Passing the torch at MinnPost

We vividly remember that day in November, 2007, when we all gathered around the desk of Corey Anderson, our web editor, and watched him press the button to distribute our first edition.

Today, we end our nine years of running MinnPost. We will remain active as board members and as producers of MinnRoast, but we are handing the managerial reins to a new generation of leaders.

We vividly remember that day in November 2007 when we all gathered around the desk of Corey Anderson, our web editor, and watched him press the button to distribute our first edition. (Laurie is not in the picture, because she was assigned to hawk printed copies in the Skyway. Does anyone remember the print edition? It lasted only a few months.)

Within hours of launching, we faced our first crisis: An anonymous wag published a satirical (and pretty funny) homepage called MinnToast. We quickly decided to write about the satire, and link to it, establishing two values that remain important for MinnPost today: be transparent, and don’t take yourself too seriously. (It took us a while, but we did figure out who created the satire, and it was not the Russian government. It was Tom Bartel, the publisher of the Rake, a fine magazine that is no longer with us.)

We launched MinnPost at a time when the newspapers in town were beginning to shed a lot of journalists. This created two opportunities: The audience craved serious coverage, some of which was being lost, and there were excellent journalists taking early retirement, many of whom who were eager to keep plying their trade if they could find the right platform.

MinnPost survived the recession that hit almost immediately after we launched. And we are still going strong, thanks to the support of more than 100 major donors, thousands of members, more than 100 advertisers, and a number of generous foundations.

Joel and Laurie Kramer

MinnPost illustration by Hugh Bennewitz
Joel and Laurie Kramer

A lot has changed. The Star Tribune, which was moving toward bankruptcy back then, has emerged a much stronger (though smaller) organization, which is good for the community. Minnesota Public Radio, which had little online presence then, has invested in building its website. On the other hand, some online-only local competitors, such as the Daily Mole and Minnesota Independent, have disappeared.

MinnPost, which began with a handful of editors relying on free-lance reporters, now has seven staff writers and a dozen regular writers on contracts.

When we launched, we were excited if a story got read 200 times. Now, we have hundreds of stories each year that are read more than 5,000 times. In August, one story alone was read more than 75,000 times. And we are averaging about 1.2 million page views per month.

On launch day, we had about 200 donors. This year we have more than 2,600.

On launch day, we had a board of directors of seven people. Today, three dozen community leaders serve on the MinnPost board, and today Jill Field takes over as chair, replacing Jack Dempsey, who followed our founding board chair, Lee Lynch.

Along the way, we redesigned the site, modernized our logo, and published a ton of great news stories, analysis, and commentary about politics, policy, and culture in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. We have won many awards, including twice being named one of the top news sites in the country with fewer than 50 staffers by the Online News Association.

We began working with our board a few years ago on a succession plan. In 2014, we hired a publisher, Andy Wallmeyer, who today becomes CEO of MinnPost. We hired a full-time executive editor, Andy Putz, to replace the part-time executive editor Roger Buoen, whose great work over our first six years built MinnPost’s reputation for quality, depth and insight. Today, Putz takes on the title of editor. We promoted Bethany Hollenkamp from office manager to director of finance and operations as soon as she completed her MBA. And this year we added a development director, Claire Radomski.

Joel and Laurie Kramer

Corey Anderson/Jana Freiband
Joel and Laurie Kramer

In the short term, all this new talent is creating some financial pressure, because they get paid, while the two of us worked for MinnPost without pay. But we built up enough financial reserves to handle a couple of years of losses, and we are confident that under the new leadership team, MinnPost will not just survive but thrive.

If you already support MinnPost with your membership dollars, thank you for making our coverage possible, and please consider increasing your support. If you are not currently supporting us, but you believe that what we do matters to the community, please become a sustaining member. And if you want to join our list of advertisers and sponsors, our advertising director Sally Waterman (one of our founding employees) is ready to serve you.

We won’t be coming into the office much anymore, but MinnPost remains such an important part of our lives. We are grateful for everyone who contributes to its success. We salute the next generation of leaders, and wish them and the whole staff good fortune on the next stage of the journey.

Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/18/2016 - 08:29 am.

    Thanks

    As they say in the Navy: Well Done.

  2. Submitted by fdsl de Sam Lazaro on 10/18/2016 - 09:13 am.

    Thanks!

    For all you’ve done for the cause of serious journalism, our deepest gratitude.

  3. Submitted by Brian Scholin on 10/18/2016 - 09:31 am.

    Fantastic Job!

    I’ve been a continuous (almost) reader since the beginning, and I truly appreciate both the values and quality you two built in right from the beginning and the improvements that have been a constant since that time. Perhaps others could have done this, but you did. Thanks!

  4. Submitted by John Roberts on 10/18/2016 - 09:43 am.

    A Worthy Accomplishment

    I go to Minnpost first thing in the morning and just before bedtime. A great read. Congratulations.

  5. Submitted by Matthew Becker on 10/18/2016 - 09:48 am.

    Cheers!

    Congrats and all the best.

  6. Submitted by Samuel Stern on 10/18/2016 - 11:09 am.

    Thanks for your service

    I’m not going to gush, but I wanted to take a moment and thank you for your vision and follow through that has resulted in an enhanced media environment in our community. I’m proud to have been a supporter from the beginning and look forward to MinnPost’s continuing success and the community’s resulting benefits.

  7. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/18/2016 - 11:10 am.

    Thank you

    for all that you have done for the community, the state, and journalism.

  8. Submitted by Jason Walker on 10/18/2016 - 11:13 am.

    Thanks to Laurie and Joel

    Essential to any Minnesota media consumer, MinnPost has built a strong identity with vibrant coverage well-attuned to its readership.
    I’m proud to live in a state that supports such a venture. Thanks for founding MinnPost and congratulations for what it’s become. Well done.
    Jason

  9. Submitted by Marge Barrett on 10/18/2016 - 11:19 am.

    Thank You!

    What an accomplishment! The best to MinnPost and to you in the future.

  10. Submitted by James Proman on 10/18/2016 - 11:23 am.

    Great Work!

    You’ve done an incredible job with MinnPost. We enjoy the articles and features daily. All the best to you both as you pass the torch to new leadership. Enjoy your freedom–and spend more time with the kids and grandkids.

  11. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 10/18/2016 - 12:45 pm.

    Thank you

    And keep on. We need your voice of reason. You present facts, but not devoid of feeling.

  12. Submitted by Bruce Benidt Benidt on 10/19/2016 - 07:00 am.

    Bravo brava

    So well done Joel and Laurie. A crazy vision well executed. You took on something highly unlikely to succeed and have added a crucial voice to the journalism mix and created a real asset for the community. Truly visionary work. And from what I saw you also created a place on line and on the ground that people were happy to be part of as writers and editors. Thank you. You could have just retired and gone fishing but you helped your community instead. Not surprising, and so admirable.

  13. Submitted by Ivy Chang on 10/19/2016 - 09:26 am.

    Great vision

    Thank you for launching MinnPost; more success in the future.

  14. Submitted by Sarah Williams on 10/19/2016 - 06:10 pm.

    With thanks and praise

    Dear Joel and Laurie: Thanks for all you have done to elevate our craft during a rough time for the industry. And thanks for finding us journalists a home as we wandered in the wilderness.

    Sally

  15. Submitted by Jim Million on 10/19/2016 - 06:18 pm.

    Satisfied Bone Picker Here

    Certainly I’ve had a few bones to pick with MinnPost management these past few years, but fewer and fewer. They’ve expanded their coverage and broadened their target market by adding excellent younger (thank the cosmic gods) writers and contributors. As many readers likely observe, I don’t appreciate stupid stuff, especially in journalism. This outfit has truly developed a new group of smart, articulate and well-schooled journalists. I didn’t really give MinnPost much notice before the SOSPCO campaign, but certainly did admire the open forum it provides for thoughtful people.

    I’m not quite a junky yet, but clearly find more substance here than most anywhere. Editorial view or writing bias has never been my litmus test. I have well-schooled filters for all of that. Writing quality and coherence of argument are key to me. I’ve found both to steadily improve here. It’s just some of the old guys who won’t flush their 1970s transmissions that persist in testing my particular patience. And, that’s what good journalism should do. I still believe a few of my “usual suspects” do require some new fluids, however.
    [I do take personal pride in keeping Susan Perry motivated toward the obtuse and the simply weird.]

    MinnPost keeps getting better. And, I’ve slightly increased my modest monthly dues along the way.

  16. Submitted by Cathy Erickson on 10/20/2016 - 07:14 am.

    I’m Grateful!

    I love starting my mornings off with The Glean!
    Thanks for this place for me to read and learn – and for the opportunity to participate in things like the Legislative discussions.

    And one of the things I’m most grateful for is that you brought a great group of smart, witty, thoughtful and passionate people together who post in the comments section – I enjoy them as much as I do the articles (even if sometimes I talk out loud to my computer screen after I read them).

    Thanks for your vision, thoughtfulness, and a great team to keep things going.

  17. Submitted by richard bonde on 10/20/2016 - 10:42 am.

    thanks

    All these years without pay! What a gift!

  18. Submitted by Richard O on 10/24/2016 - 03:07 pm.

    Thank You!

    MinnPost has been part of my daily routine from the beginning. I always look forward to The Glean for what’s happening.

    The very best to you both!

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