August 10, 2009

Loving Local Media

Big newspapers may be dying, but I'm loving what I'm getting in their place. We've got three donor-supported online news sources in the Cities that I read regularly. All of them also rely on the community for tips or for covering events. Not one of them is the combined police blotter and traffic fatality feed that my local big, bankrupt paper is (yes, there's more than that, but it does tend to get buried).

The UpTake is one of the better-known local media outlets, as it provided the full coverage of the various Coleman-Franken hearings. Video is their big thing, and while they're a little slow at the moment with the state legislature not in session, they're still updating with features like Kyle's iPhone interviews as he hitchhikes across America and asks people about the economy. They're also hosting the White House videos debunking the anti-health care reform lies. Those videos come in handy far more often than I'd like.

The Minnesota Independent is part of the Center for Independent Media, so they cover national issues more, but they keep an eye on the local slant. For example, their Religious Right Watch covers the political actions of local and national groups.

Jan Markell of Maple Grove–based Olive Tree Ministries called on her radio listeners to attend congressional town hall meetings in August. “Here’s what you can do, your congressmen and senators are coming home for much of August,” she said on last week’s program. “They are going to have town hall meetings all over the place. You need to go there and give them an earful. The ideal thing to do is to go to their town hall and read them the riot act — in Christian love — but read them the riot act on this issue of health care.”

But she implied Rep. Michele Bachmann should be spared, heaping praises upon her: “[Michele Bachmann] is one of my favorite people. She is doing just an outstanding job in Congress standing up for what is right. She’s got a target on her back. You need to pray for her and her family.”

They do still cover solely local issues, such as how instant runoff voting will change our Minneapolis city elections this fall.

This year, Hofstede (now the incumbent, again the DFL endorsee) must contend for three more months with all four of her challengers: Libertarian Raymond Wilson Rolfe, Republican Jeffrey Cobia, DFLer Allen Kathir, and Melissa Hill, who is running under the banner of “Civil Disobedience.”

Due to personal circumstances, Hill isn’t able to run the full-bore campaign she had planned on earlier in the year — when, she says, she was courted by several political parties, including the Greens.

But thanks to IRV and the lack of a primary election, Hill is guaranteed time to get out her message about the value of political protest and civil liberties.

The MinnPost is my favorite of the three sites. Why? Well, they do a bit more analysis in addition to the straight reportage, but I don't think that's all of it. Maybe because they do a better job of looking critically at the behavior of both political parties, not in some kind of false dichotomy, but simply in the sense of keeping everyone on the straight and narrow.

They've already started talking to Michele Bachmann's DFL challengers for next year to get a sense of where they stand on the big, controversial issues. Sen. Tarryl Clark is pretty comfortably standard for a DFL endorsee, which could be a problem in the general election but makes me fairly happy with her. Dr. Maureen Reed is either coy on the big topics or a poor communicator with fairly nuanced positions.

The MinnPost is also tracking Minnesota's big national Republican hopeful, Governor Pawlenty. He's expected to try for a national leadership position in the party and for the Republican nomination for president in 2012. By the time either of those come around, the MinnPost will have documented his stances (and veracity) on, well, just about everything he decides to talk about. Last week, it was health care reform.

Here's what Pawlenty said:

"…many Democrats in Washington want a government-run plan that would require states to comply with dozens of new mandates and regulations. One study by the Lewin Group recently concluded that an estimated 114 million Americans could be displaced from their current coverage under such a plan…"

Truthfulness rating:

Half true. There was indeed such a study, but the governor's statement oversimplifies the study and is misleading.

I have to admit, I don't necessarily know a lot about the details of individual crimes in my city, and I have to go looking if I'm concerned about weekend road closures, but these sites are going a long way toward keeping me from missing the papers that look to be drying up and blowing away.

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