"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Our local institutions show signs of duress

The Morris newspaper was just 18 pages last Saturday. This is the smallest paper I've seen since it was twice a week. For a long time the standard was 24 pages. Then I noticed a pattern of 20-page papers toward the end of last year. I thought that was surprising because the period leading up to Christmas is normally a robust time for commercial media enterprises.
If newspapers lose their hold on the pre-Christmas business promotions, what does that mean? We have found other means to get our shopping information. Has consumerism been tamped down in connection to Christmas? Is Christmas a less high-profile or relevant holiday now? It sure doesn't seem as robust or as universally celebrated as when I was younger.
Christianity doesn't have its near-monopoly anymore. Non-Christians seem not as likely to accept Christmas as a benign happy time that we all ought to share in. There is pushback. If you're looking for a theory as to why, you might consider the tenor of much of Christianity today.
Christianity used to just go with the flow. We weren't interested in picking fights with people. Sometimes we'd actually get mocked because of our temperate nature. Young zealous Christians would point fingers and talk about the lackadaisical nature of mainstream Christian denominations.
But look at what they've created: a bloc of people loosely called "evangelicals" who are staunchly right wing in their political philosophy. They make you feel like an outcast if you say you like and admire Barack Obama. I'd like to press them on what specifically they object to, in regard to the two-term president. I suppose they'd talk about a receptiveness to LGBT rights, simple basic rights that don't need to be construed as an endorsement.
An acquaintance of mine says his church, a more rigid type of church, "doesn't allow homosexual ministers." What other categories of sinners are prohibited in that church? Adulterers? Is that prohibition official and in writing? A simple acknowledgment of gay rights does not constitute promotion of the lifestyle. At any rate, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
My church of First Lutheran in Morris is of the moderate stripe. Some have actually left our ranks because of that. First Lutheran is in fact struggling. There was an open forum after last Sunday's service in which people openly talked about our struggles.
I'm not convinced that First Lutheran's struggles are due to any perceived softness in our philosophical outlook. Democrats can feel comfortable attending an ELCA church.
To all you fundamentalists who think you have to be Jerry Falwell-like, stop and wonder if you might be getting manipulated by the political power masters. Stop and wonder if you're being courted simply because your votes and support are needed for a Republican agenda that really cares about nothing more than lower taxes (for the well-heeled) and "less regulation." All regulations are backed by sound reason. The insurance industry actually likes fairly rigid regulation.
Denial of climate change reflects ignorance and a knee-jerk fear of government, because climate change is the kind of issue that will in the end require a dynamic government. Republicans want to push aside government as much as possible. It's up to the other side to promote ideas that are in the best interests of our broad public. Concern for the poor and powerless is in fact the most Christian position you can take.
Is the root in the community?
Maybe the struggles of First Lutheran are in fact connected to this drastic shrinkage of the Morris newspaper. What I'm suggesting is that maybe Morris as a whole is experiencing decline and duress. Ever consider that? Our main street has become absolutely dead. It's nothing compared to what we had in the mid-20th Century.
The withdrawal of Thrifty White Drug from its two locations was the final dagger. Nobody locally will take blame for that because there is now so little that is locally owned. The local Thrifty White people will shrug and just say they follow directives from higher up. The same applies to the Morris paper which is owned out of Fargo ND.
I remember a few years ago, someone launched a lawsuit against a newspaper because right after he sent in a subscription check, the paper announced drastic downsizing and a reduction in staff. A suit like this has little chance of actually succeeding, but it sends a message to the newspaper industry that we're paying attention. If you subscribed to the Morris paper when its average size was 24 pages, are you now a little concerned that it was down to 18 last Saturday? Does that matter to you? It would, if a similar downsizing happened with another product you purchased.
Up until now, people continued getting the paper largely because it was a ritual. If there was a local paper, you bought it. With a shrug. This kind of thinking can change but it can be a slow process.
In Elbow Lake there's a newspaper that is far more robust than in Morris. Make a comparison. It has been 28 pages the last two weeks and the pages are bigger. The Anfinsons of Benson are in charge there. Which makes me wonder: Could the Anfinsons be lured to Morris? Could negotiations be started for that? Maybe someone on behalf of the Morris leadership network should approach Forum Communications and ask them to leave town.
Another strategy might be to encourage everyone around Morris to simply cease doing business with the Forum-owned Morris paper. Don't subscribe and don't advertise. Maybe this has already started and I don't know about it. The paper has slid from 24 to 18 pages. Even the Canary publication has gotten smaller.
The Anfinsons in Elbow Lake have a manager who is familiar with Morris. Her last name was "Erickson" when she was in Morris. You need a scorecard to keep track of her last name, but that's a minor issue. Bring it on.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

1 comment:

  1. yea my column has gotten squeezed too used to be about 700 words was the limit but then was told I had to keep it under 500 words but that is usually too much lately lucky to get about half that in my column have thought of doing just a online column but too many people who read my column do not have access to the net and I like getting some "spending" money every month