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Don Shelby joins BringMeTheNews, leaves MinnPost

MinnPost photo by Bill KelleyDon Shelby

BringMeTheNews, ex-KARE 11 anchor Rick Kupchella’s web/radio aggregation news service, nabbed a big name today: former WCCO anchor Don Shelby, who had been writing a MinnPost column since his TV retirement last year.

Shelby, who turns 65 in May, will deliver the morning radiocasts on the 39 Minnesota radio stations that contract with the Minneapolis-based Bring, replacing Kupchella. He starts April 4.

Eventually, Shelby will contribute original reporting – primarily on public health, environment and energy – though he’s not sure when that will begin. He’ll also be a mentor in a shop that includes former MPR journalists Art Hughes, William Wilcoxen and several younger journalists.

Bring is an interesting beast, cutting advertising deals with a small cadre of big names like the Mayo Clinic, Optum Health and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux, then putting sponsored content amid story streams. The theory is that the content is more useful than traditional banner ads; and will get more clicks.

The strategy – which blurs the line between news and p.r., though sponsored content is labeled — netted Bring a joint million-dollar investment from a news organization and a P.R. firm in 2010. Word is there’s a second, larger round in the works – something the Shelby announcement wouldn’t hurt.

Shelby says “under no circumstances, ever” will a Bring sponsor affect his story choice or reporting. He says Kupchella sees growth in original content that would be undermined by advertiser interference.

While he’ll initially voice Bring’s seven morning newscasts from his home studio, Shelby describes an unconventional plan called “Shelby Shares” to determine those stories he’ll eventually do. “At least in the early generation, it will be sort of a competition” between the communities Bring serves on radio, he says.  On the Bring site, people can nominate interesting stories they hope will lure Shelby to their town – “stories where coverage didn’t exist; ‘you need to come to our city and tell us about this landfill, or about this lake clean-up rule,’ or whatever you have in mind. The news editors and I will look through the entries to find good stories, ones that might be applicable to a larger audience.”

Bring promised original content after its 2009 founding, but it never really panned out. Shelby’s hire and the commitment to him obviously ups the ante considerably, though original content isn’t necessarily a cash-flow winner, as Bring’s aggregation-heavy model has so far shown. Bring’s website isn’t heavily trafficked, though the radio play complicates that analysis, and I wonder how many Shelbys Kupchella will need to move the audience needle.

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Though the site expanded into sports aggregation after its 2010 financing round, the site has not yet secured a second market that was talked about then. One obstacle is that Kupchella lacks the personal connections in other places that gives him a leg up with known talent like Shelby and KARE 11’s Eric Perkins. But we’ll see.

At WCCO and MinnPost, Shelby was known for his advocacy on climate change, and thus became a lightning rod for deniers. In his new reporting role, will he tone his beliefs down? “I think that’s largely up to Kupchella, but it’s not a good play to place me in any other position than that which I’ve already developed,” he says. “That is the brand, and that is what Kupchella wanted. You could say these are all liberal takes, but if you go over them with a fine-toothed comb, people were quoted accurately, and the facts were straight.”

Why bolt my humble shop? Although he’ll be eligible for Medicare on his 65th birthday, part of Shelby’s consideration was the offer of health care coverage, which for his family runs out this year. By returning to broadcast, he retains eligibility for a policy he had during his WCCO years. And given that Kupchella called him, I’d guess Don will have a few more bucks to throw his new $1.25 million home that demonstrates environmental technologies.

Locally, Shelby will soon be heard on K-TWIN and KFAN, the two Minneapolis stations that use Bring.

Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 03/20/2012 - 01:54 pm.

    I don’t listen to any Bring stations…

    …but perhaps I will have to now just to hear how this works out.

    I work a lot with WCCO-TV, but only have interacted directly with Don a couple times, once to set up an interview with a visiting General Motors VP on their green vehicle lineup and later at a Betty McCollum presser on air pollution that became a MinnPost column.

    I will likely see him at the Living Green Expo in May 5-6, where we are both doing presentations in the Education Building at the Fairgrounds.

  2. Submitted by Tim Walker on 03/20/2012 - 02:58 pm.

    Good luck, Don!

    We’ll miss you!

    I don’t listen to the radio, so I’ll not hear your broadcasts.

    But hopefully, Brian will tell us in The Glean when there is a story on Bring Me the News that warrants our attention.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/20/2012 - 03:32 pm.

    Ah dee ohs Shelby

    Good luck. Never heard of BMTN, just glanced at it, not impressed.

  4. Submitted by Steve Rose on 03/20/2012 - 05:11 pm.

    How Much Interest is There in Scraped Content?

    I have my favorite web sources for the types of information that interest me. I can’t understand why people would need a news aggregator.

  5. Submitted by Robert Saxton on 03/20/2012 - 09:57 pm.

    Best Wishes, Don!

    Thanks for some great reporting and a strong voice for the environment, Don. You’ll be sorely missed. Best wishes to you and yours!

  6. Submitted by Jared Hoke on 03/21/2012 - 07:05 am.

    Interesting Times

    The old chinese curse seems especially apt just now. The news business is being reinvented – it had to happen – and things are awfully fluid. One concern I have is that the political polarization we all see happening is encouraged and amplified by the “new media”. If we all only watch, read and listen to stuff our computers decide we’ll “like”, we are never challenged or hear anything new. We stop thinking. I realize that traditional newspapers always had their slant -does anyone doubt that the Chicago Tribune was conservative and the Des Moines Register was progressive – but the new media are far more slanted, even defiantly so. There is also a distressing relaxation of standards. Now anyone with a computer can have as big a megaphone as anyone else. This is Democracy, yes, but it’s a Tower of Babel, too. I LIKED having someone like Eric Sevareid, who I trusted, help me understand how to think about what was happening.
    Ah well. It’s a Brave New World. And getting hotter all the time. (!)

  7. Submitted by Deborah Irestone on 03/21/2012 - 01:23 pm.

    i am sorry to see you go, Mr Shelby.
    truly have enjoyed your posts and will miss them.
    best wishes,

  8. Submitted by Richard Pecar on 03/21/2012 - 02:35 pm.

    “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all…”

    That’s what mom taught me. Almost 70-years later, I figured out talking nice accomplishes little. Okay, maybe a little bit of something…it allows people to nod and agree with each other, and pleasantly smile their way along the path from one environmental mire to the next. That’s about it.

    My opinion is Don Shelby could have — should have — opened his eyes years ago, and stiffened his spine and stood his ground against the lameness of the MPCA. He was on TV each day and there is stayed in glass screen and beyond approach. There were a plethora of stories bubbling under the sruface on the topic of environmental decline not covered. I have the same opinion towards the plethora of supposed activist/advocacy organizations that worked so hard to keep donations flowing while our state’s natural resources and ecology suffered. (I exclude Leslie Davis/Earth Protector from this comment.)

    Since 1975 when I became a student and casualty of the Minneosta’s enviromental decline, I saw the water quality of small town wastewater plant discharges go from bad to poor; the urban air quality decline become dramatically worse; the volumes of garbage disposed of in landfills steadily increase; the discarded, but reusable waste exchanges never take root and today are sparsely located or non-existent; and efforts to locally add value to recyclables doesn’t exist…there’s more…


  9. Submitted by L.A. Krahn on 03/21/2012 - 03:51 pm.

    Another argument for univeral health coverage

    Settling for a crappier job, just for the health benefits — that’s the American way, isn’t it?

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