I wasn't even sure this was news Thursday when I heard Tony Carideo announce it at the Minnesota Newspaper Association convention in Bloomington. (I'm not sure it is news, by the way...more on that in a second.) There was no reaction from the hundreds of journalists at the luncheon, no chatter about it afterward.
I'm guessing half the people in the room (many of them young reporters and editors) were barely aware of the Minnesota News Council, and the other half were like me -- they assumed the council had been kaput for months, if not a few years.
That, all by itself, is a tragic commentary on what had been an important institution in Minnesota -- nationally, in fact -- for 41 years. For most of those years, the News Council claimed to be the only organization of its kind in the nation, offering a process for complaints about media to be addressed and resolved.
Its mission was to "promote fair, vigorous and trusted journalism by creating a forum where the public and the news media can engage each other in examining standards of fairness." This only worked because news organizations in the state bought into it, helped underwrite the process and promoted it.
The Post-Bulletin was a long-time contributor to the council. I was a board member for three or four years and learned a ton from the process, as I'm sure all who participated did.
So what happened?
The official line is that complaints had dried up:
Carideo said that one reason why complaints have fallen is that people who disagree with news coverage now have almost instant recourse on the Internet through comment sections on stories, e-mail and Twitter.
Well, if that were true, I would assume people are more satisfied with the fairness, accuracy and ethics of news media than ever before. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure they're not. They're more concerned than ever about the quality of the news they get, whether online, in print or broadcast.
The news council didn't run out of gas for lack of a rationale or mission. Its value has never been greater.
There's more to be reported on this, and I might put some time into it next week. If the problem was financial, it's funny that the council has a $270,000 endowment to turn over to MNA or whoever.
As I mentioned earlier, I also need to check out whether Carideo's announcement was truly news or if it had been reported previously in some fashion. It was a weird, offhand way to announce the demise of a major institution to which a lot of people, including many in the audience, had invested time and money.
You won't find the news on the council's website, by the way. The most recent post is from June 23, which speaks volumes.