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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Jon McTaggart, President and CEO, Minnesota Public Radio

May 13, 2016

Prescription for todayís media: invest less energy in diagnosing problems, more in probing solutions


Media are spending 80 to 90 percent of their time debating the diagnosis of problems, according to Jon McTaggart, CEO of Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). When so much media energy is invested in diagnosis, it overwhelms prescriptions for solutions. Not enough time, he says, is spent really probing what someone is prescribing. He challenges MPR to look beyond the diagnostic debate and to probe whether suggested solutions are good in the long term.

He lists four pillars to MPR's mission: (1) Enrich the mind; (2) Nourish the spirit; (3) Expand perspectives; and (4) Strengthen communities. MPR is committed to an informed democracy. McTaggart believes that when communities are informed and inspired, they will be motivated to seek solutions that will be good for all of us. He says those solutions are more elusive today than in the past.

McTaggart asserts that informing the public is not as simple today as it used to be. Headlines are outrageous, we speak in sound bites, the news cycle has shrunk to seconds and news is delivered in tweets. Digital media allows us to get news only from people we agree with. He believes those developments are not good for a democracy. He argues that MPR is a trusted convener of important conversations among neighbors, community members and citizens of the state and of the country. The station wants to inject civility and mutual respect to inspire solutions, but is not advocating for a particular outcome. 

For the complete interview summary see: link to interview

Individual Responses:

Wayne Jennings -
MN Public Radio is a treasure for us and itís high minded practices make sense except for the incessant fund raising campaigns. Those, Iíve felt, could be reduced by lowering salaries of executives. When I saw the salaries a few years ago, I was shocked. I realize talent costs money, but for example, school superintendents get max of $200,000 despite tough jobs in the public.

McTaggartís generalities would be helped by examples. What does audience diagnosis mean in contrast to prescription?  Or curious vs. academic.

His emphasis on the arts and music are appreciated.

All in all a helpful explanation of MPR and its partner ventures.

Dale Schmid -
A good interview of someone who knows a lot about interviews.

I was interested in the idea of attracting curious people to the audience rather than just educated people.

I guessed (maybe wrongly) those were code words for "lower income" and "affluent."  I think MPR will encounter different sets of interests and values.  Hybrids of all types often involve functional compromise.

Dennis Carlson -
If I was limited to one radio station to receive all my news it would be MPR. They have done just a stellar job in Minnesota and particularly within the field of education.  I find their mission pillars to be the reason for their success and agree that it is their driving force.  To present to us Minnesotans, programming - that enriches the mind, nourishes the spirit and helps us appreciate art, expands perspectives and the understanding of issues, and strengthens communities - it is not only a noble effort but significantly raises our quality of life. 

In contrast, I see others in the media offering - muckraking as a consistent public offering, deliberately destroying the spirit (while ignoring art and its beauty), and presents a narrowing of the perspectives (to serve a listening base that is hell bent on pursuing hate and bigotry).   They seem unconcerned about issues and their depth, and could care less about community - they serve one master - market share, commercial success, and ultimately financial greed.

Thank goodness for MPR and Jon McTaggart!!  They are a trusted news source when few others exist.  Thank you for raising our quality of life in Minnesota and serving us so well for so many years.

Nikolay Bey -
How is it media's issue, when it's developers who lack the knowledge of developing energy? Media is in it for a buck, and ratings, not just looking cute, yet some how, developers who claim they got solutions for energy, get money from the State, can't develop it, and we're back to ground nothing. Then when developers do find something, they have to drill it, and drilling could be in an area where perhaps, if not wild life is, just to make a quick buck. So, what's there to talk about? People are not smart who are developers, have half working ideas, and my point is, where are the smart engineers who are able to do something, and yes engineers are as same to me as developers. So where are they, their the people who can come up with solutions best to invest in... I think I know why they're not coming out to play, you see, B.P. gas, as an example, got a lobby person, they want to make sure their still in business, would a lobby person purchase me out, no, but that does not mean I would turn them away, I would tell them, bring me an idea, I'll Shell it, instead of Government money, we can use public money, if your that dang good that is.? Makes sense?

I think this is why education is very important, and we should have it best as possible, Universities should have the ability to test you, to your limit, and see how smart you are?

Until then, sure media, have at it, it's good for your ratings, you won't get much out of it, other than discussion, and that's all we ever had was talks, their boring, and annoying.

If we are to be happy, we should have less talk, more action, and this way, we can accomplish allot in life... Chatting is for personal manner, over cold beer, if you're a beer drinker, or soda if you're not a beer drinker. maybe lemonade?


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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




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