Robbie’s weekend in the limelight

My sweetie, Robbie Wigley, was in the limelight a bit this weekend.

Robbie Wigley - Melaleuca convention 2013 (photo by Vicki Dilley)20130505_061245

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.

Right: She was in a photo on the front page of yesterday’s Northfield News in a story about the Clothes Closet at the Community Action Center of Northfield where she volunteers.

Sex al fresco redux by the Northfield News: ‘Getting it on in the great outdoors’

Last month, the Northfield News posted this to their Facebook page:

There is something blissfully naughty about getting intimate in public. In high school, we necked in the back seat of our cars on a deserted road because there was no where else to go. Then, we grew up, got married and forgot about the thrill of fooling around under the threat of getting caught. Plenty of studies suggest a little hanky panky in public is a great way to heat up your sex life. But let’s be real, we’re southern Minnesotans. We don’t do that kind of thing.

Or do we? When the mood hits and you’re looking for a change of scenery, where do you take your partner? A local park with secluded trails? A dead end road with a great view of the sunset? A boat in the middle of a quiet lake? Let us know, SoMinn, where do you go to fool around in the great outdoors? We’ll use as many of the locations as we can in our upcoming edition of our A&E publication, SCENE.

I added a comment in response to Faribault Daily News editor and article author Jaci Smith:

Props, Jaci! I did a “sex al fresco in Northfield” blog post back in 2007 on LoGro, based on a Vita.mn article by Alexis McKinnis. Details: http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/1607/

So MN Scene - April cover 2013 So MN Scene - Getting it on in the great outdoors
The April issue of SouthernMinn SCENE is now out in print and online and Jaci Smith’s article, Getting it on in the great outdoors, is on page 42.  She included this reference to VitaMN and LoGro:

Closer to home, about six years ago, the Star Tribune’s Vita.mn took an informal poll and discovered that there was plenty of outdoor sex going on in the Twin Cities, particularly in some of the more isolated areas of the University of Minnesota-St. Paul campus.

So, Northfield blogger Griff Wigley did his own informal poll on Locally Grown Northfield, and found out that outdoor sex is alive and well in the city Jesse lames made famous. And Wigley makes a great point, too. Sex al fresco has been going on since the Garden of Eden.

For a look back, see my 2007 blog post Sex al fresco in Northfield and attached comment thread.

VitaMN‘s original story by Alexis McKinnis, Sex … al fresco, is still online.

vitamn-sexalfresco-cover-tn

$35,000 and counting: It’s time to stop the outdated taxpayer subsidy to the Northfield News for City and School District public notices

Public-NoticeThere 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:

Political subdivisions authorized to publish proceedings, official notices, and summaries on their Web sites in lieu of newspaper publication.

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.

Huckle Media 2012 Contract City of NorthfieldHuckle Media 2012 Check detail City of Northfield
The above is the 2012 documentation: 1) the 2012 contract with Huckle Media; and 2) the 2012 check detail. I have 2011 data as well.

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. 

Northfield School District Public Notice Expenses Northfield News 2011 2012
In 2011, the District paid $14,000 to the Nothfield News, nearly all of it for publishing school board minutes. Through Oct. 15 this year, the total is $13,400. See the PDF.

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

See:

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:

If, in the normal course of its business, a qualified newspaper maintains a Web site, then as a condition of accepting and publishing public notices, the newspaper must agree to post all the notices on its Web site at no additional cost. The notice must remain on the Web site during the notice’s full publication period. Failure to post or maintain a public notice on the newspaper’s Web site does not affect the validity of the public notice.

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

Kevin-DahleDavid-Bly

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.

Northfield citizens decline to help capture robbery suspect; severe impact on tourism feared

America's Best Value Inn & Suites - NorthfieldWhen 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.”

robberWhen 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.”

Prairie’s Edge Humane Society to Host "Meow’s For Maggie" and "Dogs Along the Cannon" Events Thursday, July 26th

Maggie LeePut 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.

Dogs Along the CannonThen 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!

Suzy Rook departs the Northfield News. No replacement announced

Northfield NewsThe 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?

Northfield News: print beats the intertubes

Northfield News: DOWNPOUR BLANKETS AREAWe had 2 inches of rain by midnight and I’m not sure how much after that but at 6 am, the Northfield News had  the cover story on the front page of the newspaper and in the racks downtown: DOWNPOUR BLANKETS AREA.

How the heck did they do that so fast?

WTF! Northfield Planning commissioners behaving badly?

City-of-Northfield-MNNfld News reporter Suzy Rook posted an opinion piece on Thursday titled Northfield Planning commissioners behaving badly.

Two different sources tell me that two Planning Commission members are, well, behaving badly. One, it seems, took it on him or herself to remove signs they felt were illegally placed. Come to find out, the signs were completely legal and placed in the right-of-way by city workers… The second commissioner cranked things up a few dozens notches, apparently dislodging a bench cemented into a Division Street sidewalk and moving to another location down the street.

Members of the City of Northfield Planning Commission-Zoning Board of Appeals (PC-ZBA):

  • Thomas Bisel
  • James Herreid
  • Alice Thomas
  • Steve Rholl
  • Richard Schulte
  • Jay Jasnoch
  • Joey Robison

Um, anyone know what is going on?

Update May 25: I found the wandering bench.

Division St. bench

Props to the Northfield News for the Fire Relief Association ethics story

Northfield NewsSaturday’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.)

Griff Wigley with May 12, 2012 edition of Northfield NewsI’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:

Fire Department officials, including Fire Chief Gerry Franek, did not respond to several requests from the News for association financial records or comment. Assistant Fire Chief Tom Nelson at an April 24 City Council meeting said documents posted on the blog Locally Grown are 2010 and 2011 relief association check registers. But those registers don’t clearly state how and where monies were spent, and are likely a listing of transactions from several accounts compiled into a single document…

The association had a net revenue of $14,263 in 2011, according to a Gambling Control Board report to the Legislature. Of that, $4,110 was used for what’s termed lawful purpose expenditures. In 2010, its net receipts were $17,730. Of that, $8,354 was used for lawful expenditures. Figures provided to the state Gambling Control Board don’t match the association’s 2010 tax return, a document Assistant Fire Chief Tom Nelson says he provided Locally Grown. According to that document, the association lost $2,209 in 2010.

I appreciate that. Follow Suzy Rook on Twitter @rooksuzy.

Who needs LoGro? See Northfield’s mainstream media for news about the upcoming high school mountain bike racing team meeting

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: Northfield high school mountain bike team forming Northfield News: Northfield high school mountain bike team forming Northfield Patch: Cannon Valley Biking Team Pedaling Toward Starting LinePeter Behm with KYMN News Morning Show host Jeff Johnson

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

One point Wigley stresses when talking about forming the team is that the activity is open to girls, as well as boys.

“The big push nationally is to get girls involved,” he said. “And, there is an incentive for having girls on your team. Points earned by girls are worth more, which helps in recruiting.

Can’t make the May 15 meeting? Area student-athletes who are interested can now fill out a form on the CVMTBT website to be kept informed on next steps on the team’s formation.

Northfield News revamps its website again; and again, bad things happen

SouthernMinn.comLast 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:

At Locally Grown, we have linked to hundreds of your articles over the years and now, none of the those links work any longer. As you know, we drive a lot of traffic to your site. (And likewise, our discussions benefit from your content.) So it seems like you’d want to continue to maintain the old URL’s, if for no other reason than to continue generating pageviews.

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:

Want to buy this domain? Our Domain Buy Service can help you get it. This page is parked free, courtesy of GoDaddy.com

NorthfieldNews.com
See the above screenshot. This may be a temporary situation, an oversight on someone’s part, but it’s certainly startling.

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.

Two build-outs underway on downtown’s West side. Guess the businesses; guess the media coverage

300 Water St - exterior 300 Water St - interior
The space at 300 S. Water St., most recently a photography studio, is undergoing a build-out. Guess what current Northfield business is moving in there?

209 S. Water St - exterior 209 S. Water St - interior
Likewise, the space at 209 S. Water St., formerly Erbert & Gerberts, is undergoing a build-out. Guess what two businesses are moving in there? Hint: they are not retail and they are not currently Northfield businesses.

Bonus question: Will Northfield Patch or the Northfield News be the first to run stories on these developments?

Northfield News story on firefighters’ pension is misleading

Northfield Assistant Fire Chief Tom Nelson; Griff Wigley March 13 Nfld News:  Northfield’s firefighter wages, pensions among highest in state DSC08083 Northfield Assistant Fire Chief Tom Nelson; Griff Wigley
Northfield Assistant Fire Chief Tom Nelson stopped by my corner office at GBM yesterday. We mostly argued, hence the scowls in the left photo. (Feel free to sort through the 180+ comments to my blog post to find my criticisms of the Northfield Fire Department. More to come?)

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:

According to a state auditor’s report for 2009, the city’s firefighters, who also serve the Northfield Rural Fire District, have $7,500 apiece placed in the fund annually;

In the sidebar:

$7,500 — Northfield’s annual pension contribution per firefighter

After the March 6 story appeared, Tom’s email to me and Suzy included this:

Northfield Fire Relief is presently at $7500/yr of service.  This is not to be confused with “The City pays each member $7500/year” as was stated in the Northfield News e-edition last week.  The impact on the annual budget is only the Municipal Contribution amount.  For this year, the impact is slightly more than $900/fire fighter.

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.

My take

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.

Why?

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.

Did Northfield’s Republicans vote for the wrong guy in Tuesday’s caucuses?

Northfield News front page 02.08.12
Or did Newt Gingrich’s campaign pull a fast one on Ron Paul’s campaign? Inquiring minds want to know. Click the screenshot of the Northfield News front page for a closer look.

Where might this Minnesota lake be?

Nfld News MN mountain lakeLike many newspapers around the state, the Northfield News regularly publishes articles via an arrangement with MPR News.

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?

Yes, Virginia, there is a way to stop the Northfield Area Shopper

Stop the ShopperNorthfield Area ShopperAbout 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.

Northfield News’ use of Linden St photo for Plum St article implies that the trees have already been cut down. Not.

Print version of the story: Talk comes too late for trees Online version of the story: Talk comes too late for trees5-21-plum-street-trees

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 widening of Plum Street cost residents decades-old trees.

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:

Submitted by Jerry Smith on Fri, 05/20/2011 – 22:30

Also, the information provided in this paragraph is puzzling:

City maps show 12 trees will be removed during construction. Two are ash trees, which are susceptible to emerald ash borer, an invasive species known to be in Ramsey County. Another 24 ash trees may also be removed, while the survival of 132 trees is construction dependent.

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:

31 trees are currently noted for removal with 32’ street width;
6 Trees could potentially be left with 30’ street width

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.

Goliath vs. David: Northfield News bullies AOL’s Northfield Patch

David vs. GoliathI 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:

Patch: We, as Northfield residents, stand strongly opposed to the consideration of the United States Postal Service (USPS) to close the downtown Northfield Post Office.

News: As Northfield residents, we stand strongly opposed to the consideration of the United States Postal Service (USPS) to close the downtown Northfield Post Office.

And:

Patch: The downtown post office has been at its current location since 1936 and has become as much a symbol of Northfield as anything else in our community. 

News: The downtown post office has sat majestically overlooking the Cannon River at its current location since 1936 and is considered a symbol of Northfield as much as anything else in our community.

Everything else is word-for-word the same.

Renee Huckle MittelstaedtI 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.

Northfield Patch, hyperlocal news, and the future of journalism

Jane McWilliamsI normally prefer more narrowly focused blog posts. And any one of the three subjects in the blog post title would typically suffice.

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.

  1. Since Northfield Patch is the new kid on the block here in town, its time to scrutinize their effort, both locally and nationally.  What has been their impact on Northfield thus far? What do you like about what they’re doing? What’s disappointing or problematic?
  2. PatchPatch is a national chain of hyperlocal news sites owned by AOL. There have been many other high profile hyperlocal news projects launched, with many failures already. What’s being learned out there?
  3. Journalism (local, state, national, international) continues to be in a state of extreme flux.  What do you like and not like about what you’re seeing?

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.

Something Democrats and Republicans can agree on: Move public notices to the web

In yesterday’s StarTribune: Time may be right to move public notices to the Web. Governments want to save cost of running them in newspapers. Opponents say public will be harmed.

The law requires notices in newspapers of board proceedings, tax levies, forfeited properties, financial statements and project bids. Against the rising tide of Internet use, many see dumping newspaper notices as a cost saver whose time has come.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, has introduced a bill to let local governments skip the papers and publish such notices only on their websites. Drazkowski, who is leading a GOP charge against several state mandates, said using websites will help jurisdictions make up for cuts in state aid. "This is a way to allow local governments the freedom and flexibility to do the best job they can," he said. The bill has six sponsors, including Bloomington DFLer Ann Lenczewski. It has not been introduced in the Senate.

Public NoticeBill 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?

The Northfield News ad for the book, ‘The Raising Cannon.’ Oops.

Ad837

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.

Rising Cannon story Spelling Bee story
Ironically, the misspelled ad appears in rotation adjacent to a stories about A) the book itself; and B) the Middle School Spelling Bee.

Superintendent Chris Richardson: He’s not a real doctor!

Superintendent Chris RichardsonIn a town with a thousand PhD’s, nobody refers to or addresses any of them with ‘Dr.’ or ‘Doctor.’ 

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.

How about it, Jeff? How about it, Jessica?

Nfld News: while getting a passport, note that you can renounce your citizenship for $450

passportThis week’s Northfield News has a story titled Price increase creates rush for passports (see Rice County’s announcement, New Passport Fees, Effective July 13, 2010.)

At the end of the article is this curious one-liner:

The cost to renounce your U.S. citizenship is $450.

Huh?

If you’re really interested (yikes!), see the Wikipedia entry Renunciation of citizenship and the US Gov. page, Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship.

Sign in window: Yes, Tiny’s is open, no thanks to the Nfld News

Tiny's in downtown Northfield sign in window of Tiny's
I noticed yesterday that proprietor Tim Sellers has a sign in the window of Tiny’s that reads:

Yes, Tiny’s is open

Tues-Sat 9:30 to 5:00

No thanks to the Nfld News

The Northfield News ran an article back in April titled: Locals try to save a Northfield landmark.

A longtime downtown business is expected to close in the coming months. Tiny’s Hot Dogs at 321 Division St. is set for a sheriff’s sale June 3, according to a legal notice published last week. Owner Timothy Sellers has until Dec. 3 to rework his mortgage or come up with the necessary funds to cover the debt. Sellers declined to comment, but support of the longtime Northfield shop has quickly grown.

Anonymous comments on the Northfield News website

Point of View by Kiffi Summa.

[show_avatar email=kiffisumma@gmail.com]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?


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