Posts Tagged ‘The Current’

The Twin Cities’ spirit

Garrison Keillor’s quote, “Be well, do good work and keep in touch,” provides a lesson for journalists. (Photo: Trishhhh/Flickr)

It’s a somewhat overcast afternoon as I look out of the window in the small office of my apartment in Minneapolis, where I’m ending my first full week as a Minnesotan. In the distance is the city skyline, a view that echoes the apartment in Seattle where the fictitious psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane lived.

A week or so ago, I made the over 400 mile move from Chicago to the Twin Cities for greener pastures. I was operating on caffeine and adrenaline, and I still am a week later.

Yet, as I write this, I recall the quote from the famous broadcaster and writer Garrison Keillor, which he uses for his Writer’s Almanac broadcasts on Minnesota Public Radio: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

I had been to Minneapolis twice before in the past few years, and then I didn’t really appreciate the impact of Keillor’s philosophy. In the almost two weeks since I became a Minnesotan, I’ve come to value it and more.

We live in an age where the web has expanded everything that we do, where journalism and storytelling is being enhanced in the realms of Twitter, Facebook and the web. While there have been positive benefits, there also remain questions, especially for those looking to have a successful career in journalism and media.

While we ask ourselves about our role, and how we can truly make a difference, we can take inspiration from those around us. That inspiration can come from reporters trying to make sense of events for the web, print or broadcast, in order to allow us to learn from crafts and the role stories can have.

Inspiration can also come outside of conventional journalism, including from the effervescent spirit of DJs and personalities at MPR’s The Current, who are always eager to share with you something you’ve never heard before.

In St. Paul, on the top floor of MPR’s headquarters, there is a view outside to the east overlooking the state Capitol building – a majestic, poignant reminder of the role journalists have to hold power to account, to promote the exchange of ideas and civil discourse, and to, as SPJ’s Code of Ethics puts it – seek truth and report it. It also is a photographic recollection of the reminder from Fred Rogers that life is for service.

While there are questions that remain to be answered, I simultaneously know that there are people in the Twin Cities, be it at MPR, my colleagues at SPJ’s Minnesota chapter, and elsewhere, whose work and ideas are paramount to helping us understand ourselves. Indeed, the value of the work they do in helping their friends, family, neighbors and the place they call home be at their best is something they don’t take for granted.

They instill in us the desire to learn, day in and day out. I hope, along the way, that I can learn from them.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Twitter, authenticity and the audience

The record in the background is one with a driving rock, sort of punk sound, with vocal elements that echoes a sound nearly similar to that of the British rapper The Streets. Not too far away, a visual recording is taking place.

“Today, we’re kinda channeling a little carbon silicon – a little big audio dynamite.”

That is how Jade, who presents the weekday 10am-2pm CT program on 89.3 The Current, the music service of Minnesota Public Radio, begins to discuss one of their songs of the day this past week – TCR by the band Sleaford Mods. She was speaking to listeners and her followers on Twitter through a one minute video clip, microphone off as the record played on air.

Jade talks about the storytelling elements in this record, and though it may sound like its all about racing remote control cars, they use that to discuss the neighborhood they live in, as an element to tell that story.

After it is recorded, the clip is then tweeted by Jade, going out to listeners and music fans near and far.

Video has become an essential component into telling stories on Twitter, and to help journalists engage with audiences. Yet, it is not purely for storytelling, and can be used in a unique way to complement content, on-air or online.

Jade of Minnesota Public Radio’s 89.3 The Current says a humanistic approach can be helpful for journalists engaging with audiences. (Photo: Jay Gabler/MPR)

Song of The Day had been a regular web feature for The Current, based at MPR’s headquarters in St. Paul, for a number of years. Jade began doing the videos regularly 6 months ago. She said that listeners were keen for the deeper connection that had been emphasized since its launch 12 years ago.

“Radio isn’t about the tone of voice anymore,” Jade said in a telephone interview. “There is another way people want to communicate.”

Brett Baldwin, the managing digital producer for music services at MPR, which encompasses The Current and its classical service, Classical MPR, said in a telephone interview that they had always been looking for ways to provide something tangible — something that audiences can engage with. Baldwin noted that half of the social media audience was not based in Minnesota, so the Song of the Day clips were a natural thing in terms of that engagement.

Jade said that there wanted to be an emphasis on interacting in a personal way – similar to a friend. She says it provided a more human experience.

“I’m the one most excited about video,” Jade said. “I try (and our digital team tries) to push it. Its an easy way to interact with our audience on a deeper level.”

In spite of The Current being a music station, there are takeaways for journalists, including the humanistic approach that Jade emphasizes in the videos. That comes from making something short and understandable and convey feelings.

Baldwin says that a humanistic approach can translate to better engagement with audiences.

“At the end of the day we get a deepened relationship with the audience,” Baldwin said.

Yet, The Current is also cautious when it comes to reporting key music stories. That came into play when the news came of the passing of Prince at his studios at Paisley Park in suburban Chanhassen. The station was cautious before running with anything, stating what they knew at the time.

Jade was on the air as the news was confirmed, as Andrea Swensson (who blogs for The Current and presents The Local Current show) was reporting from the estate. The station would then play Prince tracks non-stop for 26 hours to coincide with tributes being done across the Twin Cities.

Jade adds that as The Current was a part of Minnesota Public Radio, they could go back and forth with colleagues at MPR News when it came to broader coverage of the event.

In the end, however, The Current wants to emphasize authenticity. Jade says that if the videos were just about getting clicks, they wouldn’t be as well received.

“It’s about authenticity,” Jade said. “That’s what we try to aim for.”

After all, Baldwin says, authenticity is quintessential in keeping the audience relationship intact.

“Audiences are vital, “Baldwin said, adding that though platforms will change, The Current wants that audience relationship to be real, and to be about the music and its stories. “If they’re not here, we’re not here.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. He also is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.



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