MPR called another meeting in Frogtown, and not too many people showed up. The meeting was part of MPR’s effort to become more involved in the Frogtown neighborhood and identify the “informational needs” of its residents. Public Insight Journalist Melody Ng along with three other reporters from Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) called the meeting at the Rondo Community Library on October 25.
The discussion, which included fewer than ten Frogtown residents, focused primarily on what MPR can to do become a source of information that would benefit the community’s high percentage of youth.
A large concern voiced in the past and also at this meeting was whether or not MPR’s efforts were actually benefiting the neighborhood. For example, this last June, Michael Caputo of MPR posted a forum on MPR’s website called “Focus on Frogtown,” focusing on community needs in light of the multiple foreclosures that have plagued the neighborhood. Caputo states, “Quite simply, we want to deepen our understanding of Frogtown,” but for some community members, MPR’s approach to community involvement is less than effective.
Frogtown Neighborhood Association’s director Tait Danielson Castillo posted on the forum, “I think MPR needs to talk to some actual residents from the neighborhood … A Star Tribune Reporter visits the neighborhood weekly. I never see MPR … Do more than chat online. Come out to the Neighborhood.”
Similar thoughts are apparent in a comment from community member Boa Lee: “Stop focusing on the number of stories you tell as proof you’re involved; instead, just get to know the area. Have lunch here simply because you want to — not because you are doing a story or want to seem engaged.”
Dora Jones, a long-time resident of Frogtown, voiced her concerns about MPR’s level of commitment to its new focus on the neighborhood at the October meeting. “Accountability is real important to me,” said Jones, “and I just think that all of us need to be accountable for our actions. Every embassy, every entity, and that means holding MPR accountable for what they say they’re going to do for this neighborhood.”
Aside from the fact that there was no representation at the meeting from Frogtown’s Hmong community, other doubts were raised about MPR’s approach to engaging in the community. (According to a Wilder Foundation report, the Thomas Dale (Frogtown) area’s Asian population grew from 27% in 1990 to 38% in 2000.)
“You can’t just call a meeting and expect people to show up thinking that they are able to make a difference,” said Danielson Castillo. “People in poverty already have this feeling of disenfranchisement. Thinking that you can come to a meeting and change things is a very affluent way of thinking.”
In response to a question raised by a resident asking how public radio goes hand in hand with community development in Frogtown, Ng said, “We’re interested in being involved in the community that we cover and we want to know what stories are going on where you live.” Ng said she did a lot of door knocking in the area, asking parents what sorts of informational needs that they have about how to help their children succeed. “It’s kind of an experiment on my part just so we can explore some of the things that we can do together.”