According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the suburbs are so 2001. Several counties in Minnesota, mostly in the metro area, used to be among the fastest growing in the country. Not anymore. Figures released today show suburban counties are still growing faster than the rest of the state, but not at the breakneck speed of yesteryear.
Meanwhile, in a study that got less attention this week, it turns out that Minnesotans aren't dying at the rate they did earlier this decade, either.
The city slicker will conclude that this means that moving to the suburbs can kill you, but the two studies aren't related.
According to the State Demographic Center, the Minnesota death rate has dropped 11 percent from 2001, with the largest rate declining coming in people 65 and over.(9 Comments)
Media analyst David Brauer has a fascinating article at MinnPost about media policies in printing or broadcasting the name of suspects who have not been officially charged with a crime. The issue is too important for you to settle for my paraphrasing, so please be sure to read the post. Essentially, in the really-short-shelf-life news era of the Internet, competitive rationale is responsible for an apparent increase in naming the names of suspects in cases where the suspect has not yet been charged.
Brauer cites the policies of WCCO as an example. And he includes the policies outlined by the MPR news director, Bill Wareham.
Overall, stations and newspapers say they are reluctant to name suspects until they are charged out of a sense of "fairness." The theory is once they're charged, their names become fair game. It's an argument, though, that has some logical flaws. Does being charged make it more likely the suspect "did it?" Does not having enough legal evidence against a suspect mean he (or she) didn't?
Perhaps Brauer is right that competitive juices whipped into a frenzy by the Internet are at work here. But there's another, less interesting, factor.
Here's Scott Libin's response to me in an article on the subject that I wrote in 1999, after some media -- including MPR -- refused to run Donald Blom's name, the then-suspect in the Katie Poirier case.
"What other elements do you omit?" he asks."Do you not explain that he had a home in the area? If you do explain it, but you don't identify him, then don't you cast negative light potentially on everybody on that approximate description who has a home in the area? I don't think it's always the moral high ground to withhold information."
And here's Libin's comments to Brauer in his current article:
"We now start from the premise that reporting truths is our primary obligation, and that we withhold such information only for a good reason."
There's really no detectable shift in position by Libin. The only difference is that Libin worked at Channel 5 when he made his comments to me, and now he's running the WCCO newsroom.
But even back in 1999, the then-news director at WCCO, Ted Canova, made it clear that naming suspects or not naming suspects was not an inviolate policy at his station.
"The big dilemma is if he's not charged. In one way we would look very credible that here's a man that everybody else has named and identified, but the cops didn't have enough to charge him. And we were the only ones to protect his privacy and his reputation. On the other hand, knowing what we know about what he's suspected of doing, the dilemma is: he could be a public threat. If he's a public threat, then we have a dilemma over whether to name him."
Brauer says WCCO staffers, citing longtime cop beat reporter Carolyn Lowe, are a little
upset concerned about the "new" policy. Do they not remember their performance in the Brad Dunlap story? He was never charged in the 1995 disappearance and murder of his wife. But that didn't stop the media, including Lowe, from naming his as a suspect. There's fairness. And then there's juicy news. (Disclaimer: MPR named Dunlap, too.)
And that's the reality in most newsrooms I've found. While there may be a policy, it's a flexible one.
Is it about fairness? Not really. Mostly it's about the media covering its behind in case they do have the wrong guy. If it were about fairness, then everyone would abide by Minnesota News Council boss Gary Gilson who told me in that original article that news organizations shouldn't release a name until the person is found guilty.
And all that idea will get you in a newsroom is a funny look.(5 Comments)
Posted at 9:37 AM on March 20, 2008
by Bob Collins
Following up on the post a few days ago about medical mistakes in Minnesota.
It could be worse, it could be Germany where doctors in Bavaria made a very serious error.
An anonymous (OK, actually they had a clever username, but that doesn't always help me establish the identity) contributor has forwarded a video from neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor via the Web site, TED -- ideas worth spreading.
She woke up one morning and felt all of her functions slipping away one by one. She realized, she says, that when we talk about ourselves as "me," we perhaps should say "we."
If you'd like to read the transcript, find it here.
Keep in mind, it's just one person's experience.(3 Comments)
Posted at 12:55 PM on March 20, 2008
by Bob Collins
If ever we needed a lesson on how competition can benefit consumers, Air Tran and Northwest Airlines flights to Chicago provide a terrific example.
AirTran, the cheap-fare airline, competed with Northwest on flights between Minneapolis St. Paul and Chicago's Midway airport.
Northwest, which has littered the ground with airlines that tried to compete with it in Minnesota, matched the fares AirTran offered.
Consider, for example, a flight booked today for April 1 between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Midway. Northwest is currently charging $114 round trip.
AirTran does not fly to O'Hare airport in Chicago. A flight on the same day as the one above to O'Hare will cost you $384 roundtrip.
O'Hare is 14 miles from Midway.
Today, reports MPR's Marty Moylan, AirTran has announced it will end its Chicago run, owing to high fuel costs and the fact the route isn't performing "as expected."
"That's too bad because I'll tell you what, they are the only guys that are keeping Chicago reasonably priced," said Hobbit Travel Agency owner George Wozniak said. "Once you turn it over all to the legacies, then fares go way up."
Given a choice, Minnesota travelers will choose Northwest Airlines most of the time, despite occasional calls around here for more competition.
Consider, however, a poll question we asked in 1998, when the Northwest pilots went on strike for 15 days:
In the past, smaller airlines from time to time have offered service on some Twin Cities routes that competed with Northwest but then were forced to drop that service when Northwest reduced its fares on the same routes. Do you think it would be a good idea or a bad idea for the federal government to intervene and protect the smaller airlines, allowing them to continue offering service that competes with Northwest?
Sixty percent of the respondents said it was a good idea to have the federal government intervene to provide competition. Yet in the same poll, 79 percent said they were not likely to fly Northwest any less after the strike.
What they were asking the federal government to do, they could have -- more easily and cheaply -- done themselves. That's the funny thing about choice.
It must be tough being a teacher. Over on Gather.com, "Samantha M," a teacher in southern Minnesota, says it is:
Well, it happened again tonight. Today was the last day of school before spring break. At 11:30 pm, my boyfriend and I were both asleep, planning on leaving early tomorrow morning. We heard the huge bang again and went running.
There was a bag full of flaming dog crap on our front step, centimeters away from a rubber mat. Quick thinking, Chris went and grabbed a cup of water to put the flames out. The kid went running and a car took off in the other direction, and I'm sure they met up around the block.
As you'll read in her article, Samantha told her principal about it who says he'll consider it a school matter "if they're arrested."
I've already decided that I will not be teaching here next year. I am moving. And if I happen to find a job teaching somewhere else, fine. But I will be living in an apartment building and I am going to get a car alarm. Nobody should have to put up with this. I have the right to feel safe in my own home.
Kids being kids?
I hope to be talking with Samantha soon and will post it here if/when.(2 Comments)
MnDOT has closed the Highway 23-Division Street bridge after three gusset plates were found bulging.
The bridge is designed along the same vein as the ill-fated I-35W bridge. Shortly after the I-35W bridge collapsed, Gov. Pawlenty ordered bridges in the state inspected. A day later, inspectors looked at the bridge (photo above).
They looked at the cracks on the surface:
And the rust:
And determined that the bridge could stay open.
At a previous inspection in 2005, it was given a sufficiency rating of of 56.3 out of 100. Anything lower than 50 and a bridge is considered to be in need of replacement. After the inspection last August, the bridge rating was pegged at 57.3. The bridge was opened in 1959, eight years before the I-35W bridge.
But in January, the National Transportation Safety Board said the design of the bridges, or more specifically the gusset plates, was inadequate.
On Thursday, Jim Povich, an assistant district engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, told the St. Cloud Times that the gusset plates were found distorted during a recent inspection.
"We decided to err on the side of safety," Povich said.
In the wake of the I-35W bridge collapse, that seems to be exactly what Minnesotans want to hear, and the best way to restore confidence in the embattled agency.