It's day two. How are you holding up?
Ben Ramsden is one of the people who helped redesign the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper. He has a blog and talks about it.
This slice of workplace life is illuminating:
The only time we knew we were on the right track was when Media News Group chair Dean Singleton visited the Pioneer Press and loved the direction we were going.
Here's how today's version looks.
I'm still trying to figure out the "online time stamp" thing. Today's says "online at 4:26 p.m." Intriguing.
Meanwhile, local media analyst David Brauer notes that the "the web tail is clearly wagging the print dog." (I admit to muttering "it's about time" when I read that but perhaps it's worth more thought.)
For another look at life inside life's intrusions, Lost Remote's Liz Foreman compares her TV station job to her newspaper job. It turns out some people are actually leaving TV to go work at newspapers. Who knew?(4 Comments)
Starbuck's closed all of its stores yesterday afternoon to hold a giant training session to "refocus on the customer experience." CEO Howard Schultz is trying to get the coffee shop's vibe back. "This is about the love and the passion and the commitment that we all need to have to the customer," he said in a training video.
It should be quite a morning at Starbuck's, then.
So kindly report here how passionate you found the delivery of your joe today.(1 Comments)
A faithful read of the blogs, news sites, and talk radio reveals the beginning of a "tax revolt," according to Gov. Tim Pawlenty. People are apparently that much in arms over the override of the governor's veto of the gas tax.
"We're all struggling around here just to keep our houses," a driver at a gas station in Anoka told MPR's Curtis Gilbert. "A lot of us around here are going into foreclosure almost because we can't pay our bills. No work, no nothing. It's tough."
But a check of newspapers around the state today suggests the farther one gets away from the Capitol, the different the tune.
In the Worthington Daily Globe (reg. required):
Never mind that already high gas prices — at more than $3 per gallon — will be compounded by a 5-cent gas tax in coming months, or that license tab fees and vehicle taxes will also be increased. Reaction from community and business leaders on Tuesday was overwhelmingly positive.
The Marshall Independent (the home of House Minority Leader Marty Seifert):
“We will have more money for safer and better roads,” county commissioner Steve Ritter said of the transportation bill that passed Monday after a successful vote to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto.
“We know for sure that gas tax money will come to Lyon County,” commissioner Bob Fenske said. “I’m very pleased.”
An editorial in the Bemidji Pioneer:
Gov. Pawlenty’s dismissal of the override is disingenuous, that at a time when the federal government is issuing rebate checks, “Democrats in Minnesota have decided to burden our families with hundreds of dollars a year in new taxes to pay for a massive $7 billion tax increase.”
The Grand Forks Herald suggests service station owners aren't all that concerned about competition from North Dakota says gas stations adjust prices to the competition anyway. As for drivers...
"We kind of gotten used to high gas prices," said Paul Mehrkens after paying $36.02 for 11.6 gallons of unleaded regular gas at East Grand Station.
And down along the Iowa border, MPR's Tom Weber found a similar view:
Jason Trout, a resident of Decorah, Iowa, wrote that politicians talk about how people will cross the border to buy gas cheaper. He calls that "poppycock."
"Who is going to spend $6 in gas and a half hour of their life to save a few cents in taxes?" he asked, before concluding, "While I commend Minnesota for raising its tax, I won't be crossing the border to show my support."
... even though Minnesota has the lowest gas prices in the Upper Midwest.
Robert Bly, the only Talking Volumes guest to refuse to wear shoes, has just been named the poet laureate of the state by Gov. Pawlenty.
The requirements for the position, which is supposed to promote poetry in the state are:
So, what does Minnesota have against young poets?
And how many fit the requirements?
A search of Minnesota poets on Google yielded a Web site, Minnesota Poets. And there's only one listed; it's not Robert Bly. John Calvin Rezmerski, it says, has been named "Poet Laureate of the League of Minnesota Poets."
Robert Bly is a Minnesota treasure,” Gov. Pawlenty said today. “His many works, impressive 40 year career, and national renown will help promote poetry in Minnesota."
It's a flip-flop of monumental proportions, of course. In 2005, he killed this when he said, "Even though we have a state 'folklorist,' I also have concern this will lead to calls for other similar positions. We could also see requests for a state mime, interpretive dancer or potter."
Not long after that, he signed a bill designating the honeycrisp as the official state apple.
Good luck getting something to rhyme with honeycrisp, Mr. Bly.
Posted at 1:54 PM on February 27, 2008
by Bob Collins
Little things intrigue me, and I fully acknowledge this is a little thing.
Here's the St. Paul Pioneer Press pre redesign:
Here's the paper in St. Paul after the redesign:
Here's the paper, purchased in Golden Valley:
We await reports from Wisconsin.
(Hat tip: Sara Meyer, MPR's Midday producer)
Posted at 2:08 PM on February 27, 2008
by Bob Collins
A reader -- Lee -- writes about the transportation bill:
Why is the press covering this as only a "Tax Increase" story? Why isn't MPR/Local Papers/etc talking about the bill as a complete package? We need a bit more of the fair and balanced news (sorry I couldn't resist). We need a story about the details of what it does and why its really a GOOD thing. Oddly I couldn't find a single story on MPR website detailing the bill." (Read more)
Lee is right about it being a tax increase story. That's the way most media has played it. I notice today that that's the way the Star Tribune played it with a breakdown of how much it's going to cost you (or not), and a look at the MPR coverage of the political process shows a focus on the politics with a side of dueling political philosophies, mostly.
That's not necessarily a sin. Why? Because we know the numbers -- it's a revenue bill afterall -- we just don't know the specifics until whoever is in charge gets around to spending the money.
And so we're left with terms like "highway maintenance," in stories. That's encouraging, certainly, because who among us wants to fall into a pothole on the way home today? But what does a term like that actually mean? Does it mean a bridge won't fall down or an extra lane will be added? And if so, when? And where?
The bill provides $41 million for infrastructure operations and maintenance. What does that mean to you and me? The bill doesn't say. It includes $34 million for "infrastructure investment support," but what does that mean? Part of it -- $200,000 -- is for the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs to participate in the U.S. Department of Transportation Urban Partnership program.
We know it appropriates $125 million over the next two years to put up the new I-35W bridge. When they were debating this bill last year, the bridge hadn't fallen yet, so $125 million gets us back -- maybe -- to where we were a year ago.
The Met Council gets $400,000, the Department of Administration gets $18 million and the Department of Finance gets almost $1.9 million, but that doesn't mean I'll be able to get a bus out of Woodbury (a city of 60,000) to St. Paul by 9:20 in the morning. The graphic above tells me that's not possible.
$40 million is earmarked for the construction of interchanges that promote economic development and, presumably, jobs. Does that mean getting another SuperAmerica in town? Or a high-tech company with lots of jobs? We don't know. Nobody does.
We do know there'll be a toll lane on I-35W from Minneapolis south. I guess we can thank former Rep. Mark Kennedy for that. He's the guy who pushed toll lanes. If the gas tax is the difference between people keeping or losing their homes -- as some of the rhetoric suggests -- what are the odds of folks paying to drive in the toll lane?
Chaska, Rochester Maple Grove, and Mankato will get new garages for MnDOT trucks, and we know there's $50 million for local bridge replacement and rehabilitation. $50 million? Will that make a big difference across the state? The new I-35W bridge will cost $195 million.
$18 million is going to pay to fix up the exterior of the State Transportation Building. Will that mean anything to the state's transportation problems? Not unless there's a danger of a wall collapsing and closing the I-94 on-ramp.
And that's pretty much the bill in terms of the "what for" part -- 14 pages of the 40 page bill; the rest is mostly how the state will get the money and general ideas of how it will be used. It will create a "strategic management and operations advisory task force" to help decide such things.
So that's why it's difficult to say precisely what the net good will be. That's not to say there won't be some net good, but until the people we're supposed to trust start spending it -- and really until we even know who those people are -- it's mostly guesswork.
Wake me when the bus from Woodbury pulls in.
Posted at 4:34 PM on February 27, 2008
by Bob Collins
A fascinating story with a final quote that will make your chuckle turn into an outright guffaw.
It all started when a casino employee near Iowa City got rewarded for his good service with a free stay in the resort's hotel. Things were going well until he started pestering the hotel staff for hookers. (More)
(Hat tip: Nikki Tundel)
MPR's Than Tibbetts has helped News Cut out by putting the state's current gasoline price picture into some perspective. In the aftermath of the gas tax bill veto override, a few gas station owners -- mostly in border communities -- wondered whether they'd lose customers to the competition in the nearby states.
We wondered, too. And now we're wondering why they're wondering.
With few exceptions (one county in Iowa), the average price of gasoline in every Minnesota border county is less than the average price in the county across the border. In a few of those cross-border counties, you can actually see where the price of the "other state's" gas has been lowered slightly, presumably to stay as low (comparatively speaking, of course) as the Minnesota stations.
Than added the full 2008 gas tax increase -- 5 cents -- and found that there still is no competitive disadvantage for the Minnesota gas stations, even assuming the other states' stations don't raise their prices. The maps appear to support the conclusion that prices are slightly lower in other states, only along the Minnesota border, because Minnesota's prices are lower in general.
As I pointed out this morning, the verbal opposition to the gas tax seems more pointed in the Twin Cities than "outstate." Oddly, the Twin Cities have much cheaper gasoline prices than greater Minnesota does.