History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Monday, May 7, 2012

Let's say "hurrah!" for Senior Perspective

(Image source: Mark Perry)
  
The retreat of the print media appears to have a notable local exception. No, it's not the Morris newspaper, which based on circulation and press run numbers appears to be following the decline predictably.
It's Senior Perspective. Although I can't say firmly, a source tells me it's growing. I personally don't read it that much but that doesn't mean it isn't outstanding. You can sense a connection with this paper just by flipping through a few pages.
So what explains the apparent vitality? The large type size is most welcome. The human interest and feature-oriented material is a huge plus. There's generous advertising but this aspect doesn't appear to be the be-all and end-all.
Stop and think: There's a big difference between this paper and the local community papers. There's no sports section! This is a distinction worth some special analysis.
First we need to point out we appreciate all the sports programs offered to our young people. The issue is whether we need to be inundated with all the fine details from games week to week. I know there are people who complain about this.
You shouldn't be surprised to know sports can be a lightning rod for emotions from a certain segment of the readers. Fine, if it's worth the trouble. The question is whether it's worth the trouble. Can we all just appreciate our local sports programs without the media having to do cartwheels over it?
Perhaps people expect the town paper to have a sports section because the big metro papers have one. But the appeal is different. The big-time teams covered in the metro media have broad interest. The "man on the street" can tell you some of the details of recent pro or NCAA Division I competition. Well, let's just say many people can.
The people who aren't interested in sports don't make as much noise as the people who are. The big-time pro teams mesmerize us which is why they can demand new stadiums. This routine can seem downright obscene, but around and around it goes.
Even given the metro dailies' commitment, I should note that a very common suggestion made toward the New York Times, in order for it to deal with the print media retreat, is to eliminate sports. Why? One basis might be that the interest is more limited than we think. Another is that sports is so readily accessible through the new media. Of course, you could argue "what isn't readily accessible through the new media?"
It seems sports is especially well packaged and organized online. The New York Times could cut expenses and keep much or all of its appeal, the argument goes, by nixing sports.
Senior Perspective is a wonderful example of how a publication can apparently thrive sports-free.
I remember when the Morris newspaper did a readership survey in the late 1980s. An oft-heard criticism was "too much sports." The survey company, seeking to guide us on this, said "be careful about this (sports). The interest is limited."
Bullseye. The interest is limited. Rabid but limited. Sports coverage can be like a drug, impossible to cut off once it's established. Once you commit to covering a particular team, it seems you're automatically committed to reporting a certain set of details from every game that team plays, " 'til hell won't have it," as my old late colleague Ron Lindquist would say. 
But why not have a nice condensed update every two weeks or so, especially for teams that seem lower priority? You risk incurring the wrath of people. Wouldn't it have been better to not start covering the team at all? One ends up asking this question.
The publisher of the Morris newspaper in the 1980s (J.M.) had an interpretation of the sports "problem." Sports is highly structured, he wrote, thus it lends itself to published summaries. There are game "boxscores" and quarter-by-quarter reviews. Scoring plays can be described, and rallies and comebacks.
Schools offer many other enriching programs for kids but these don't lend themselves to the same sort of attention. I suppose we could report that a second-chair trumpet player in band got promoted to first. But it would seem stupid. We cover band by announcing concerts and taking a photo of concerts here and there. Theater gets coverage when there's a special event coming up. It's intermittent.
Contrast that to the blizzard of attention commanded by sports, with very few breaks.
Locally there is no need for the print media to cover UMM sports. That's because the UMM website has taken over as a thoroughly reliable outlet for appreciating the Cougars. The summaries and photos are timely and generous. You can click on "schedule." You can click on "roster," and "coaches." It's all there.
Online is a godsend for sports coverage because these rather narrow audiences can be accommodated perfectly. No trees are cut down.
The Morris newspaper only comes out once a week. This creates huge timeliness issues. The newspaper has a website but newspapers don't feel the same incentive for developing websites as an institution like UMM. That incentive would only come if advertisers started beating down doors to get their ads on them. Newspapers are total business organisms.
UMM by contrast simply wants to reach its constituencies. It's a PR motive.
Finding as many as five pages of sports in the newspaper seems ridiculous. The UMM material is redundant. It also has limited interest because most players aren't from this area. We respect these teams but we aren't interested in consuming the myriad details.
High school sports? A retired high school principal told me once that the only people who read the sports are parents who'll count how many times "Jenny's" name appears compared to "Susie's."
Sports should be acknowledged. I don't think anyone would complain if about a third of a page were set aside for scores and schedule information. With the scores, of course, a lot of this info would be old. Tiger football can't be covered in the Morris print media until eight days after the game. Considering we have this wonderful new asset called Big Cat Stadium, I think that's kind of a shame.
No one would object to the "basics" of local high school sports getting into the paper they buy. Outside of that, though, I think the town papers would be well advised following the example of Senior Perspective. No more tail wagging the dog.
Be enterprising. Get out there and seek more human interest feature material, and enlarge the type size please. We have an aging population. I use reading glasses all the time. The tiny type size in much of the West Central Tribune (Willmar) sports section is inexcusable. What a mess. Many people who acquire that paper are probably interested in only one team. But the coverage of that team gets compressed amidst a sea of dizzying sports.
As an aside, I could also point out many errors and discrepancies can be found there. Maybe you can chalk that up to sausage-making. But that's not our (the readers') problem.
Fans of a given team ought to be able to go online and get coverage and enrichment in a reasonably reliable way. I have waited patiently for this to develop. It takes time for people's habits to change. The means existed five or six years ago. Someday we'll wonder why we didn't tap into the universe of the Internet sooner.
Let's congratulate Senior Perspective for doing what any business strives for: giving people what they want and enjoy. This does not include a blizzard of weekly sports details, much as we may feel these programs are wonderful.
Indeed, hats off to Senior Perspective. I congratulate Jennifer Bergerson, who has found very rewarding employment there. A salute too to John Stone, with whom I feel kindred because we have the same kind of birth mark.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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