September 2011 community news roundup: Linkbait vs. old news


Reading news online is often accompanied by linkbait from news organizations—those easy-skim two paragraph non-stories designed to appeal to your human curiosity like Ten Best Yoga Positions for When Your Age Is a Prime Number or Where to Console Yourself If Your Turtle Broke Free of Its Aquarium. I would click on both of those stories, but I’d regret it immediately: despite a novel headline, linkbait’s content doesn’t tell me anything new about the world.

There’s also linkbait that counts as actual news, which this week stems from any triviality related to the Minnesota Vikings or a Republican presidential candidate, or news of the weird, or domestic abuse cases, which occupy a disturbingly large percentage of both local daily papers. I tend to ignore these sorts of linkbait, except for this picture of a drunk moose and these glow-in-the-dark cats. Made you click, if you hadn’t seen it all already.

After seven months of Community News Roundups, I learned that Community News is the opposite of linkbait, even if you’re a huge news junkie. Gleaning over 40 papers for this roundup gets tiring on occasion, and even with lots of practiced community news judgment—the learned editorial process of sorting out what news is “important” and should be included for publication—certain same-old same-olds get pushed under the rug.

One story I have tended to ignore, especially after this year of shutdowns and debt ceilings, is anything related to government budget issues. We know, now, that there is not enough money to make it do the things that we want to do. And unless there are any city government enthusiasts who are really clamoring for me to crunch some numbers in the Community News Roundup, it’ll continue to be a story I ignore, often because I feel useless reporting on it and those numbers will mean very little to me until I make an effort to understand them, year after year.

Other stories cannot be ignored, even though I remember them repeating since I was a child. There will always be natural and world disasters, and there has been a string of them recently, but the current famine in Somalia demands attention, especially since (as you know), the Twin Cities’ culture and population is deeply intertwined with East Africa’s. Insight News reports on “The Somalia Agenda,” quoting Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.): “There has been an international neglect of, and reluctance to act, in Somalia… So many of our neighbors, friends, and coworkers hail from the Horn of Africa. In our hyphenated America, built by immigrants from around the world, we can have our feet rooted here but still extend a helping hand to others around the world.”

On August 27 more than 200 Minnesotans—mostly Somali American youth—walked six miles to the State Capitol to raise awareness of the increasingly dire situation in East Africa. In the past few months, Said Sheik-Abdi has been organizing fundraisers with the Somali diaspora community in Minnesota. Tonight (September 15) the Twin Cities Daily Planet’s inimitable Ifrah Jimale, along with the American Refugee Committee, is hosting a benefit at Safari restaurant in Minneapolis. If you can’t donate or attend, then maybe spend some time being consciously aware of the impact of Somali Americans and East Africans in Minnesota. Figure out a way to write about issues like famine without throwing guilt trips. Talk about it in some capacity besides “I can’t help every world crisis that comes my way.” Google it. Discuss it with one of your Somali American neighbors. Among all of the other things in the past week that we have been told never to forget, don’t forget the 12 million people in need in the Horn of Africa.

There are also struggles to keep everyone fed here in Minnesota: in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, Dwight Hobbes reports on the struggles of Jericho Road Ministries, a start-up food shelf with not-so-stringent guidelines and its own set of challenges. Hobbes reports, “[Jericho Road Director Jeff] Noyed notes that a significant amount of help is given to those who, before the recession, lived comfortably enough that going to a food shelf would’ve been the last thing on their minds; now it’s a factor when they make out their budget at the first of the month.”

In Southside Pride, Ed Felien writes of Justin Jackson and the circumstances that led to his death on 37th and Chicago, responding to the sentiments of his local community forum. Felien writes, “Justin Jackson and his gang have contributed mightily to the fear factor in South Minneapolis, and his death gives some small measure of relief from that fear,” but emphasizes that the circumstances of Jackson’s death are preventable and that “we are all Justin Jackson.”

Asian American Press, along with this month’s Minneapolis-St. Paul magazine, focuses on victims of human trafficking and the organizations that aid them, like the Civil Society. (The MSP mag article is, sadly, not available online.) Sex trafficking still a huge issue in the Twin Cities, despite some faulty data that a certain media outlet won’t let us forget (is there any news issue involving women that doesn’t involve faulty data?). Human trafficking remains a problem for recent immigrants to the United States according the the AAP, as well as for suburban Minnesotan teenagers who were born here according to MSP.

And hey! Racism in media settings is still a problem, too! In two stories in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, Charles Hallman reports that newsroom diversity, especially in management is still sorely lacking. According to a report by the National Association of Black Journalists, two local tv stations, WCCO and KMSP, have never had a person of color in top management. To supplement the missing perspective, Hallman also reports on the undeniable influence of black bloggers on political issues and the upcoming election. “There is no digital divide,” said founder Cheryl Contee, noting the influence of black bloggers on the 2008 election.

But no matter who is influencing political choice, there’s a new method of voting in St. Paul. The Villager reports of the demise of the St. Paul September primary election in favor of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV, or Instant Runoff Voting), in which voters are asked to select top candidates from each party on the November ballot. RCV voting will be in effect for November’s City Council races. Although RCV is in place, it still has its opponents. Chuck Repke, chair of the No Bad Ballots campaign, argues, “As to improving the political discourse, that myth should go away soon… All three of the contested RCV races appear to be going ugly quickly.” Have an opinion on how to make elections better and eliminate hasty recounts? Be the first to start a true argument in Twin Cities Runoff’s comments. (We’d be tickled if our first in-depth comment fight were about, well, Runoff.)

But that’s all old news, right? Those are the things that keep happening over and over again, and they show up in the papers repeatedly to feel almost bothersome when one is writing or reading a Community News Roundup. That news is no fun! To accompany the no-fun news, here is Community News Roundup’s version of linkbait (but all of these stories are actually substantive and fun to read):

And finally… the Central Corridor is now 20 percent completed, according to the Midway Monitor.