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MPR’s news ambitions, writ large and in context

Later today (I hope), I’ll have more about MPR’s $5 million reporting grant, announced Monday at the Future of News conference, and what I think it means for the local infosphere.

Until then, newsies and fellow travelers should check out this take from Ken Doctor — one of the conference’s presenters, and a former Pioneer Press news exec and now an industry analyst and author.

Doctor’s jumping-off point is Star Tribune board chair Mike Sweeney’s declaration that MPR will be the Strib’s number-one competitor, arguing that Sweeney “might have left more worried” had he heard Bill Kling’s Tuesday pronouncements. Kling notes that public radio has all the tools to be an “alternative media company” that supplants faltering newspapers. Doctor then catalogs broader news moves from National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

At the same time, Doctor notes — wisely, I think — that MPR’s newsroom remains relatively small compared to the dailies, and the organization relatively bureaucratic. (How efficiently will those reporting dollars show up on the web page, or the air?) Another real problem: the Internet is a level playing field that MPR, for all its history and breadth, hasn’t come close to commanding. Doctor downplays the controversy over taxpayer funding, and encourages the moguls to retract their claws and more creatively expand the infosphere.

“My suggestion and challenge for them all: Before you go to the mattresses, in a war of words and attrition, look to how you can collectively use the new tools of the trade — smart content management, cross-promotion, win-win aggregation, pro-am bridges, smart syndication, regional sales networks and more — to produce more worthy-of-Lake Wobegon above-average journalism, rather than less.”

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