NEWS DAY | Cat fight in TC media world / Pawlenty and health care / Making prisoners pay / more

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Cat fight in TC media world David Brauer gleefully reports that the Strib publisher was taking potshots at MPR yesterday, just before today’s scheduled MPR forum on the future of news. A Strib article quoted Mike Sweeney, chair of the Star Tribune board on MPR’s expansion plans and its sponsorship of the forum:

“MPR is making a blatant land grab by calling into question the viability of existing news organizations in Minnesota,” Sweeney said.

He also questioned the use of taxpayer dollars to help pay for MPR’s nonunion newsroom to compete with the Star Tribune’s unionized newsroom.

MPR, notes Jennifer Bjorhus’s Strib article, has grown from a single station to “a powerhouse conglomerate of 39 stations” with 269 news broadcasts and an expanding web presence. Of course, even after the current round of newsroom cuts at the Strib, its newsroom will be three times the size of MPR’s newsroom.

Sweeney will participate in the forum, and you can hear the live panel featuring Sweeney, MPR Chief Operating Officer Jon McTaggart, and MinnPost publisher Joel Kramer at 12:30 on MPR.

Meanwhile, over at The Deets, Ed Kohler weighs in with an analysis of the Strib’s claim to big numbers. Specifically, he compares the daily pageview stats with daily unique visitor stats, two numbers that are crucial in measuring readership and in selling ads. The comparable unique visitor stats are 67,000 for MPR, 79,000 for MinnPost, and 2,000,000 for the Strib. (The Strib reports that the Pioneer Press has 509,000 unique visitors.) However, the Strib buries everybody with pageview stats, claiming a gi-normous 55 million – compared to 251,000 each for MPR and MinnPost, and 5.2 million for the PiPress. That’s between 25 and 30 page views per visitor for the Strib, and fewer than five for the others. But, says Kohler, the reason for the Strib’s big pageview numbers probably has very little to do with actual website traffic.

Unlike MinnPost and MPR, the Strib breaks stories into several pages, forcing readers to click on multiple pages if they want to read the whole story. Ditto for comments, with only a limited number viewable on a single page. The Strib also automaticalliy “refreshes” any page you leave open on your browser after a few minutes, and each of those “refreshes” counts as a separate pageview. All of these annoying-to-the-reader practices drive up their pageviews

Kohler also thinks that the “comment cesspool” of the Strib draws lots of readers. Strib reps have denied this in the past, with Strib Assistant Managing/Digital Editor Terry Sauer telling SPJ’s 9/29 Comment Conundrum forum that they attribute only a small percentage of readership to comments. On the other hand, Sauer said that four to five percent of online users comment, and many of those are active, repeat users. Sauer also said that all Strib comments are now moderated.

There’s much more to Kohler’s analysis, and he ends with a particularly quotable zinger: “If MPR and MinnPost want to be more like the StarTribune, they should take on a ton of debt, start treating their online readers like crap, and publish more non-newsworthy content.”

Pawlenty and health care The Pioneer Press has a long article analyzing Governor Tim Pawlenty’s record on health care – what he says about national and state health care, what he has done with GAMC and MinnesotaCare, and the consequences for Minnesota health care. The analysis is excellent and worth reading in full – or bookmarking for future reading and reference. While praising the progress in state health care on Pawlenty’s watch, the article also points to inconsistencies and retreats:

“This is the theme in the Pawlenty administration — bold ideas and shrewd policy analysis that is chased away by political caution,” Jacobs said. “The governor too often let his political calculations about running for president interfere with and interrupt some really interesting policy ideas.”

Making prisoners pay The Wadena county jail will start charging inmates $20 per day for room and board in January, reports MPR. They will also be required to pay their own medical expenses.

Wadena County Sheriff Mike Carr says the goal is to deter people who periodically land themselves in jail so they can take advantage of free services.

He says there are some people who never go to a doctor or dentist, but as soon as they get to jail they get a toothache.

Jail – the new public option for health care.

Somalis seek police protection in Minneapolis After the recent killing of a key Somali witness in a murder trial, some members of the community are calling for better police protection for witnesses. Others are continuing a civilian community patrol, reports Laura Yuen at MPR.

Protecting witnesses is tough.

[Hennepin County Attorney] Mike Freeman said his office does have a witness-protection program. But it’s not the kind that you see in the movies, “in which someone is willing to testify ‘against the mob,’ and they send them to Argentina and change their identity and give them money for life,” he said. “That almost never happens.”

In fact, the Hennepin County witness protection program has an annual budget of only $27,000 for victim and witness services. The office confirms that it dealt with the slain witness, Ali Ismael, but can’t say what protection it offered. Now Ismael is dead, and the convicted man’s attorney says they will appeal the case, basing their appeal on the theory that Ismael framed Hassan Abdillahi, convicted of the killing in a Minneapolis Somali mall. Witnesses in the killing of a Somali Augsburg student have “backed out” of testifying, and the accused killer has gone free.

Abdirizak Mahboub of the Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood Revitalization Program, is taking a proactive approach to protecting the community.

Two nights a week, he hits the streets of the West Bank of Minneapolis, home to the nation’s largest concentration of Somali-Americans.
College students, Somali-American elders, and neighborhood organizers join him in neon yellow vests. They call 911 to report gang graffiti, talk to storekeepers and engage with young men idling on sidewalks.

Rolling on the railroad Northstar commuter trains were up and running this morning, and MPR reporting had a live-blog feel, counting numbers of passengers on each of the first few incoming trains. Looks like full trains coming into Minneapolis, with commuters welcoming the chance to save wear and tear on their cars, avoid traffic jams, and forget about paying for parking. Officials reported 115 people on the first inbound train, which left Big Lake at 5 a.m., and 241 on the second.

St. Paul school superintendent I’ve written extensively on the superintendent search – now in its final, crucial week – in the TC Daily Planet . Take a look at the articles, and the interview schedule, which allows opportunities for public input this week. The three finalists – Valeria Silva, Deb Henton, and Charles Hopson – look strong, but some questions remain.

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