Feedback, as you might imagine, is not in short supply in our business.
We hear from you in many forms over many hours of every day, via e-mail and voice mail (my favorite coming at 2 a.m.); by handwritten letters and letters to the editor.
Some of you call me to complain about your newspaper delivery. Thank you for your business.
Yet too rarely do we talk with our readers in a most underrated way — face-to-face — which is why a recent trip to Duluth was so eye-opening and affirming.
I had the pleasure to take part in one of the Star Tribune’s “Dateline Minnesota” live journalism events, which we have held around the state to celebrate our 150th anniversary. I joined Editor Rene Sanchez, editorial writer Lori Sturdevant, Duluth News Tribune Editor Rick Lubbers and the News Tribune’s editorial page editor, Chuck Frederick, at the gorgeous Greysolon Ballroom.
We were expertly guided through an hourlong discussion by Star Tribune columnist John Rash.
Topics touched on mining and water quality, diversity and job creation, essential fodder as we debate and define the Minnesota we want for ourselves and our children.
But not surprising in these jittery and divisive times, politics and policy quickly turned personal when audience members were offered the microphone.
They worry about how siloed we all have become, how we struggle mightily to talk to those with opposing viewpoints, even under the same roof.
They were perplexed by “fake news.” One audience member asked why we don’t call it, simply, “propaganda.”
Another inquired as to our policy on social media use for our own reporters.
A woman in her 70s said she was “heartbroken” by recent news events, having lived for a time in Charlottesville, Va. What, she poignantly asked, were we in the media going to do to heal the deep wounds of recent days and reground our country in unity?
We are only human, but I hope we offered some helpful perspective and, perhaps, some comfort.
We all need to listen more, be quicker to ask questions and slower to judge. The letters-to-the-editor pages of the Star Tribune and News Tribune offer an excellent opportunity to practice, with a variety of thoughtful viewpoints, signed by writers who understand the importance of attaching one’s name to one’s views.
(You have our permission to ignore anonymous comments.)
Fake news? We, too, are perplexed by it, offended at the very implication. Ethics, integrity, fairness and facts are the cornerstones of journalism. That means reporters are strongly advised to keep their opinions off public social media sites.
And we, too, feel the stresses and strains of the current political climate, particularly now with attacks directed squarely at the press. But we’re not going anywhere.
Again, thank you for your business.
We all, panelists and audience members, enjoyed this rare opportunity for respectful dialogue in Duluth. Although the Dateline events are over, you have another face-to-face opportunity, with cheese curds to boot.
Many of us are eager to welcome you at the Star Tribune’s updated booth at the Great Minnesota Get-Together.
If you happen to be at the State Fair at 3 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1, please come by and say hello to me. I’ll be hosting a little event and would really enjoy shaking your hand.
We are so much better when we see each other.