Part six of the MER documentary series, A Sense of Place. Program is titled “All the News that's Fit” and is a study of how journalism influenced regional feeling as the state grew.
Program contains segments highlighting material from old newspapers, commentary from humanists, a look at new radical journalism, how radio pulled regions together, the effects of television, and projections on cable’s potential. Program also includes Interviews with people living in rural areas who are on cable; excerpts from Jane Swisshelm's book "Half a Century," which talks about her radical journalism in Saint Cloud a hundred years ago; and musical background elements.
Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.
newspapers on the frontier we're less concerned to inform the communities in which they were published about their activities, then they were to inform people back East about what a great place. the particular Frontier settlement was and so the newspapers on the frontier sent their papers back in exchange for Eastern papers and in the hope. Regularly realized that they would be reprinted in the Eastern papers and the things that they had to say about the territory would encourage migration to Minnesota. The day is over a really flamboyant reporting a kind of over because when you had flamboyant papers, you had essentially flamboyant people and I think when the the nation was still virtually a series of Frontiers people did on a very unconventional and sometimes risque. Perhaps irresponsible things that were extremely colorful and consequently the coverage of them was very colorful. I think that Pioneer Press today like all those papers in the country is France considered a more sober paper and but I would say it's primarily is silver paper because its reporting on the lives of people were generally more sober people. I'm basically interested in bringing about change and I don't actually shave of making it a better world you are going to get any change unless first to get ideas about a direction. Where are we going to go? And I think that's what the media should do is suggest directions and having done that presents arguments why we should we should go that way and it may take 5 10 15 20 50 years depending on the particular goal that you take and some days they're very short goals and some days are very far range and gold but the point is that the populace is not going to elect men. To move the country in a particular direction or move a county in a particular direction or even a city or a school board until they have some concept in their mind of where they're going to go. A sense of place a documentary series, which looks at regions and regionalism in the state of Minnesota produced by Minnesota educational radio under a grant from the Minnesota Humanities commission. This program is called all the News That's fit. I don't know. Where are we going to go James Madison Goodhue when he issued the first edition of the state's first newspaper, the Minnesota Pioneer in April of 1849 seem to have little doubt. We our ancestors were going to go to Minnesota if he had anything to say about it. We were going to come out here to the free fertile helpful Northwest and he asked is it too much to predict for this young territory a rapidity of growth unparalleled even in the annals of Western progress ones here, of course, he would not hesitate to instruct us as to where are political interest should lie George Hauge University of Minnesota journalism professor. he became a partisan of the democratic faction led by Sibley and there were bitter battles with another faction led by rice in addition to being a really more important than being a partisan political partisan. He was a promoter of the territory. Because Goodhue was a colorful writer and a vigorous writer. is Articles about Minnesota territory, we're quite frequently reprinted in eastern papers and this stimulated quite a bit of Correspondence do him people back Eastwood write and ask specific questions. In his book newspapers on the Minnesota Frontier hockey recorded goodhue's enticing descriptions of the region. Saint Paul, which is the principal commercial town on the Mississippi is situated upon a blocks. I'm 75 or a hundred feet above the river on its outward sweet commanding of you of the stream for a distance of some to my face of the country in the rear that is north of the town is quite uneven and is made up of Oak openings mirrored by numerous little ponds. Play Paul has about eight hundred inhabitants. Most of them have sprouted up within the last few months. We have already most of the material Comforts of life. We are usually visited by four steamboats a week and Galena Dubuque in St. Louis. The ladder town is some 800 miles south of us. His competitors other newspaper editors readily admitted that he had done more to promote the territory than anyone else in the community. So yes, I think the people on the spot in St. Paul dead. feel that he was an effective spoken spokesman who gave them a sense of loyalty and pride and commitment to building St. Paul and the territory and so it began not only the building of a city or territory, but the building of a Communications Network that would seek to inform and influence the lives of the people who had come to Minnesota in time newspapers in the Twin Cities became more sophisticated if less colorful, but to this day of quaintly provincial Town remains in many papers, in other regions of the state, aren't you sell yours has been a reporter for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press a direct descendant of the original Goodhue newspaper and presently serves as editorial writer for the Duluth Herald News Tribune. He offer some insights about the journalistic process in smaller communities, if you're writing about a utility for a judge or a police chief or whatever in a community of this side light switches a hundred thousand people. your comments are are more likely to be taken on a personal basis and I guess to go more to the heart of the matter the In a larger Community there is a there is more of a willingness on just a simple inclination on everyone's part to make this distinction between a person as a professional and a person as a person. It's much more easy to run a newspaper and do some of the things that newspaper should do in a larger Community because most of your Critical an investigatory efforts would be done on a professional plane. Duluth since between the Iron Range and which is about 6270 miles north of here and to the South we have Superior Wisconsin, and then we would like to we try by way of editorials and news stories to develop a regional Metropolitan concept for Superior and Duluth. We have an underline fearing feeling that readers on Superior. Perhaps look up look at this is Rankin ISM, and the Precisely the opposite way to get something done or the wrong way to get something done is superior is to suggest to Superior how I should do something cuz there any opponent simply has to say are we going to let those people in Duluth? Tell us how to run our city similarly with the Iron Range. The Iron Range is Miley and mainly you need District where taconite and iron ore is dug out of the ground and Duluth Gaines benefit of land. Merely by virtue of our sitting at the head of the Lakes. Where are the or has to come through here to get on boats and consequently, there is an ongoing animosity, but we believe Primarily by humor I suppose is the and a continual. Personal face-to-face effort that we can get these regions together. We can't do it by editorial or news stories. By that type of effort alone. You have to we have to physically go to Superior and the people there and talk to them for me physically go to the Iron Range are people they are come down and talk and when you get to know each other and so I suppose a similar to International Affairs. If you get to know each other on a personal basis, then whatever concepts for Unity. You can convey in the newspaper. You're not only get to a person's head. But if you've talked to his heart the union will come Where are we going to go print journalists? No longer have the field to themselves, but cellular believes. They have a unique opportunity to suggest what the direction might be. In terms of setting direction if you have a compass and you want to pick up Direction you hold that in your hand very steady and you look at it and it concentrating to find a direction point if you look at it again and verify and I kind of see a newspaper like that where it will stand still and you can get your ideas together and debate with yourself whether this is a good direction or not. The Advent of radio in the 1930s and 40s provided in additional means of putting people in touch with what was happening in their communities their region their state, but well radio struggled to develop its own style of disseminating information it borrowed or as some might say stole freely from the established print medium in 1943 University of Minnesota journalism Professor Mitch Chun-Li helped create the first radio news Operation at WCCO in Minneapolis. And about the same time. Jim Peyton was working at webc the original radio station in the Duluth Superior Market, their experiences were remarkably similar. there was no better feeling between the two between the Mets and the air and for a long time. I think we are some we are guilty of this to some extent they when they're morning paper. They first edition. The morning paper would come out even come out just about the time are evening uses getting ready and we would always rush out together to see whether they're headlines have been the same as our headlines and all that and try to decide what are we done better than they are in for a long time. The papers wouldn't even mention broadcast. It's almost humorous. the first arrangement in 1930 that we officially made with the management of the Duluth News Tribune. Come about after we establish studios in Duluth, Minnesota previous that time webc was exclusively Superior in operation. The First Agreement or rather a tenuous thing with a Colonel Henry was the gentleman's name at the News Tribune was he said you can come over and take some of those Dukes off are Associated Press the United press African twitch it was And take them out of here. You can also take a few dupe of local stories if the reporter wants to make the dope available. I'm not going to Brooke them. Because they look upon you people with a little bit of a jaundiced eye anyway. As radio nuts was the usual expression at that time and would rush end of the studio at a quarter of 10 with the evening star in the journal in his pocket and he has it got into the studio. He would open the paper and look at it look at it and he'd see some things you wanted and he would that be the basis of his broadcast cuz I knew how it would take the news and he was pretty accurate and to put his his personality and to it. We had a problem with it because Eric said look I can do this by my ratings are look how much money I've and Joseline. And so we had a quite a time to persuade Cedric to let us write his copy for it. But after I stipple took two months of my garden and he discovered that we could write copy that he could use them that we somehow or were able to catch a bit by bed radio has such established itself as an authentic news source. All of this because I'll be at that in the morning. We took shamelessly. Duluth News Tribune and read it verbatim the papers the papers, of course were up in arms over the thing. I didn't want to say anything publicly because it's like cuz they said I hope that radio was going to go away anyway, and they didn't like to call attention to the fact that wasn't media called radio. So they didn't say anything about it in the papers, but privately they let our owners in our managers and staff know. And of course we lied. Which is the simplest thing to do with your black pencil over the line down at the end of the paragraph or you were going to stop? So that if you looked at at at an issue at Duluth News Tribune at 10 in the morning in the Studio's nwbbc was pretty well X stop because you're giving them pretty much the news. Austin Jocelyn was a manager at the WCCO radio and he was a man who got the view that not very many broadcast managers have ever that news was was something by itself and that I knew a good news Operation had to be first of all the good news Operation and when he described to see what he has done, he said I will never put my nose in this Newsroom. and he said he said to you and I'm hiring you because I think you and use people and so so we had that flavor my news Brandt my friends used to Snicker at me when I would put on a radio news, but oh, that's we got over that. When television added picture to Voice transmission it added another element is well news people found themselves with a burden and responsibility. They hadn't had to contend with before adequately serving a vast geographical area and doing it through a medium. That was to become the most powerful Communications to love the area today. Northeastern. Minnesota is served by three television channels all located in Duluth. It is perhaps the most interesting Market in the state since Fierce competition for ratings and advertising dollars have demanded of each outlet a kind of Excellence not normally found outside the Twin Cities locally originated newscasts are produced with concern for feeding the information hunger of the entire region as if life depended on them and indeed because television is such an expensive medium the life of each station depends in large measure on the ratings It's News programming can mustard Dumbass rear has worked in Duluth television since the first VHF stations went on the air in the mid-50s and is presently program director at wdsm TV. Did God Childers news director WDIO the ABC affiliate which went into operation in 1966. Most of the media where Hometown Media Radio each City at a station each City had a newspaper. There was no media that really crossed all of the Ya-Ya boundaries in served all of the people in the region television because there are fewer stations. I guess does that now one television station in Duluth residence is the capability of talking to a million people. The personal media before I could have done that. So in 1954, actually when you ate her one of the HF stations came in. Send made over a million people who are served by one central Communication source. Previously to 1954 there was a person UHF station but UHF range is not such that people could see it far away and on the Range Wisconsin is on so it was really the VHF stations that created an area wide Communications media. I think that people have probably become. Acclimated to watching the two because of the short Summers and the long Winters and not much else to do at night and you get into a habit of watching the two of them. Maybe you'll become addicted a bit to us and television news. In this market is well. Much better done than the French journalism that comes out of this Market. And I think that a typical television news viewer is probably just as well or maybe a little better informed than the viewer that reads the newspaper in Duluth. I'm not sure that we should attempt to compete with the print media but in this market we do and we do so successfully because of two reasons. I'm the one all three television stations are running good news operations are running what I would consider to be outstanding small market news operations, all three stations. Another thing is the newspapers in this market are are not strong. They're not investigated. They're not probing. And I think that this is a day ahead of an effect on what the television or what the news reader viewer for the person who seeks news and knowledge. Does with his time why the quality I don't know quality is Bena. Thing that broadcasters in this market have sought after for a long time. When we first went into television here, we look real hard at our closest neighbor, which is Minneapolis. Minneapolis does think so very well. And so everyone in the lowest sort of pattern themselves after the Minneapolis Market not realizing we were too small to do it that well a lot of help because we had good clothes longtime associations from those people and are able to pattern procedures and then especially in the news area after those Minneapolis stations and they say we didn't realize if we're too small to do that when I'm supposed to succeed that well and of course once you start the competition among yourselves, Gets to be a hearse and because your competitor does things very very well in order not to look terribly bad. You have to do them almost as well or dry at least so it's been competition that has any quality that we have WDIO television in 1966. About four months after we went on the air decided that we were going to go into the news business. And I guess maybe more than anyone else. I was able to convince the management that they should make the commitment and spend the money and I told him it would be very expensive and it is It's almost too expensive. and in the ensuing years, we hired good staff people and went into a television news Operation and up until that time the market had been seeing radio news being right into television for the most part. I worked at a television station other television station in the market and we were trying but we didn't exactly know what we were doing and I think that combined with the emergence of Television is a news Forum in the country. combined with this and they intense competition that was fostered by the arrival of the third television station in the market trying to do a a good job of reporting news I like that just what move this Market into prominence and almost saturation of of the electronic journalism. I guess the The most that we can expect is to just to inform. And if that accomplishes that purpose. I'm pulling the region together. That's good. I'm not sure that it does. I'm not sure that would maybe. Good journalism sometimes tends to divide. our area in northern Minnesota has just suffered tremendously from the lack of people and a tremendous out-migration that I don't think anybody is really Carefully catalog one of the reasons I haven't is because I think they're afraid to see what their actual results are the young people just gone they vanished. This is an Old Market. And I don't think the television journalism is accomplished anything in the area pulling the whole region together. I can't see that that's happened. I think that the people in International Falls are probably a lot more aware of what's going on in Duluth, then they should be then they need to be simply because the television news is television news in just comes from the roof. but I think in terms of Trying to make the area more cohesive. I really don't think there's been that much impact. Some nights. It's way above the show business some nights. It's extremely informative and some nights. It's just you know, so nice we're tremendously proud of what we do just tremendously proud of what we do another nights. We know that we just struck out all the way around and Italy And although we haven't accomplished what we set out to do television news. is depends to some degree upon the cooperation that you're able to get from the from the people because unlike pen and pencil reporting. Once you get the guy to see if you've almost always got to get him to say it again on film and most of the time when somebody is made a remark that embarrasses themselves. They certainly aren't going to repeat it for the benefit of the camera and for the whole world to watch them from that standpoint. Unless you're unless you're capable of going out and shooting from the hip and And doing the kind of just spontaneous television journalism, which is really the only good journalism. You run you run into some very serious technical handicaps, and I guess that I would have to say that A television is struggling. Sometimes it does a tremendously Superior job. And sometimes it does a very entertaining almost done. Uncomprehending job if you can get into stories that it cannot cover. We've had economic problems in the area and and we're attempting to outline some of the problems if nothing else and did maybe Point some directions for the future. again, it's a responsibility we have to the area is the area supports us and depends on us and and weird pressure vitally interested in seeing health and growth and and good economy because it improves our positions we might get a raise. There's there's a lot of things wrong in this country. and I think the journalism has an obligation to try to point those out and that's why you see so much bad news on television is because what is right about the country? Is good and it's evident to people will what is wrong? What is wrong? Sometimes is is hidden and is And is really an abrasive factor in the Indian breaking down certain elements within our society. I think that we if we're going to survive in this kind of a society, we've got to make some changes and journalism is the chronology of the change that has to be made. Where are we going good, he was early journalistic efforts were pointed mainly in the direction of territorial growth and something called progress and while news people in all of today's media speak of working for Change and pointing Direction. Their goals are not much more long-range than his were a century ago, but Bill Weir of Community Information Systems at Jonathan in Carver County has done some serious crystal ball gazing cable television. He believes will radically alter not only the amount and kinds of communication available to minnesotans, but the very structure of the society in the state as well. That is irrelevant to us too much of the time when we move into this era of of 2-way cable in combination with microwave and satellite people will be able to use this powerful Communications instrument to select the communications. They want when they want it it can put them in touch with other people as part of a a meeting in a sense. If you will not not just a conference telephone call but going beyond what you can do in over that narrow band of a telephone line into what Visual Communications makes possible where you're you're you're able to respond. to one another almost as you do as we do now side-by-side. There's a sense of really being there and each one of these. locations where you can originate on the cable will almost be like, oh, I think a window onto the van opening onto the entire world and it kind of magical room like The Wizard of Oz my create the world changes with the Advent of this new Communications tool. It can be used I think to tyrannize if we ignore the the opportunities that the cable provides through its abundance of channels for public access for all kinds of Educational Library access Services beyond what any of us have thought of yet we're trying to do that kind of for thinking that futuristic work bring it down to earth in in the work of Community Information Systems at Jonathan and elsewhere to find out what is really cost-effective now and what people want in the way of the use of this powerful instrument cable. The future may bring it into our into our homes or offices are clinics are schools a place of notches. George Orwell's telescreen on the contrary it will be a place where where we originated what we want. It may be at the beginning just a digital origination saying I want number to 985 of a program that it's available to me on on a channel that is reserved for this kind of call up of a program when the person wants. It might be a a program that is merely entertainment entertaining. It might be last night. So it might be some information from a library that I need to in order to complete the paper. I'm I'm researching right now. It might be some some information. I need an order to make a decision for my business at first. Yes. We will have to go to the to the little simple level Studio. It might be a In the elementary school down the block but eventually will be able to plug a camera into any home Outlet. Dar State maybe a great Pioneer in creating that sense of place through the cable system that makes people feel I got I got the I got an opportunity to get what I need. just around my life with with the What fulfills life what gives me a handle on changing things the way up? I think they ought to be changed or at least participate in that process. Did radicalize is the sense of neighborhood? I get the sense of region and it makes possible the creation of a more realistic sense of what our place is. Norman Cousins writing in Saturday review October 24th 1970 The significance of communications has seldom been more pissed AliExpress than in Aristotle's comment that the size of a political unit is determined by the range of a single man's voice. He was thinking of course of the Greek world where all the citizens of a city-state such as Athens could assemble in one place and attend to their common Affairs according to this yardstick. The entire world today is a potential single Community. There is no part of the globe that is not within the range of a single man's voice. Music from the album stockhausen electronic music on the DG label and special thanks to George Hage for reading from his book newspapers on the Minnesota Frontier published in 1967 by the Minnesota Historical Society. A sense of place was written and produced by Claudia daily for Minnesota educational radio under a grant from the Minnesota Humanities commission engineering by Glenn Owen.