.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Kudos to John. I hope he plans on using all of those saved emails someday to write about his invaluable experiences and contributions. What a great premium for members that would be!

  • Roger Miller

    Thanks for recognizing John. I’ve had the pleasure of working for John twice – once in the olden days of typesetting and layout boards and more recently with pixels and html. He is one of the great talents and unsung heroes at MPR!

  • Silvester Vicic

    I remember those days…very, very well. John was a relentlessly kind taskmaster, patient with editing copy and guiding us producers to give him what was necessary! Keep it up, John, and Bob, thanks for acknowledging him.

  • Sara Leier Horwath

    What a great tribute Bob!

  • Joanna

    Thanks for sharing the story of a behind-the-scenes pioneer. We take for granted so much now that was science fiction just a few decades ago; the combination of vision and persistence that John Pearson embodies has created a wonderful resource and space for connection for all of us. Thank you, John!

  • Mary E. Lee

    Bob, thanks for paying attention to a man that never asks for any attention…and still delivers. I have had the pleasure of learning from him for over 20 years and carry his lessons daily. (IE, a billboard has failed if you can’t read what it says). Also some more meaningful lessons as well.

  • Don Creighton

    A recognition well deserved. From the early learning with the CPB grant and Garrison chats to the polished product with multiple websites within websites John has always been there.