MPR laid off nine news people yesterday. That’s nine full and part-time people from a full and part-time staff of 74, according to the Pioneer Press. For the news people leaving and the news people staying and for all of us who count on MPR for news, that’s a major blow.
Nick Woltman’s story in the Pioneer Press also aggregated tweets from MPR’s Bob Collins, which paid tribute to each of the nine employees. I couldn’t find any other new stories about the layoffs, which make Minnesota’s news landscape poorer and more barren. As Collins observed, “it is against the law of physics to remove creativity from a world and expect creativity to flourish in its place.” (By the way, if you don’t already follow Bob Collins on Twitter and on his News Cut blog, you should. Right now.)
All of the nine will be missed. I will especially miss Alex Friedrich, who reported carefully and caringly about Minnesota higher education, and Cat Richert, whose coverage of politics and fact-checking in Poligraph provide essential insights into how government works.
Friedrich and Richert represent a kind of reporting too often under-appreciated: covering a beat, getting to know the players and institutions, building a deep background and insight into the issues, which takes time on the job and can’t be easily replaced. Any shenanigans in higher ed or in the legislature will be harder to follow and harder to expose without their deep knowledge and careful reporting.
American Public Media, MPR’s parent company, signaled earlier this month that layoffs were coming. An internal memo said that changes would “expand our services in health, education and sustainability – adding to our current strengths in business and public affairs journalism, and classical and contemporary music.” Cutting to the bone does not accomplish that end.
Bob Collins got it right yesterday in his series of tweets about the layoffs.
Some layoffs apparently took place earlier in the month — I don’t know who those people were. You can go to the MPR pages of the people laid off yesterday, and read or view or listen to the work they have produced in the past. I hope they all land in places where they can continue to do good journalism work in the future. They will be missed.