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MPR cancels ‘In the Loop’

Booted from the airwaves a year ago, MPR’s least-stodgy show meets a digital death.
By David Brauer

[Updated 2:25 p.m. with company memo.]

In the Loop,” one of Minnesota Public Radio’s more genuinely original offerings, has finally been canned by MPR higher-ups. The last show will come out next week.

A little more than a year ago, they booted Jeff Horwich’s quirky — and yes, tuneful — take on the day’s news from the airwaves, but ITL survived as a podcast, a Facebook page, and on MPRNewsQ

I always appreciated ITL as a Skunk Works for the sub-Boomer set, full of sparky “story slams,” interactivity and Horwich’s funky but not frivolous news sense. (Check out this interview with a Chilean pastor about the “moral earthquake” in that country.) None of this was insanely urgent, which meant it never became viral, and probably didn’t move MPR’s digital needle much, 2,100 Facebook fans be damned. Somewhere, I envision an MPR poohbah channeling Lou Grant, muttering “I hate spunk!”

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Still, Horwich’s puppy-dog enthusiasm provided a nice break from MPR’s bourgeois gravitas and — like the Strib’s just-departed “Roadguy” — he and producer Sanden Totten genuinely loved interacting with the people formerly known as the audience. In his way, Horwich was allowed to be MPR’s Mischke — and MPR badly needs a Mischke.

So what now? According to a Facebook statement, Horwich says he and Totten will remain in MPR’s Public Insight Journalism division. Update: Here’s the memo from MPR Regional News Managing Director Chris Worthington and Senior Vice President for Digital Joaquin Alvarado:

Starting March 22, Jeff and Sanden will take new roles on the PIJ team, using their learnings from the show to drive innovation around social media, mobile technology and content streams that can be shared throughout APM/MPR and with our growing network of PIJ newsrooms.

For all that Jeff and Sanden accomplished, their passion and creativity were most admirable. They believed that an audience wanted — and deserved — something more when it came to news. They experimented with ways to deliver on that belief, and did so with distinction. They created terrific work on the radio, in videos, on podcasts, on Facebook and in front of audiences. They used music, they used words and they used wacky web applications. They mixed funny and serious. They grew a small, loyal following and they learned a lot.  So did MPR.

Anyway, with fondness, I leave you with ITL’s health-reform viral hit, “The Ballad of Joe Cao”: