MPR partnership ending after fourteen years

By Max Loos

Macalester’s sponsorship of Minnesota Public Radio’s Broadcast Journalist Series will end next year, a victim of cuts made in next year’s budget in response to the bleak economic climate. The program, which brought national and local journalists to speak at Macalester for 14 years, cost the college a little more than $25,000 a year to sponsor. That money will not be included in next year’s budget due to the expected $1.5 million increase in financial aid.

Macalester was one of the founding sponsors of the program in the fall of 1995, when National Public Radio’s Scott Simon came to speak in the chapel. Most recently, decorated national sports journalist Frank Deford spoke in Kagin on Monday night, the fiftieth person to come to Macalester through the program.

“It’s been a great partnership,” said Tommy Bonner, vice president for Advancement, which funds the sponsorship. “Most folks that you hear on MPR have been here.”

The Advancement Office, however, will be reducing its program budgets by about $160,000 next year. Along with the cancellation of the MPR partnership, Macalester Today will only publish three issues next year, Macalester will end its sponsorship of the high school Quiz Bowl competition, and expenses for events like reunions and Founder’s Day will be slimmed down.

According to Bonner, it was decided that cancelling the MPR partnership was a good way to save money while minimally affecting students. “We felt that though this was painful, it won’t impact as many students,” he said. “It’s not like it affected all 1,850 students.” The first Broadcast Journalist Series talk of the year, given by NPR’s John Ydstie, drew a crowd primarily of middle-aged locals and few Macalester students.

Still, journalism professor Doug Stone said that the program is a valuable opportunity for his students, who often meet with the speaker separately after the main talk to discuss journalism and journalistic work. “They just don’t have that opportunity that often with a major speaker,” he said.

“I think the series is very important for the Twin Cities public as a whole,” said Kwame Gayle ’11 one of Stone’s students this semester. He also found it important as a student. “In terms of inspiring those who are potential journalists, it’s really good to see someone on stage who actually did it,” he said.

Bonner said that continuing to host the event at Macalester is still an option. While the college would not be contributing any kind of sponsorship funding, Kagin would still be open as a potential venue, keeping the program and its audience on campus. He also did not rule out the possibility of Macalester sponsoring the Broadcast Journalist Series again in the future.

“We’re trying to cut things that can be picked back up,” he said.

The end of the partnership appears not to have stirred up any bad blood between Macalester and MPR.

“There are no hard feelings,” said Barbara Laskin, Macalester’s Media Relations Manager. “People understand that companies are making painful cuts all the time.”

“The affiliation was a nice thing to have,” she said.

Tony Bowl, MPR’s director of Live Programs and Events, felt the same way about the end of the partnership. Bowl used to work at Macalester in Campus Programs, and current Director of College Relations Amy Phoenix was one of his work-study students.

“It was done with the utmost of care,” he said. “We knew there was something out there called the economy.”

Bowl said that Macalester has given MPR plenty of time to find replacement sponsors for the Broadcast Journalist Series, and while the college initially helped to build the program, MPR has since developed a “diversified portfolio of sponsors.”

“All I can say is thank you Macalester for a good run,” he said.