My sweetie, Robbie Wigley, was in the limelight a bit this weekend.
Left: She got an award at the Melaleuca convention in Salt Lake City. Among the hundreds of Senior Directors, she was third in customer retention for the year.
My sweetie, Robbie Wigley, was in the limelight a bit this weekend.
Left: She got an award at the Melaleuca convention in Salt Lake City. Among the hundreds of Senior Directors, she was third in customer retention for the year.
Last month, the Northfield News posted this to their Facebook page:
I added a comment in response to Faribault Daily News editor and article author Jaci Smith:
For a look back, see my 2007 blog post Sex al fresco in Northfield and attached comment thread.
There is a Minnesota state statute (Chapter 331A) requiring local units of government (cities, counties, townships, school boards) to publish public notices in newspapers, everything from minutes and agendas to tax levies, financial reports, project bids, forfeited properties, etc.
I blogged about this in early 2011 (Something Democrats and Republicans can agree on: Move public notices to the web) when there was a bill introduced at the legislature to change the law. Short description of the MN House version of the 2011 Bill:
The bill didn’t get very far. See this 2011 MN House Session Daily story: Plan to post public notices online nixed.
I started thinking about this issue again when I saw this article in GovDelivery about the very same issue in the UK: Public notices: the case for radical reform. So I requested information from the City of Northfield and the Northfield School District to see how much this was costing us taxpayers.
1. City of Northfield
The City of Northfield has a contract with Huckle Media LLC, the publishers of the Northfield News, to spend a minimum of $15,000 this year to publish public notices and other city-related ads. (See page 2 of the Jan. 3, 2012 minutes.) The 2012 rate for legal ads is $13.35 per column inch.
Thus far in 2012, over $21,000 has been spent. Last year it was over $18,000.
2. Northfield School District 659
The District doesn’t have a contract with Huckle Media like the City, but just pays the legal ad rate of $13.35 per column inch.
3. Northfield Hospital; Rice County
A good reporter would have sought similar data from both of these bodies. If anyone reading this would like to request the info from them, I’m happy to add it to this blog post.
2011 articles present the arguments, pro and con
The above articles contain many of the arguments, pro and con.
One big issue is about government transparency, that requiring notices to be printed in a newspaper helps ensure this. I disagree. Only a very small % of citizens are without internet access these days. (Over 85% of Northfielders had high speed internet access as of 2 years ago.) If local governments are required to post all public notices in public buildings (eg, post offices, libraries, etc) then that’s sufficient. And the tens of thousands of tax dollars saved can then be put to better use.
A violation of the law?
State statute also stipulates that any paper that charges for subscriptions must put public notices on its website for free. Here’s the language from the Statute, Subd. 5. Posting notices on Web site:
The legals section page linked from the top nav bar of the Northfield News website is the same legals section used for all of Huckle Media’s newspapers in southern Minnesota. But only notices for the City of Faribault, Faribault Schools, and Rice County are listed there, an apparent violation of the law.
Our new DFL legislators
I’d like to see our new DFL legislators, Kevin Dahle and David Bly, team up with some of their Republican colleagues and get this antiquated law changed. In 2011, then DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk were against changing the law.
Surely the combined efforts of the League of Minnesota Cities, the Minnesota School Boards Association, the Association of Minnesota Counties, and the Minnesota Association of Townships can muster enough influence to challenge the Minnesota Newspapers Association.
It has happened in other states. Follow the Legal Notice.org blog for the latest.
When the word of this morning’s robbery at America’s Best Value Inn & Suites on Hwy 3 began trickling out via police scanners, most Northfielders were sound asleep.
When KYMN Radio and Northfield Patch began sounding the alarm at around 6 am that one of the suspects had fired at police officers and fled, members of the Northfield Police Department assumed that citizens would respond in droves to help capture one of the suspects who was still at large and believed to be in the Sechler Park area.
By time the Northfield News began covering the story several hours later, gloom was apparent on the faces of the police officers on duty. “We had extra department staff ready to handle the flood of citizen volunteers by deputizing them and issuing them firearms,” said Taylor Marcus, Northfield’s Public Safety Director. “No one showed up. No one emailed. No one tweeted. We had no choice to but to call other law enforcement agencies for help. It was embarrassing.”
When the suspect was finally apprehended mid-morning, the Defeat of Jesse James Days and Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce boards of directors were already in an emergency joint session. “It’s a Category 4 public relations nightmare,” said Chamber Executive Director Marie Schmaltzy. “If word of this colossal failure of our citizens to respond gets out, we’re likely to see a devastating impact on attendance at DJJD next year.”
“I’m not surprised at all,” said Dewayne Reddy, DJJD board member. “Northfielders have essentially become a bunch of yellow-bellied, lily-livered, milk-toasted, panty-waisted wimp chickens. We’ve been riding on the courage of the town’s ancestors from the 1876 bank raid for over 100 years and we’re now morally bankrupt, no pun intended. It’s a sad day. I feel like turning in my spur.”
Noting that the weapon used in today’s robbery had not yet been found, KYMN radio’s Jim Friedman, organizer of the annual DJJD Horseshoe Hunt, said he would attempt to mobilize the citizenry in the morning to help find the suspect’s gun. When asked what he would do to motivate people to participate, Friedman said, “I haven’t got a clue.”
Put on your purple and stop by the Northfield News office (115 5th St. W.) for “Meows for Maggie,” a cat adoption event in conjunction with Northfield’s Crazy Daze and “Wear Purple Day” for Maggie Lee, longtime employee of the Northfield News and notable resident of the community.
The adoption event, put on by Prairie’s Edge Humane Society, will run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the News lobby. Maggie has been a long time supporter of the Prairie’s Edge Humane Society and is well known for her love of cats, a regular subject of her weekly Northfield News column. She has adopted cats in the past from PEHS, adopting her most recent cat Cassandra just over a year ago. Maggie is now 91 and residents of Northfield will be honoring her during the annual “Crazy Daze” event in downtown Northfield.
Kittens and adult cats will be available (depending on what is currently at the shelter) for adoption in honor of Maggie, and anyone who adopts a cat from PEHS that day will be recognized on the PEHS website. Those adopting in honor of Maggie will be able to write a personal dedication to Maggie which will be posted on the PEHS website. Those who cannot adopt a cat have the opportunity to sponsor a cat at the shelter for one month for $25 in Maggie’s name. Those people will also be recognized on the website and a sign will be put on the cat kennel for one month at the shelter stating “I’m A Special Friend of Maggie.”
PEHS will also be selling purple cat harnesses and leashes, purple cat collars and purple “wobblers” – a treat and food dispensing toy for cats. All proceeds will benefit the animals at PEHS. Purple cat nip pillows will be given away for anyone who stops to visit, while supplies last.
Then after a day of shopping and entertainment you are invited to an artist reception and unveiling party hosted by Prairie’s Edge Humane Society for the limited edition print "Dogs Along the Cannon" from 6-8 PM at our dog training facility at 2018 Jefferson Rd, Suite 1 here in Northfield. Proceeds from the sale of the print will benefit the Prairie’s Edge Humane Society.
Sarah Thornton of Lintu Art returns to Northfield for a second time to highlight the dogs of Northfield, Dundas, Faribault and surrounding communities for her “Dogs Around the Lakes” and “Dogs Along the River” series of colored pencil limited edition prints. Her inspiration came from walking her own dogs around Lake Harriet and observing the many other owners and dogs enjoying time together in these settings. Sarah has done a previous print “Dogs Along the River” back in 2010 with proceeds benefitting PEHS. We are very excited for the unveiling of the 2012 print! In June Sarah came to Northfield and photographed 36 dogs from the area along the Cannon River. From those 36 dogs, she chose 16 to be on a limited edition print titled “Dogs Along the Cannon”.
Sarah will have prints available for purchase during the event as well as CD’s of the photos of the 36 dogs which were taken back in June from which she selected the dogs for the print.
Everyone is invited to come out and see the print. You are welcome to bring your well behaved, leashed dog to the reception; there will be a-paw-tisers for the dogs and the humans as well!
The Northfield News announced this week that Associate Editor Suzy Rook has been made regional managing editor of the St. Peter Herald, Le Center Leader, Le Sueur News-Herald and the Waseca County News. Her last day, according to this tweet, was yesterday.
The paper’s announcement made no mention of her replacement so I’m assuming this is a cost-cutting move. Rook had acquired a great deal of institutional knowledge of Northfield in her years here, especially City Hall. Despite my occasional criticisms, I think we’re going to miss her reporting.
Who will replace her as the beat reporter on Northfield City Hall? Managing editor Jerry Smith?
Nfld News reporter Suzy Rook posted an opinion piece on Thursday titled Northfield Planning commissioners behaving badly.
Members of the City of Northfield Planning Commission-Zoning Board of Appeals (PC-ZBA):
Um, anyone know what is going on?
Update May 25: I found the wandering bench.
Saturday’s Northfield News carried a front page story titled Concerns arise over Fire Department expenses; Northfield officials fear funding is going toward non-firefighting expenses. (The headline used for the online version: Ethical questions arise over Northfield Fire Relief Association expenses.)
I’ve done four fire department/association-related blog posts since January (here, here, here, and here) as well as a three more on attorney David Hvistendahl (here, here, and here) who’s representing the fire and rescue squad associations. It’s a complex and constantly evolving issue.
So it’s really helpful to have a someone else, in this case, Northfield News reporter Suzy Rook, digging into the story, too. And for the first time, the paper cited Locally Grown (twice) in a story:
I appreciate that. Follow Suzy Rook on Twitter @rooksuzy.
I’m appreciative of Northfield’s media organizations who have been very helpful in drawing attention to Tuesday night’s (May 15) information meeting for the new Cannon Valley Mountain Bike Racing Team for area high school students.
Northfield News reporter Jordan Osterman: Northfield high school mountain bike team forming
KYMN News Morning Show host Jeff Johnson: Griff Wigley and Peter Behm on C.V. Mountain Bike Racing (blog post with streaming audio). Alternate: download/listen to MP3. (Peter Behm is a student at ARTech.)
Northfield Patch reporter Michael Garlitz: Cannon Valley Biking Team Pedaling Toward Starting Line
Last Monday, the Northfield News launched a new website using a new content management system for all its regional newspapers, putting all of them under the domain name southernminn.com. So the Northfield News site is now at southernminn.com/northfield_news (there’s an underscore between the ‘d’ and the ‘n’).
I have no problem with this change on the face of it.
Currently, none of the old articles are available. Presumably—hopefully–they will be restored in some type of online archive. But just like in Feb. 2011, the URL’s for those articles will change and the old ones will evidently not redirect. Last year, I wrote to Publisher Sam Gett:
I never heard back. So I again wrote to him early last week, resending that paragraph. He said he’d look into it, but I’ve not heard back.
And this morning, if you go to NorthfieldNews.com, you don’t even get redirected to the new site. Instead, you end up at a GoDaddy.com page that says:
Lastly, the changeover also removed all previous usernames and comments. People are being asked to re-register. I’ve never like the paper’s policy of allowing anonymous comments so I don’t consider this a great loss. But it’s indicative that they don’t value their readers’ comments either.
But one thing we did agree on (hence the smiles in the right photo) was that the two versions of the Northfield News stories about the firefighters’ pension contained some misleading information. In the March 6 version, Northfield firefighters: paid or volunteers?, reporter Suzy Rook wrote:
In the sidebar:
After the March 6 story appeared, Tom’s email to me and Suzy included this:
Likewise, in the comment thread attached to the March 6 story, firefighter Aramis Wells argued with her about this issue. But to no avail, as this week’s March 13 version, Northfield’s firefighter wages, pensions among highest in state, contained the same text and sidebar.
Individual firefighter pension obligations DO NOT cost the City of Northfield/taxpayers $7,500/year, as the Northfield News’ stories indicate.
Rather, if they stay on the job for 20 years or more (and past the age of 50), the pension fund pays them $7,500 per year of service. Big difference.
The amount in the fund fluctuates with the stock market and so the City’s annual contribution to the fund fluctuates. Back in 2008, the City contributed nearly $100,000 to the fund. In 2009 it was half that. This year, Tom says it’ll be about $29,000.
I think the City of Northfield and we citizens get a good deal with this arrangement because the pension encourages firefighters to stay on the job. Lack of turnover is generally a good thing when it comes to firefighting and I think we’re better served by having so many firefighters with so many years of experience.
But we need not worry too much that the current turmoil with the City and the Northfield Fire Department will cause many firefighters to quit. Fire Chief Gerry Franek’s attorney David Hvistendahl, Northfield Area Rural Fire District administrator Jerry Anderson and others are wrong to, um, fan these flames.
The firefighters get a good deal, too. If they stick with it for 20 years, they get a decent lump sum payout of $150,000. A few are going get twice that as they been on the job for nearly 40 years. Plus, they have an interesting and challenging part-time job in which they get to make a real difference in people’s lives, contribute measurably in the community’s quality of life, and earn our respect for doing so. Not many $21/hr part-time jobs offer all this.
I’m glad the Northfield News did the story because it has helped raise awareness of the issue. But I think they owe it to the firefighters and to the citizens to run a correction.
On Monday, the paper ran an MPR story titled More Minnesota lakes and rivers added to impaired list. The paper chose this photo (click to enlarge) to accompany the article.
I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life and I’ll be damned if I can identify where this picturesque lake might be.
Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?
About four years ago, I blogged about how you could stop the Northfield Area Shopper from being delivered at your residence or at a nearby residence that was vacant.
The way to do it now is the same way: contact Northfield News publisher Sam Gett via the Northfield News Contact Us page.
This weekend, the Northfield News used a photo of the trees cut down on N. Linden St. to illustrate its Talk comes too late for trees story about the N. Plum St. trees, despite the fact that the trees on N. Plum have not yet been cut down. The photo was used for both the print and online versions of the story.
It’s not an insignificant issue, as the residents of N. Plum St. are still pleading (at last Tuesday’s Council meeting and online, e.g. here and here) with city officials to halt plans to cut down the trees, evidently scheduled to begin on Monday.
Although the text of the article doesn’t mention whether or not the trees have already been cut down, the accompanying tag line of the photo in the print version reads:
The past tense of the verb ‘cost’ indicates to the reader that the widening and the cutting have already been done.
The print version of the story has the photo byline "News photo by Suzanne Rook." The file name/URL of the photo is 5-21-plum-street-trees.jpg
The online version of the story indicates that it was submitted by Managing Editor Jerry Smith on Friday night at 10:30:
Also, the information provided in this paragraph is puzzling:
The Plum St. tree map on page 8 of the city’s slide presentation on the project shows at least 29 trees marked with an X which the legend says means ‘Remove.’ Page 9 says:
I’m not implying that the Northfield New has any hidden agenda on this issue. But it’s difficult to see how the use of the photo and the accompany tag line could be just a simple mistake or oversight.
I noticed last week that the Northfield News editorial, Your voice could help save the post office, didn’t mention the fact that Northfield Patch had launched an online petition a couple days earlier, Save the Northfield Post Office! Sign the Online Petition.
No surprise there. The Northfield News won’t link to needy area non-profit organizations in their stories (see this week’s story on the Community Action Center’s Food Shelf as an example), let alone their media competitors or any area bloggers.
But yesterday the Northfield News behaved very badly by putting up their own Save the Northfield Post Office Online Petition, linking to it from their Facebook Wall, and using nearly the exact wording of Patch’s petition. The minor wording changes:
Everything else is word-for-word the same.
I don’t know if this plagiarism but it’s a shitty thing for Northfield News Publisher/Editor Sam Gett, Managing Editor Jerry Smith, and Associate Editor Suzy (Suzanne) Rook to do.
It’s this type of bullying behavior that makes me root for Goliath (media giant AOL is the owner of Patch) against David (Michigan-based Huckle Media LLC is the owner of the Northfield News and 16 other hometown newspapers).
If you know know former Northfielder Renee Huckle Mittelstaedt, now president and co-owner of Huckle Media LLC, consider contacting her about this. No, Huckle Media doesn’t have a website (aarrgghh!) but Renee can be reached via her LinkedIn account and her Facebook account.
But Jane McWilliams is teaching a Cannon Valley Elder Collegium course this spring titled The Future of Journalism (4 slots left as I write this) and local media moguls from KYMN, the Northfield News, Northfield Patch, Northfield.org, and yes, even Locally Grown are among the guests she’s having attend various class sessions.
If you come across interesting resources related to these issues, be sure to post them in a comment with a link and, if you’re up for it, an excerpt.
Bill Name: HF0162. "Political subdivisions authorized to publish proceedings, official notices, and summaries on their Web sites in lieu of newspaper publication."
Anyone know how much the City of Northfield, the Northfield School District, and Rice County pay the Northfield News to publish public notices every year?
This animated ad is currently appearing in rotation throughout the Northfield News website. The book is titled The Rising Cannon, but half of the ad trumpets The Raising Cannon.
But for some reason, KYMN (example here) and the League of Women Voters of Northfield (example here) use it with the superintendent of schools. The Northfield News used to do it (2008 example here) but appears to have discontinued it. I was glad to see that Northfield Patch did NOT do this last week in its first district-related story. Not even the school district itself does it, sticking instead to "Superintendent Richardson" in its minutes, though some school board members have a tendency to address him as ‘Doctor’ during the course of a board meeting.
I have nothing against Chris Richardson or the previous Northfield District superintendents, but IMHO, only medical physicians should be addressed as ‘Doctor’ or have the ‘Dr.’ in front of their names. Why treat superintendents as if they’re somehow special?
Our local college presidents (one has a Doctor of Philosophy/PhD, the other a Juris Doctor/JD) don’t get the Doctor/Dr. treatment from KYMN (example here). Not even former school superintendent Charlie Kyte (example here) does. So if they don’t, then neither should Richardson.
At the end of the article is this curious one-liner:
The Northfield News ran an article back in April titled: Locals try to save a Northfield landmark.
[show_avatar firstname.lastname@example.org]I have been for several years, and continue to be, seriously opposed to the Northfield News practice of allowing anonymous comments on their website.
You might ask, ”Why? How seriously does anyone take comments to which a person does not care to attach their name?”
My answer is this: Some people take those anonymous comments seriously enough to bring some of that defamatory material, mis-representations of fact, outright lies, etc., to this opinion based community discussion, thereby convoluting the discussion in a way which, I believe, is a detriment to community relationships.
Griff gets angry with me if I refer to the Northfield News’s anonymous commenters, and says they are not relevant simply because of their anonymity and being “off-site” , even if they relate to a current subject thread on Locally Grown.
I disagree, strenuously.
There is no journalistic purpose served by allowing anonymous comments; the ‘gossip’ factor drives hits to their website, which then encourages advertising sales.
A good portion of their website comments do not deal with being for or against an issue brought forward by an article in the print version of the newspaper; instead they are personal attacks meant to harm, if not actually libel; they are often attached to an article to which there is no relevant content link.
Example: A few weeks ago a rash of escalating offensive comments were attached to various articles, including one to that week’s City Administrator’s Memo. The one attached to the administrator’s memo was removed, and an admonition (citing lack of relevance to the city memo as reason for removal) was posted from Jaci Smith, the Northfield News Editor; however, all the other comments were allowed to remain in place.
Anonymous comments allowed on newspaper websites have been the subject of some spirited debate. What do you think is their impact in our community?