StarTribune reporter seeks input on Northfield’s state of affairs

Tracy Davis, Ross Currier, Jon Tevlin Ross, Tracy and I met Friday morning with Jon Tevlin, a reporter for the StarTribune. He contacted us last week, as the paper’s considering publishing a story on all the um, interesting things that have been happening at Northfield City Hall lately.

Since he’s been following the discussions here on Locally Grown, I suggested to him that we set up a private blog post/discussion thread where he could interact with interested citizens and community leaders as he works on the story. I suggested that it be private since most reporters don’t want to be scooped by the competition. He agreed, as did his Strib colleagues.

Here’s our current plan on how it’s going to work (we could change our minds):

I’ll start a new blog post, make it private, and hand out usernames and passwords to anyone who’s interested, with these qualifiers:

  • you’re a local, have met me, Ross or Tracy face-to-face at least once, and we think you’d be a good addition to the conversation
  • you’re not a member of a media organization that competes with the Strib
  • if you’re not local, Jon knows you and approves of your participation
  • you agree to not communicate (blogging, email, etc) with others about what’s being discussed
  • you agree to our usual Guidelines for participation, with the understanding that the purpose of doing this is to help Jon write his article.

If and when the story gets published, we’ll make the blog discussion thread public with Jon’s and the Strib’s permission.

So if you’re interested, attach a comment here. Don’t email me asking to be included. If you’re not willing to go public with your wanting to be included, you’re probably not a candidate for participation.

And if you have suggestions on how we might better run this, please speak up!

70 thoughts on “StarTribune reporter seeks input on Northfield’s state of affairs”

  1. Wait! Wait just a little minute, here. I can NOT believe that anyone, who feels we are losing our journalistic ethics in the mainstream media, would suggest that a reporter let the subject of an article go over that reporter’s work and Correct( ? ) it before they publish it.
    That’s like a city administrator asking a reporter to let him see the article the reporter is writing before it’s printed, and expecting that to be a reasonable request!
    The burden is on the interviewee to be sincere, and responsible for what they say… and the reporter to ask the right questions when they have doubts about what is being said.
    Would everyone who wants to be involved in this please read some journalism 101, and consider that this a serious attempt to deal with a major process mess, in our dear old NF, and it’s not a gossip rant.
    You need to think about what you say, and be clear when it’s speculation, but still a concern about what SEEMS to be happening.
    It’s your responsibility to NOT say anything you don’t want to stand behind.
    If something is a fact, say so… If something is an opinion, say so.

  2. With all due respect, Griff, I don’t think you are interested in objections or challenges to your plan. In your response in post #41, you’ve chosen to address to only one of the three questions I posed with a reference to imperfect corporate media and crowdsourcing. I suppose the implication is that if this phenomenon is reported in the paper that brought us all the news that’s fit to print, then it must be credible. I’d say that, at best, that case hasn’t yet gone to the jury.

    The other two questions I posed are: 1) (from post #36, quoting your original post) why did you suggest this be a secretive process? How is Nfld served by your protecting a news organization from competition (as if there is a groundswell of interest in getting to the bottom of Nlfd’s issues). Isn’t such secrecy directly counter to the ethos of open conversation that is supposed to be the rule here?

    2) (from post #37) would you explain how you can promote LG as a community blog, and then create a proprietary focus group (even a porous one, as you described it) for the benefit of a single commercial entity of your choosing? (If the answer is, it’s my blog and I can do what I want, then I’ll respect that, quit yapping about it, not expect a more serious answer. Freedom of the press still belongs to those who own one (or can rent server space). As it was and ever shall be…).

    If citizen journalism is a good thing, then why not its reciprocal: journalist participation? Why isn’t Mr. Tevlin involved in this conversation? In my view, the way he’s been introduced has already compromised any pretense of objectivity in either telling the story of this “experiment” (to use your term), or in reporting on community issues. Somehow, I doubt that the lead of his first piece is going to be, “Down in Northfield, people I’ve never met are burning up the blogosphere talking about me as if I wasn’t listening…” C’mon, Mr. Tevlin. Jump in feet first…the water’s fine.

    Yours in the spirit of honest disagreement,

    Randy

  3. My word! I think all that’s been expressed here is a better insight into the community than anything the Strib could author! Tell me, Griff, are you going to get a copyright on this?

    One thing to consider in this, are we advocating news reporting of only verified conclusions concerning events? Is there a place to report on the process (which can take quite some time) before a verified conclusion is established?

    I would agree that the idea of the reporter opening up his article to us before publishing it is a little like asking the fox to guard the henhouse. Anyway, I thought this was what editors are for. Perhaps there is a need for an ouiside observer to report on what is developing in this town. I think it is difficult to have a good perspective of the picture when one is in it.

    Griff- I have to go to Iowa this weekend to tend to a medical problem with my mother. Whatever happens with this thread, I would still like to meet you. I’ll be in touch next week.

  4. I don’t think any one of us thinks that the recent headlines have accurately portrayed our community. Still feeling some guilt about being involved with an organization, Locally Grown, that perhaps added fuel to the heroin pyrotechnics, I was not very excited about another article in the Strib about Northfield.

    However, unless we’re going to close our borders to reporters, if they want to write about us, they will.

    Jon seemed to think that my opening in a recent blog post, “The last few months have seen some incredible headlines for Northfield. Heroin Destroys Small Town, Police Chief Takes Leave, Mayor Pushes Too Hard, Church Invades State, City Administrator Criminally Investigated, Council Member Sues Council Member, and Woodley Whoops Threatens Project”, seemed to summarize the projected situation well. He was also amused by my speculation, “Has Dundas’ New Tower Put Madness in Northfield’s Water?” (As I told Jon, I’m going to continue to blame Dundas; that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.)

    It seemed to me that Jon agreed that the headlines projected a distorted view of Northfield and was interested in creating a more accurate portrait.

    I think that everyone who has engaged in the lively discussion of these issues has, at least in a small way, contributed to the fireworks attracting attention up in The Cities. But I believe, and I think that the comment-makers on this site would agree, that it’s far better than a state where free speech is prohibited.

    I also think that in spite of the fact that we seem to enjoy complaining and criticizing, we truly love Northfield; otherwise, we’d move to Lonsdale or Minnetonka, right?

    So, given an opportunity to express our thoughts on all these crazy headlines, and our theories about the true stories underneath, to a Strib reporter, couldn’t we also be sure to mention the positives too? If you’re concerned about how this latest article in the Strib will portray Northfield, just speak out in Griff’s virtual parking ramp about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.

    Hey, they’re not only trying to doing a more balanced story about Northfield, they’re even giving us a fairly open opportunity to shape that story.

  5. Griff: Randy is right; it is your blog and you get to decide. I can understand why you might do it for your business. But, it seems that Tevlin’s plan is contrary to the whole concept of Locally Grown.

    I concur with Randy J. in inviting Mr. Tevlin to join the conversation. I see no reason why you need to run interference for him.

  6. Jon’s been out sick the past few days, so I’m not sure what the status is for this story.

    Randy wrote:

    I suppose the implication is that if this phenomenon is reported in the paper that brought us all the news that’s fit to print, then it must be credible. I’d say that, at best, that case hasn’t yet gone to the jury.

    Randy, it really is happening. In this new world, the journalist functions also as a bit of a moderator. Jeff Jarvis, prof and director of the New Media Program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, posted on this phenomenon of ‘networked journalism’ to his blog about a year ago. I just listened to a podcast where he mentioned that he’s teaching a course on it this fall. And Jeff has organized a conference on networked journalism next week in NYC.

    The premise of all this is that even as journalistic organizations may shrink, along with their revenue bases, journalism itself can and must expand and it will do that through collaborative work. The internet makes that collaboration possible and we’ve barely begun to explore the opportunities it affords. A year or two ago, the point of such a meeting might have been evangelizing this idea. But in that time, a number of great projects in collaborative, networked journalism have taken off. So now is the time to share the lessons — success and failures — from these efforts and to determine what’s needed to move on to the next goals. By bringing together about 150 practitioners from all sides, we hope that the meeting itself can spark new partnerships and projects.

    NYU journalism prof Jay Rosen blogged about this a year ago, too: The Era of Networked Journalism Begins.

    Randy wrote:

    why did you suggest this be a secretive process? How is Nfld served by your protecting a news organization from competition (as if there is a groundswell of interest in getting to the bottom of Nlfd’s issues). Isn’t such secrecy directly counter to the ethos of open conversation that is supposed to be the rule here?

    I suggested it because I’d hoped to convince Jon to do more than interact with us about the city hall issues. I’d like him to post drafts of the article, which is pretty much unheard of. I figured he wouldn’t even consider doing that unless there was some way to keep it semi-private. So it was my scheme, not his, and one that I’d hope would serve the citizenry by giving us all a chance to make the article as fair and balanced and complete as possible. In other words, what we give up in the way of openness, we’d gain in the way of influence.

    Randy wrote:

    would you explain how you can promote LG as a community blog, and then create a proprietary focus group (even a porous one, as you described it) for the benefit of a single commercial entity of your choosing?

    I didn’t choose the Strib. Jon contacted us. I wrote above in #38 that I’d do this with Suzi Rook or any other reporter. And LG is not a community blog. It’s a Ross/Tracy/Griff blog. N.org is a community blog because anyone can post there, within their guidelines.

  7. Jon Tevlin,
    It is October in Northfield and all the spooks, goblins, weirdos and nutcases are out in full force for an early Halloween. But, come quick for your interviews, before the witch trials begin. All you have to do is read the blogs to identify the citizens from the spooks.

  8. I received the email below this morning from Jon Devlin, regarding my concerns about a private group of citizens selecting the individuals that would provide input to him… based on the criteria in the opening of the blog:

    “Here’s our current plan on how it’s going to work (we could change our minds):

    I’ll start a new blog post, make it private, and hand out usernames and passwords to anyone who’s interested, with these qualifiers:

    * you’re a local, have met me, Ross or Tracy face-to-face at least once, and we think you’d be a good addition to the conversation
    * you’re not a member of a media organization that competes with the Strib
    * if you’re not local, Jon knows you and approves of your participation
    * you agree to not communicate (blogging, email, etc) with others about what’s being discussed”

    ————————————————————–

    From: Jon Tevlin [mailto:jtevlin@startribune.com]
    Sent: Friday, October 19, 2007 11:44 AM
    To: scott@ward2.net
    Subject: Re: Northfield article

    Scott:

    We did not do this, and it’s unlikely I will. We simply discussed doing it, with no commitment, and I did read the input. I am no longer covering the Northfield situation, to my knowledge.

    That said, it’s not much different from me calling people, asking them who else I should talk to, and deciding who to quote and who not to quote. I do that every single day. And of course if I had participated in the idea, I would have also called people outside that group and any city officials who were relevent.

    As I explained to Griff on the phone, I don’t even like MY EDITORS looking over my shoulder while I work on a story, much less a lot of people with potential axes to grind.

    Thanks,

    Jon

  9. Now THAT’S the First Amendment . . .

    Jon Tevlin wrote:

    “I am no longer covering the Northfield situation, to my knowledge.”

    StarTribune: 50 cents

    Not knowing what you’re writing about: Priceless

  10. It feels like something went wrong here, Griff … your #47 post may have been prophetic.
    I’d really like to know if/why Mr. Tevlin is “no longer covering Northfield”; interoffice dynamics? scary citizens? too much convoluted controversy =no way to a possible truth? Council person(s) “warning” him off?
    Feels way bad …

  11. I’d doubt there’s anything nefarious about Jon’s “no longer covering Northfield.” The Strib has evidently dropped Northfield from its ongoing South Metro coverage and they’ve got him working on other stories. Reporter Sarah Lemagie is likely to keep her eye out for more ‘Northfield bombshells’ like this week.

    Scott (Nfld City Councilor), you wrote to Tevlin because you were concerned “… about a private group of citizens selecting the individuals that would provide input to him”

    Did Jon’s reply satisfy you? It did me, and that was certainly our intention from the start, though I can see how I didn’t explain it well enough.

    I’d still like to experiment, ie, Locally Grown and our group of readers working with professional journalists on local stories, as explored at last week’s Networked Journalism Summit. For more on all the terms, ie:

    “Citizen Journalism”
    “Stand-alone journalism”
    “Participatory journalism”(Pro-Am Journalism)
    “Network journalism”
    “Open source journalism”
    “Distributed reporting”
    “Crowdsourced Journalism”

    see this blog post by one of the organizers of the Summit:
    Network Journalism Versus Citizen Journalism Versus the Myriad of Other Names for Social Media in the News World

  12. Griff and Scott and Jon (if you’re still lurking)

    I’m not going back to read all the setup and ground rules laid out by Griff stemming from the Big Three’s September 28th meeting with Jon Tevlin… then regurgitated here by many ad nauseam… and now three weeks after the breach birth of the idea… comes Tevlin’s mia culpa.. or was that a disclaimer? Or maybe that’s unfair.

    What we really don’t know it seems… is one more thing about process here in Northfield and maybe at the Mpls Strib too.

    Nonetheless… my interest in adding my name to the “list of hopeful participants” was to enable a light shedding on the issue and perhaps, for a lightning to strike!

    Now comes this revelation from the Strib’s guy – simply that he’s no longer covering Northfield!

    His decision?

    His bosses?

    Al Roder’s? Lee Lansing’s? Anne Brettes’?

    Why?

    Interestingly enough… reading between the lines of Tevlin’s response to Scott Davis… it sounded to me like this was a decision made in the past… 15 minutes, or 15 days… who can say? In any event, why did this decision come to Scott and not Locally Grown. Is this “bait and switch”? Who’s the switcher?

    As Griff would say: Dang!

    My pencil’s been sharpened… waiting for the press gates to swing open. Double dang!

    Whose idea was this anyway?

  13. Ah, Victor, you know the old saying about what happens when you assume things, although I’m flattered that you I hold me in same league as Lee and Al. (Or given the recent headlines, maybe not.)
    I have not been lunching with the editors at the Strib, but having been a union president alongside the metro union leaders, I have a pretty good understanding of their operations — and the frustration of their workers.
    The Strib, like a lot of other large newspapers, operates like a pinball machine. As soon as a reporter or editor leaves, the powers that be snap all the others into play and heaven knows where they will land. Northfield is mildly amusing, but hardly has enough news, readers or advertising influence to be more than a marginal consideration in the corporate strategy — or lack of one.
    I’m sure Jon is as unhappy as other reporters are in having to bounce from story to story without enough time to develop any beat in depth. Sounds like he had an idea and floated it, then the group here took off and made more of it than it was.

  14. I think it’s too bad this experiment didn’t get to happen. But with all the kvetching, I’m not surprised.
    It would have been really good for all of us to help focus our thoughts; it’s sometimes too tempting to just REPLY.
    Then again, why is it wrong to just REPLY; isn’t this the online coffee house? I’d like a statement from all three of the famous triumverate, as to what this IS! And if that’s just a little too Clintonesque, as john George said to me”Get used to it”…
    Do you think the Dems have a candidate, a year before the election?
    Or IS that not, what IS?

  15. Originally, Jon contacted me about possibly doing a story on city hall. I suggested the above scheme to Ross and Tracy and we then pitched it to Jon when he came to visit. It’s been in limbo for a while since both Jon and I were traveling and then Jon replied to Scott when he wrote to him. Case apparently closed.

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