The future of NewsCut? We need your thoughts

Bob, as he often did, challenged his editors.

That is a good thing.

NewsCut is Bob Collins — in its humanity, snark, thoughtful, keen and often incisive writing.

So when he announced his retirement, we were left with a quandary: Do we continue NewsCut as Bob created it? Do we create something brand new and keep calling it NewsCut or do we retire the blog with Bob?

There’s also a fourth option: We archive the blog and take some time to assess what comes next.

That was actually Bob’s idea. He thought we should ask the journalists in the room what should come next. He challenged us, his editors, to get out of the way and let the best ideas come from the folks closest to the work. Classic Bob.

We are doing that.

But what a great opportunity to ask you, too: What do you want to come next? What is missing from our coverage? What don’t you get enough of or want more of?

I hope you will leave your ideas and thoughts in the comments here or email me directly at cgraves@mpr.org or message me on Twitter @chrisgraves

Thank you for being loyal NewsCut readers and also supporters of MPR News.

Chris Graves is MPR News managing editor, digital

  • Gary F

    The one thing that Bob did that no other MPR blogger/online news person did was taking comments. I’m not why the others at MPR didn’t. Kudos to Bob.

    How about a weekly or daily guest host? From Fred Melo, Libor Jany, James Lileks to John Hinderacker, Mitch Berg, or Brian Lambert.

    Add some diversity. Alyssa Ahlgren, Candace Owens, etc…

    • Keep the political hacks as far away from this, and anything else related to MPR, as possible.

      • +1

      • Gary F

        You wouldn’t want anyone to challenge the narrative.

  • David Brauer

    Having watched the New York Times (painfully) continue Carpetbagger after David Carr died, my recommendation is to memorialize NewCut as a Bob thing and hire some new news and management challenger to create a new #badforthebrand. It should go without saying, and yet it must be said, that this person shouldn’t be a straight white male, at least alone. New perspectives needed in more ways than one.

    • Rixware

      Oh, David! I miss your voice, too!

    • MrE85

      I’m with Brauer on this one.

    • Blasko

      “this person shouldn’t be a straight white male, at least alone.” Perhaps, but it matters a lot more to me that the person (or persons) clearly not stay in their own bubble. A voice with respect, profound appreciation for others, curiosity, willingness to see a wide landscape of thought and a fierce defender of acts of journalism – these are the criteria I’d put first in what I want from an MPR NewsCut-like blog.

    • This.

      It’s a very well thought out plan and would continue the legacy of NewsCut.

  • fromthesidelines21

    I think I agree with David. As much as I would like Newscut to continue it can’t really be separated from Bob. Personality driven brands are hard to sustain once that person moves on. (Congrats and well done Bob!) Hire new or empower current staff that have the drive to create something new that fits their own take on the news of the day.

    I know Bob was losing faith in the ability to have a quality comments section but I think it shouldn’t be abandoned… yet. If there is a good moderator and known rules that are enforced it can still be a great way to involve the public in sorting out current events. Set high standards for civil thought exchange. See if a new community can thrive or fail under a new home.

    Maybe try for a few new voices.

  • crystals

    My immediate reaction was #4 before even getting to the next line and seeing it was Bob’s idea.

    I also agree w/ David Brauer below, and would also specify that it should be a person or people who are comfortable speaking truth to power and that power needs to be comfortable with letting them do it. Otherwise it’s all for nothing.

  • BJ

    A mix of Ombudsman and what Bob was. I like what David said.

    #BadForTheBrand would be a great name for it, it’s own thing but a nod to Bob.

  • halfpint

    Archive and open the lines for something new, but in a similar spirit. Having an individual perspective on the news was fantastic, but forcing it to follow the same script won’t be as successful. But there’s still room for (and a need for) a perspective that challenges ideas, highlights good and bad alike, and can bring a clear context to events. Seconding (thirding?) the idea that the person/s in charge of the new concept should be comfortable speaking truth to power – and that should be understood/encouraged as part of their role.

  • Amy

    I feel like this was pretty specific to Bob. Keep it available online, but if you’re bringing someone new in, start from scratch.

    • Keep it available online

      but lock down the “comments” area lest it become rife with bot postings.

  • Rixware

    I see no reason to shutter the NewsCut brand. It’s a nice part of MPR’s online identity, and I, for one, would miss it.

    When I first started reading it, I had no idea that it was done by just one person (though that became apparent over time). I also figured that, even though Bob was the editor/heart/soul, he got leads on stories from all sorts of folks — which turned out to be true.

    So, my personal preference would be to pass the assignment on to someone else. One person. Not a team. Not a rotation. Not a series of “guests.” Not an algorithm. Someone willing to take it seriously, and lightly, and personally. Someone who posts at roughly the same frequency, features roughly the same sort of quirky-and-somehow-essential stories, comments wisely/snarkily/appropriately/however, and curates the comments — an essential part of the brand.

    It will be a different voice, but there is value in that — with no disrespect intended toward Bob at all. His voice was great. I will miss it. Others have great voices. The task is just to find that person. Hardly impossible. In fact, I’d say the task at hand is, like NewsCut itself, quirky-and-somehow-essential.

  • Postal Customer

    Is this a decision that should be labored over? Keep it as a blog for interesting news. Doesn’t necessarily need to change. There are a lot of smart MPR reporters who can find good stories for us.

  • DotWonder

    i’m thinking the author should be akin to Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride.

  • jon

    You give 4 options, and I’d suggest doing 3 of them, in this order…. 4, then 1 and 2.

    I always could read a bit of passion in what Bob posted about, planes, baseball, court cases on the fringe of constitutional rights, journalism, and the hardest one to pin down but perhaps the most constant thread, humanity. These were things he cared about, and knew about, things he could provide insights into that would be missed when reporting “only the facts”.

    I doubt you’ll find some one(s?) take on newscut (and the newscutters in the comments) who has the same passions as Mr Collins. But people have their own passions…

    I don’t care about baseball… but when you read through the humanity side that Bob brought into the storys… it made them worth reading.

    Anyhow, that’s my vote, take some time, identify things you are passionate about and can bring additional insight into, identify the humanity in the stories, call out hypocrisy when you see it… If/When you feel that you are able to do that for a story, put it up, Focus on quality over quantity take on those stories that can fit into the newscut concept… Carry on newscut as Bob created it, but also know that it will be something different.

    I’ll keep my RSS feed reader pointed at newscut to see what you do, and maybe there will be another topic I’m not interested in that I’ll read about extensively because some one with passion and insight is writing about the happenings surrounding it.

    • boB from WA

      Ditto. Right now i’m reading some of the archived posts, but at the same time, I’m also looking for something that will hold my interest the same as Newscut did. Go for it, think outside the box like you all did years ago.

  • J Allen

    I think NewsCut is a one-time thing that can’t be duplicated, especially with the Bob and Mary news report at 4:20pm (also, for a brief time at 5:20pm!), which for me made NewsCut more than a blog. Also, I don’t think there’s much of a future in blog comments, except perhaps at The Current’s Coffee Break. 😉

  • Timbergrace

    #4. NewCut is/was Bob, and should stay that way. I agree with David Brauer about the straight white male part as well. I was thinking that bringing something along the lines of the Counter Stories group that Tom Weber started would be an excellent place to start.

  • joetron2030

    Although I upvoted many comments, I just wanted to say, in print, that I see a lot great suggestions being offered here.

    I think that NewsCut should be retired (though the archives should remain available with commenting turned off), and something new developed. Whatever that something else may be, we should all give it time to find its legs before a decision is made on keeping or cutting.

    Also, I concur with others about how the comments section was a goodly part of what made this blog worth a daily read. But, that came through a lot of time-consuming work by Bob. Having been a moderator of various forums and sub-reddits, it’s no easy task and takes a special someone(s) to do it well.

    I’m definitely interested in seeing what might come next. And I love the hashtag “badforthebrand”. 😀

    • Jack

      Bob definitely kept the comments area a safe place for us to share. I miss interacting with the regulars these days. Newscut was my first read in the morning and then at lunchtime to catch up with what the on-going conversations were discussing.

      I am definitely behind having it retired and archived. I kept up with the “My Cancer” blog on NPR after Leroy Sievers died and it was never the same. Now when I look back, comments are gone and it is just the main blog remaining. The comments added so much to that blog.

      //I’m definitely interested in seeing what might come next. And I love the hashtag “badforthebrand”. :D//

  • Angry Jonny

    I seriously think you should rename/rebrand the blog, and contract with Marilyn Hagerty for content.

    • The crowd source the name which would inevitably be “NewsCut McNews Face”

  • Sonny T

    What do you want to come next?– Trick Bob into coming back and continue exactly as before. Hint: Offer an exalted title and vague future benefits. Seriously, maybe Bob could contribute part time. If this is not possible bring in another writer and continue as before.

    What is missing from our coverage?– I greatly miss the “What’s on MPR News” part of Bob’s blog, a quick reference to what would be on that day.

    What don’t you get enough of or want more of?– Newscut had everything. I miss Bob’s stories, his knack for finding the unusual angle. I miss the raucous well-informed discussion group. I miss the priceless opportunity to comment, even though no one agreed with me. I think it’s called Stockholm Syndrome : )

    • KenB

      Besides missing everything Bob posted and many of the comments folks added, I heartily agree about missing his daily “What’s on MPR News” posts.

      • Jeff

        I’m lost without “What’s on MPR News”. This shouldn’t be too hard to put together.

  • Turnstone Bombadil

    Maybe you should just go back to allowing comments on all MPR posts.

  • Credit Warrior

    I am retired and a daily reader of NewsCut. I found the “local” flavor of the articles refreshing. I too will miss it as media source which was fun to read and see the comments from others. I wish Bob the best in his retirement. Hope MPR recognizes the need to keep something like this site going. I would like to see the name “NewsCut” continue or at the very least use a variation of the name, i.e “NewsCutToo”, “NewsCutTwo”. By using the “NewsCut” name readers/MPR would have a constant recognition/reminder of Bob’s contribution and successful blog.

  • X.A. Smith

    I think one or two people should take it over, and try to keep it roughly the same format, but with their own voice.

    I think keeping the name NewsCut would be good, in that newer readers might discover Bob’s old (but timeless) stories more easily.

  • Thanks to each and everyone of you for your thoughtful comments here. Bob built a great community. I have received emails from NewsCut readers as well. I am reading them all and gathering the feedback. It will help inform what comes next. If you want to email me, please feel free (cgraves@mpr.org). Again thank you so much.

    • tboom

      Thanks for listening.

      • Yes!

        Thanks for listening and opening up this conversation.

        • 212944

          Coversation is what NewsCut is. The coversation of the community.

          That is why I kept coming back.

          Even now – on vacation six thousand miles from MPR to check on a blog which ended a few weeks ago – it’s the conversation of this community.

  • KTFoley

    “There are a lot of smart MPR reporters who can find good stories for us.”

    It’s more than that, I think.

    The next iteration of NewsCut ought not to be yet another outlet where one or more people get to write/post the kind of particular news that interests them. Those sites abound and some of them, like kottke.org, are good enough to make you think it might be easy to just keep banging out content.

    But that signature blend of mental health and aviation and People You Should Meet and Give The Kid The Ball wasn’t the only thing that made NewsCut hum.

    The stories were the starting points for discussion. The rest of NewsCut’s page view success came from Bob’s effort to moderate the comments and keep the discussion constructive, fruitful, worth participating in.

    That’s where I think we need to focus the question about whether to continue — not with content but with conversation.

    If a news blog is going to continue, in its current form or another, its viability hinges on whether it is tended by someone who believes in the potential of news insights that come from people conversing about news. That someone needs a kind of faith/stamina combination to make the conversation possible — faith to open the lines every day on topics big and small; stamina to keep the exchange from turning in to yet another platform for people to shout past each other while the trolls amuse themselves at everyone’s expense.

    I remember how the News Forum went about laying the groundwork for a culture of conversation: posting excerpts from stories/scheduled topics with questions similar to those in the on-air discussions, repeatedly reminding peoples about avoiding ad hominem attacks whenever things strayed off toward hostility, occasionally re-directing with a follow-up question or comment. Don’t take the culture work for granted — remember how many sites have shut down comments altogether because they could never get any further than blocking the egregious lunatics.

    We may want to consider taking up that conversation work again on a new site if uncivil haranguing is going to keep being so much more popular than listening to one another’s point of view. And I’d suggest that such a culture depends on a continuous presence of one or several people who share that ethos and are willing to reinforce it by encouraging the behaviors that nurture it and shutting down the behaviors that don’t.

    If MPR has someone who sees that potential for conversational insight and is eager to foster some online dialogues in the hope of growing them into round-table discussions, then yay and go for it! Otherwise I would suggest, regretfully, that MPR may need to consider archiving the site.

    • KTFoley

      Have to laugh at myself — this post turned into a version of my periodic IT soapbox speech about “first people, then process, and after that, technology.”

      Same same.

    • tarry_on

      The stories were the starting points for discussion. The rest of NewsCut’s page view success came from Bob’s effort to moderate the comments and keep the discussion constructive, fruitful, worth participating in.

      ^^This.

    • QuietBlue

      I fully agree with this — the focus on the discussion was what made NewsCut what it was, and I’d want to see it continue in any future iteration.

  • Hal Davis

    “What is missing from our coverage?”

    Well, Bob Collins is irreplaceable, so I hope he can keep blogging, under NPR’s banner or on his own.

    He provided coverage of stories that others missed, especially those involving the legal system.

    Here’s one media-law case he explored, with a ruling due from the Minnesota Supreme Court, perhaps as early as Wednesday of this week:

    In Maethner v. Someplace Safe, which involved a woman reporting on what she said was domestic abuse against her, the Court of Appeals distinguished between “reputable” news organizations and others. In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, “Eugene Volokh, the UCLA free speech law professor, … says a newsletter published by an organization has the same First Amendment protections as the daily paper,” Collins reported.

    https://blogs.mprnews.org/ newscut/2018/04/mn-supreme- court-to-decide-if-domestic- violence-agency-is-shielded- from-defamation-claim-from-an- ex-husband/

    Among other questions, should the court be deciding who’s a journalist?

    I hope that sort of coverage continues on NewsCut and MPR.

  • AL287

    This post is delayed due to my own retirement to Southeast Minnesota closer to my son and his family.

    Bob did a masterful job of keeping trolls off the blog or warning regular readers and commenters when they were hijacking a particular thread or had crossed the line of respectfulness.

    The next news blogger needs to recognize their own biases (We all have them) and keeping the blog focused as well as covering challenging news stories and off the grid stories that made Bob so unique.

    No one can be what Bob Collins was and is. He has his own reporting style that no journalist can hope to replicate nor should they.

    I think the consumers of online news in Minnesota need a place to express their opinions. It is helpful to be able to take a “read” on how our fellow Minnesotans are dealing with an increasingly divided United States.

  • Britt

    I think the spirit of News Cut should continue on and the only person I can imagine doing it, is Tom Weber. I think he would carry on the spirit of News Cut, but also be able to make it his own.