Skip to Content

Support MinnPost

Star Tribune: The Current doesn't deserve taxpayer funding

Riffing on National Public Radio's latest embarrassment, the Star Tribune editorial page takes a passive-aggressive shot at MPR's The Current:

We question taxpayer dollars flowing directly or indirectly to services that are anything but distinctive — like a rock-music station — and in an era when deep and painful spending cuts have to be faced, government funding for public broadcasting may ultimately fall into the nice-but-not-necessary category.

Though they don't name The Current, I doubt their dander's up about Radio K.

MPR's Twin Cities cluster (including News and Classical) received $2.3 million in general station grants from the federally subsidized Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 2009. That's roughly 4.6 percent of Twin Cities revenues. The stations also received $2.3 million from the state, putting direct government support at about 9 percent.

While MPR spokesfolk aren't available tonight, they might argue The Current is part of the plan to reduce the need for government financing. (Alt-rock brings in younger donors who can replace aging news stalwarts.) And I suppose there are many rock fans who'd argue The Current's line-up is distinctive compared to radio pap.

That said, tough choices do have to be made.

I'll admit, I'm tempted to hope public media loses funding only so they can free themselves from political trolls. (For a tough-love defense of NPR's news quality that applies to MPR, see this Columbia Journalism Review post.) But frankly, I don't want good people who make Minnesota better to lose their jobs for a public pittance.

It's worth remembering — though the Strib editorial doesn't say it — that management views MPR as a news competitor, chafing at taxpayer subsidy while the newspaper struggles. (Other competitors gripe, just not as publicly.)

The editorial does support public dollars for "news, cultural and children's programming of depth and texture." You might say that any given MPR story isn't that "distinctive," yet the network undeniably adds to the local infosphere's depth and competitive verve. There's certainly nothing like it on radio, a medium that abandoned comprehensive news years ago.

One other data point before I bid you good night: though NPR stepped in it with the O'Keefe video, 75 percent of CPB money goes to public TV — places like PBS and TPT are far more likely to be hurt by the Schiller shrapnel than MPR. 

The Strib doesn't seem likely to go after Big Bird. Andrew Bird is apparently a different matter.

Get MinnPost's top stories in your inbox

Comments (10)

Poor Strib. Do they recieve anykind of tax breaks at any level, city,state, county, etc. I'd guess I'd call for any public support also be removed from their in box. My lookk at local news goes MPR to MinnPost and then to Strib. I got to say the ads there are way more irritating then any MPR fundraising campaign.

Big Bird can take care of himself. He's owned by a multi-million dollar for-profit corporation.

Some of us unpaid bloggers provide more unique and original reporting than MPR's numerous blogs, yet receive no public funding. Where do we apply?

Have you heard Andrew Bird's latest album? I wish it had received more negative editorials.

Wow the CJR editorial expressed what I was feeling yesterday exactly. Will NPR please stop lopping off heads every time some enemy on the political right says that they are biased? A right wing caller to Talk of the Nation yesterday said he sees no difference in NPR and Rush Limbaugh, only the political orientation. He genuinely had to be explained that one is based on a guy spouting his mouth and the other is a network of journalists based around the world filing original reporting. This is the level of analysis they are validating with their actions. Who cares what their chief fundraiser says in private? Fine, he's gone, but the CEO too? Why don't they just burn their studios down while they are at it, then donate the land to the Heritage Foundation as formal apology. And it is hardly a shocking bias, at that -- there HAVE BEEN racist people holding tea party signs. They aren't the whole of the group, but can we all admit they are out there. NPR WOULD BE better off without public funding, if it meant they didn't feel like they had to answer to the judgment of a right wing blogger whose last big coup was trying to lure a reporter onto a boat filled with sex toys. Juan Williams DID say something stupid, and on air. They had every right to can him. When they capitulate to the screamers then they just make themselves look guilty.

The content of the Star Tribune's recent editorials has only convinced me that they're not even trying anymore. If they don't understand the difference between commercial radio and the Current, they can't be helped, and they're certainly not worth listening to.

The real scandal in MPR funding is the Legacy Amendment.

Other public radio stations have been programming alt-rock music for years as part of their overall mission to serve an audience that commercial broadcasters don't, so the Star Tribune's rap against MRP's The Current is bogus, especially considering how The Current promotes locally-made music that the commercial stations ignore.

Hey Paul, you didn't mention that there are facts that often are true but yet support a particular ideology. It is the responsiblity of journalists, and they have abdicated this responsibility under threat from the right, to support those facts they recognize are based on reality but will offend some view points. Decades ago, perhaps a half a century now, networks (CBS was the best) understood that they could report facts without regard to their usefulness for one political perspective or another. The lie of the Viet Nam War was exposed that way and Nixon's entire "dirty tricks" apparatus was unearthed that way. Today, two sets of facts must be presented and no attempt is made to actually embrace the truth. What NPR should be able to do is expose the racism and bigotry inherent in Tea Party policies without fear of repraisal or defunding by bullies of either party. Listening to Pat Kessler give his either/or analysis of state politics gives him much less credence. He should have the knowledge to dig up the facts and tell us objectively. That is what is wrong with the entire face of journalism today and what I think the CJR editorial would say if it could be that blunt. Unfortunately conservatvives have successfuly labeled NPR as a liberal news outlet and argue for defunding on that basis. It is of course not accurate but is the result of real journalism's evolution that fails to embrace the truth and instead gives dual versions that will be able to please either political party but avoid truthful conclusions.

Like it or not, when an organization like NPR has a fund-raiser so stupid as to engage in outrageous generalizations about a certain group there is a price to pay.

And finger-pointing at the other side doesn't change that.

The solution is simple: don't hire people like that.

I hope NPR stands for not getting involved in the petty left-right stuff that too often goes for "political analysis" on blog-sites. It should be better than that.

Anytime an organization like NPR has a guy like this as a fund-raiser, they should look in a mirror. It sullies all the good, hard-working journalists they and MPR employ.

What would Daniel Schorr make of it? He would not be pointing fingers at other people. He'd tell NPR to get its act together.