As MinnPost’s metro reporter, I’m always trying to get a sense of what issues readers think are most important. If a story is crying out for a journalist’s attention, I want to hear about it – and I even publish my direct contact information in hopes people will reach out.
With local elections coming up this November – including high-profile city council elections in both Minneapolis and St. Paul – my bosses and I thought this weekend’s MinnPost Festival would be a great opportunity to hear what issues are rising to the surface.
So in the free “Public Square” section of the festival, we set up a booth and asked attendees this question:
“As we get ready for local city elections this year, what sorts of local stories do you want MinnPost to cover more?”
We set up a voting system with plastic jars and puffballs. We handed each survey participant three puffballs, color-coded by their city of residence. They voted for issues they wanted to see covered more by tossing their puffballs into nine jars labeled with different issues, ranging from “transit” to “basic services” to “taxes.” If participants cared more about a particular issue, we allowed them to vote for an issue more than once by tossing in extra puffballs into a single jar.
Here are the issues that rose to the top of our (definitely unscientific) survey:
Festival attendees cast 43 votes asking MinnPost to write more stories about the issue of homelessness. The issues of housing costs (33 votes), race and equity (29), public safety (26), and transit (20) also rose to the top of our poll.
Self-identified Minneapolis residents – the purple puffballs in our chart above – drove our survey results. They cast 114 out of the 202 votes in our survey, so their priorities tended to rise to the top.
Voters from the suburbs – the orange puffballs – were the second-biggest voting bloc. For them, race and equity issues were the top priority.
We also set out a tenth jar for “other” issues they wanted to see MinnPost cover, and then asked participants to elaborate on sticky notes:
A few highlights:
- Several participants wanted us to devote more attention to the specific public safety issue of gun violence and gun control.
- Street rebuilds got Post-It votes. One note asked for more coverage of St. Paul’s Summit Avenue plan and another called for coverage of Minneapolis’ Hennepin Avenue overhaul.
- Three respondents called for more education coverage.
- Three Post-Its called for more coverage of the ideological “schisms” dividing local city councils – or, as one Greater Minnesota participant put it: “Why can’t we all get along.”
Finally, we asked MinnPost Festival-goers to rate how optimistic they were feeling about the future of the city of Minneapolis. Most participants in our survey tended to be more optimistic than pessimistic:
These results are far from representative of each of these communities – but it led to some great conversations with festival attendees who voted, and some ideas for future coverage.
Do you have ideas about what local government issues MinnPost should be covering, especially in the midst of contentious local elections? Send your feedback to our staff – or contact me, the Twin Cities metro reporter, directly.