"One of the things we say to people, and it does resonate around town here, is that high quality journalism is not just a consumer good, it's a community asset, similar to an art museum. You know, some people will pay money to go into a museum, but the community needs to decide to support the museum."
Joel Kramer with the Media Giraffe Project, Feb. 2008
Yes, Joel Kramer says, they have an office. Here he starts to look around. You get the sense that he's in the center and is turning his head and scanning the room as he describes it. There are eight desks for editors. A bunch of seats along the wall where writers can bring in laptops and access the high speed line. Some carrels for privacy. A big conference room, a little conference room, and a business office.
It's the command center for MinnPost, a web-based local paper for Minnesotans that was launched in late 2007.
One imagines this is not where he thought he'd be ten years ago, when he was retiring as publisher of the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, but while away from the industry, he was watching the newspapers struggle.
"To some degree journalists have the feeling of being a little like autoworkers, you know, a business that only keep having bad news," he says. Starting MinnPost is his attempt at finding a positive future for it.
The site was launched with 1.1 million in startup money drawn from Kramer and his wife, three other families, and the Knight Foundation. Kramer has been interviewed countless times (he says people figure if MinnPost can make it others can, too), but he slowly and easily goes over each question. He comes to life, though, when the critical question is asked: well, how is it going?
Really well, he says with a laugh under his voice. "It's quite an exciting business. If you know anyone who's ever been involved in a startup, they know how hard it is, and how you never have enough resources to do all the things you want to do."
It's one of many attempts at local news going to the web, and it has its own answer for what something like this could look like (traditional, meant to be familiar to people who are used to a print edition) and how it will be funded (non-profit, relying on donors and sponsorships). He says other sites are making different editorial choices, and considers that a good thing. He calls it a tasting phase.
"It's good if a lot of different ideas get tried," he says.
Dec. 17, 2008.
MinnPost is one of four community news sites to win a Knight Foundation Grant to help increase local coverage. MinnPost was awarded $105,000. It's their second grant from the Knight Foundation. In 2007, MinnPost received a grant for $250,000 as start-up money. By awarding money to innovative local sites, the Knight Foundation is trying to help fill in the gaps created by the faltering newspapers.
From the Knight Foundation announcement: The grants aim to help the non-profit sites draw a larger audience by providing more local news, a key to their long-term viability... The grants are part of Knight Foundation's efforts to help find new, sustainable models for delivering news and information in the digital age. Knight has invested $100 million in media innovative initiatives. ___________
Poynter Online analysis of MinnPost (August 30, 2007).