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Is Blue Earth a healthy city?

September 21, 2009 - Chuck Hunt
The Register's general manager, Lori Nauman, and I went to the third - and final - installment of a Publisher and Editor Leadership Conference last week. The conference was three days long in March, and included another two days in June, and two days in September. Sponsored by the Blandin Foundation, the sessions cover a wealth of material. Some of it is action packed, some is more abstract thought. All of it is geared to make newspaper executives better community leaders. I have always been pretty active in every community I have lived. Maybe too active sometimes. But if I learned one thing from this conference it was that the newspaper itself needs to be a leader, not just the staff as individuals. Newspapers are an integral part of a healthy community. Just look at the rare cases when there isn't a newspaper in a town. Often the community will work hard to get one started. The conference leaders spent a lot of time showing us the eight areas that make up a healthy community. They also pointed out what a news organization can focus on to build towards certain community goals. Not talked about at the conference was making a healthy newspaper. Unless a newspaper is 'financially healthy,' it won't be around long to help out the community it serves. With the recent trends in the newspaper industry - specifically the internet and electronic delivery of news - it is a huge topic among newspapers across the country. In fact, just as the conference in Minnesota was being held last week, another one was going on in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This one included newspaper people from seven states dicussing the future of newspapers, and how to make the internet work for papers, instead of against them. I talked to one person who attended the Iowa conference, and his summation of the two days was that "No one has any idea what to do." There was plenty of talk, he said, but no clear cut vision of what newspapers should do to cement their future in the new electronic world. Hopefully someday soon the newspapers will formulate an action plan. I shudder to think of a world without newspapers, where citizens only get their news from Entertainment Tonight, People magazine, and citizen bloggers.

 
 

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