Opinions

Wed
17
Oct
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The Threat of News Deserts & Ghost Newspapers

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

“The fate of communities and local news organizations are intrinsically linked - socially, politically and economically.”

Penelope Muse Abernathy
Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics
University of North Carolina

Just this past week we wrote about the vital role newspapers play in their small rural communities. We certainly didn’t plan on writing about it again this week until we read a deeply disturbing story on a report from the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism by Tom Stites.

In his story titled “About 1,300 U.S. communities have totally lost news coverage,” Stites writes about the unexpected extent of developing news deserts in America and growing threat the loss of newspapers means to our nation.
The UNC study shows that:

Wed
10
Oct
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Informed Communities Are Healthy Communities

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Holding a copy of the Monitor-News up in our office, an incensed MAAC, Inc., President Denny Larson of Montevideo said, “And I had to find out about this in the newspaper!” It probably wasn’t meant as a compliment, but it sure made us smile inside.

What Larson was referring to was a story about his low bid on a demolition project in Appleton not getting the job. We aren’t talking about a small amount of change. Larson’s bid to Swift County was $40,000 less than his competitor’s.

That is potentially $40,000 more in taxpayer money spent on the job. As we explained in our stories on the bidding process, county commissioners cited two reasons for going with T&K Kennedy Excavating, Inc., of Benson. First, it was a local business. Local also means they pay real estate taxes in Swift County. Second, T&K’s bid was more detailed.

Wed
03
Oct
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First Impressions Important To City's Future

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Will Rogers
American humorist, author

A couple times a year the Benson City Council takes a trip around the community to survey areas where work is underway, where work needs to be done, and to plan for the future.

During Monday night’s meeting it traveled out to the Benson Power plant site, now owned by Xcel Energy, to discuss future possibilities and obligations should it pursue an economic development project with Brightmark Energy. The California company is proposing a biogas facility for the site that could, if the project is undertaken and proves successful, see $250 million invested in Benson.

Wed
26
Sep
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Rural Life Gives Poor Kids Better Chance Of Success

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

In hopes of finding good news about rural communities that can help us rebuild the population of small towns and the countryside surrounding them, we are continually searching for headlines such as: “Rural Upbringing Raises Kids’ Future Earnings.” And, “Rural Childhood Contributes to Later Economic Success.”

If through these stories we can build a narrative that makes families think about moving here, maybe we can reverse the unsettling of rural America.

“Rural areas are more likely to have a combination of factors that help poor children succeed in the labor market later in life,” Bill Bishop writes in the Daily Yonder, a website covering rural issues. “Raj Chetty’s massive national study turns conventional wisdom on its head about the best places to grow up.” Chetty is an economist at Stanford University.

Wed
19
Sep
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A Key To Growth: Solving Workforce Housing Needs

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

In communities throughout rural America, one of the primary challenges in attracting people to fill the vacant jobs our industries and businesses are working hard to fill is providing affordable housing. The problem exists with both rental properties and the housing stock for sale.

In meeting this challenge, numerous questions need to be studied and answered.

What is affordable housing? It is a question that will have to look at the cost of renting or buying in relation to what working families are earning.

What do young families want for housing when they come to a community? Do they want to rent, or buy?

What kinds of housing do they find attractive and what turns them off?

Does the city subsidize the construction of a townhome complex so that rents can be lower?

Does it create its own fund for renovating homes that are outdated?

Wed
12
Sep
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Rural America May Nurture Tolerance In Kids

Anyone who watches the news has likely seen coverage in the past year of student protests at one college campus or another in reaction to an invitation extended to a viscerally polarizing speaker.

For the most part, the protests have been by liberals on the campuses outraged by an invite to the likes of Trump presidential campaign architect Steve Bannon, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, or right-wing Fox News commentator Ann Coulter. These protests now extend beyond the campus to other venues where the public gathers.

 What is the cause of such outrage and intolerance toward those whose views are rejected with demonstrations, whose very right to speak is, at times, violently denied?

Wed
05
Sep
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Minnesotans Need Leadership on Climate Change

As we weigh the stands of candidates running for Minnesota governor, we see many issues dividing the electorate: taxes, gun control, health care, school funding, roads and bridges, immigration, and more. Yet we see one issue as meaning more to Minnesota’s future than any other - maybe not so much for each of us who will cast a ballot in November, but for future generations.

Today’s leaders must take a stand on climate change if we are to leave a habitable earth to our children and grandchildren. Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) candidate U.S. Rep. Tim Walz understands that imperative. Republican candidate Hennepin County Board Chair Jeff Johnson doesn’t. Apparently, Johnson’s position is: It doesn’t matter because Minnesota is just too inconsequential to make a difference.

Tue
28
Aug
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Who Will Look Out For Community Newspapers?

When a reporter covers a public body for a long time, he or she begins to know the issues as well as any elected official. Often that reporter will have seen council members, county board members, school board members and hospital governing board members come and go. Mayors and city managers change, as do superintendents and school board chairs. New county board chairs are named and administrators hired.

In many ways that change can be a challenge for the reporter. It takes time to create productive working relationships with new elected officials, chairs and administrators. Longtime working relationships are based on trust, which doesn’t come easy between a reporter and a public official.

Wed
22
Aug
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Community Pursuing a Vibrant Future

There is a changing mood in our community. Pessimism is shifting to optimism.

Without a doubt, the energy for that feeling was provided by last week’s passage of a $26.3 million Benson Public school’s building bond levy referendum. Yet it is more than that.

Instead of losing a significant employer and local real estate taxpayer in Benson Power, LLC’s closing with nothing but a hulking, empty plant sitting at the city’s western edge reminding us of the lost vitality, we have hope. That hope comes in the form of $20 million that will be paid to the community over the next four years for economic development efforts. The first $4 million is in the bank.

Wed
15
Aug
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Attacks On Journalists Will Lead To Violence

by Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

 

It was Feb. 17, 2017, less than a month after President Donald Trump was sworn into office and had taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States that he began calling the nation’s press “the enemy of the people.”

In a Tweet he said, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

That Tweet was preceded by an extended blasting of journalists at a news conference Feb. 16, 2017. “The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people.” Both Republicans and Democrats immediately chastised Trump for his attacks.

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