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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Tom Dennis of the Grand Forks Herald
February 12, 2016

Minnesota’s status as a "state that works" is less secure
than in 1970s, yet is still somewhat intact


Minnesota has undergone some discouraging trends since the 1973 cover story in TIME magazine declared Minnesota a "state that works," according to Tom Dennis of the Grand Forks Herald. He points to a 1996 New York Times story branding Minneapolis as "Murderapolis," to the budget turmoil and special partisanship in the 2000s and to a 2004 report by the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School that concluded Minnesotans believe government is wasteful and public programs are not well run.

But Dennis is cautiously optimistic. He believes discouraging trends are subject to change. He calls Minnesota "a resilient place," where partisanship is moderating and where reassuring signs show that "all is not lost." He asserts that while Minnesota's status as a "state that works" is strained and not as secure as it once was, it's still somewhat intact. He says one of the state's great assets is the range of civic institutions struggling to resolve its problems. Also, government in Minnesota and North Dakota remains unusually responsive to public interest and public pressure.

Dennis contends that his newspaper's editorial page and its news pages continue to play a role in promoting public awareness and debate of issues before final decisions are made. The special projects the paper does that include deep reporting on an issue bring public attention and get policymakers moving. But the newspaper industry worries about the lack of young readers and is struggling with how to make money in the digital arena. 

For the complete interview summary see: Dennis interview

Individual Responses:

Chuck Slocum
A worthy interview with Tom Dennis, a most interesting source as Editorial Editor of the Grand Forks Herald. I used to conduct editorial background briefings there myself on various policy issues. A respected and influential newspaper.

Tom Spitznagle
Traditional news sources can offer their objective opinions on important issues up to a point. First of all, it costs a lot to thoroughly analyze issues. Second, as businesses, they have to be careful not to alienate their customers. In contrast, many of the hundreds of electronic news sources can say pretty much whatever they want to – often tailoring their "journalism" to fit their audience. Citizens can easily access these sources for free. Many are funded by outside contributors, unlike newspapers. This diversity of news sources likely drives a greater diversity of opinions on issues. This might be a factor in making it more difficult to achieve public consensus on issues.

Sheldon Clay
Interesting to read the perspective of Mr. Dennis just after the Minnesota caucus. The fact that Minnesota handed Donald Trump his only 3rd place suggests we're still feeling better about our prospects than most other states.


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The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (Executive Director), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz (Chair), Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman




The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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