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Could Representative Journalism Work for Minnesota?

In my IM Interview with Joel Kramer, the brains and part of the money behind MinnPost, he said:

One of the charms of the Internet is that we don’t have to pay extra distribution costs to get another reader in Ely. On the other hand, we won’t provide news coverage that is of interest only in Ely.

See, that’s where I think Representative Journalism could work. Are there 1,000 people in and around Ely or really in and around St. Louis County, Minnesota, who would like a really fine reporter to cover their issues in a way that the rest of the state might also be interested. Not boosterism, but real coverage, using the community as a conversational partner to help inform the reporter.

In the last question of the interview, Kramer said he found Representative Journalism intriguing, but others worried about strings being attached. Well, I worry about that too. So I am trying to figure how to unattach the strings.

Here is one idea. When I worked at Minnesota Public Radio it had its Mainstreet reporters who lived in and covered various rural parts of Minnesota. They gave rural Minnesota and metropolitan Minnesota, a good feel for what it was to be a rural Minnesotan. They gave depth to Minnesota Public Radio and filled a gap after the Star Tribune started ignoring rural issues.

So okay, you find a thousand people in each of 10 parts of Minnesota, but rather than pay for their hometown reporter, instead they pay for a Mainstreet team that covers all issues rural told from a rural point of view. Would this cooperative of reporters provide value for all the small town and villages providing support? I would think so. If you were one of those folks living in one small town, would you pay $100 for ten outstanding reporters, nay information gathers, storytellers who really captured rural life and via the occasional white paper and forum put their lives into perspective and help them see new possibilities. I would pay for it because it had value.

So in each town, rural school district o county you get a network weaver, who brings in his or her 1,000 people and makes a commission for doing so, the result 10 times more coverage than most rural areas are getting now.

3 Responses to “Could Representative Journalism Work for Minnesota?”

  1. Jason Barnett Says:

    This is a fascinating topic, one which our organization is heading straight into. I am the Executive Director of a New Journalism project called The UpTake, based (maybe not so surprisingly) out of Minnesota. We are going to be focusing our coverage on political news, but through the eyes of Citizen Journalists, organized regionally, using the state of the arts social networking tools. You can see a basic description of our plans, and some of our very early work at our website.

    I would love to talk to you more about your ideas and share more of our plans with you.

  2. Leonard Witt Says:

    Hi Jason:

    TheUpTake sounds very interesting. I would love to talk, but would prefer, if it’s okay with you, to talk right here at the Representative Journalism site. I want this to be a wide open place to discuss all the ideas. So we all learn from each other.

    Does that work for you? If you want, sign up at our community box on this page; then people can begin to see others who are interested and connect with them.

    One way or another, let’s keep talking.

  3. Jason Barnett Says:

    Absolutely, and thanks!

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    Leonard Witt

    Leonard Witt is the Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication at Kennesaw State University and the chief blogger at

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