"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)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Another 18-page paper from Morris/Hancock

The Morris newspaper was 18 pages again on Saturday. It was 18 pages the previous Saturday when with fanfare the paper announced its new "combined" effort with Hancock. The paper put its new name at the top of page 1 with a reference to Stevens County. So it's now a Stevens County project in an official manner.
Everyone who remembers my years at the paper will remember that we actually covered the whole wide area pretty well. I'd sacrifice my Memorial Day weekend to, among other things, cover the Chokio-Alberta graduation. You could set your clock by that C-A graduation: 2 p.m. on Sunday every year! I'd grab a chair in the front row. Blake Knudson sat right next to me one year even though he liked yelling at me over the phone sometimes. There's an old saying that you can learn a lot about someone in matters relating to money. I would suggest you gain similar insights when it comes to newspaper coverage. I remember Lyle Hettver saying "thank God for small schools" with a real sincere reverence in his voice.
I covered lots of C-A activities, even the spring arts festival at the Alberta school. The Alberta school was odd for watching basketball: bleachers on just one side of the gym. There was a feeling of congestion for "big" games and of course the Homecoming coronation. The gym had a tile floor which I gathered coaches were not fond of. I remember Paul Daly looking forward to an occasional game at Herman which had a wooden floor.
Daly had an agreeable personality for working with, provided he was home when I called him and not ice fishing! I remember wondering what the h--- is the attraction of ice fishing?
I'll never forget the atmosphere at C-A football games. Neal Hofland had a stature like Bear Bryant there. Even though the Spartans' offense could be predictable, they just ran over people. I remember going to the Old Lumber Yard at an ungodly early-morning hour to board the bus for the Metrodome, for football.
I remember the cheerleader character named "Betty Boom-Boom" who had to cast aside "her" costume because of complaints that the act was disrespectful, even if well-intentioned. Coach Hofland described "her" as "buxom!"
So today's Morris newspaper is billing itself as a combined Morris-Hancock paper even though it hasn't shown us anything special yet. The two issues under the new name have been 18 pages, which was at the low end of the scale when Morris was by itself. Let's face it, Morris is still by itself, for all practical purposes. There is no change.
There might be an effort to shoehorn in some Hancock material, a little more than before. But it's cosmetic unless the staff can pump up advertising enough to really add content. I have to be skeptical for now. All of the trends with newspapers are down. This is no time to try to bounce back from a slump. A slump just gets people to shrug and to disregard the paper.
One thing is clearly not cosmetic: the cancellation of the Hancock Record newspaper. We might have guessed what was coming when Katie Erdman resigned. She wrote a cryptic column that indicated she was discouraged, and she's normally a very upbeat person.
The paper tries to put a smiley face on everything by saying the Morris and Hancock papers are combined. By raw empirical standards, this is not true. It's a ruse. Of course we can easily be more blunt: it's a lie, a bald-faced lie. It isn't necessary for those ink-stained wretches to insult our intelligence so much. The Hancock paper has been ended. The Morris paper survives at a small size, as really just a cover for trying to distribute all those ad circulars (many notoriously from Alexandria).
There are more and more low-consumption families among us, largely due to demographics. Most people feel no need to get a pile of advertising flyers. We get flyers for Alexandria grocery stores. The Morris paper has discontinued its free-circulation shopper, the Ad-Viser. So Paul Martin of Willie's has decided to go direct mail. I think it's kind of nice. I am now much more likely to examine the Willie's circular, so I can find out if they have a free breakfast upcoming! (Why do they make us stand for that?)
I was probably more involved covering Hancock events than C-A. I remember that for the Hancock Homecoming coronation, I felt so conspicuous because I had to get out on the middle of the gym floor. At Morris I'd just kneel in the aisle.
I had special feelings about the Hancock graduation. I had already submitted my resignation when I covered my last Hancock graduation. For the last time, I had to be prepared for Ken Grunig's band to scare me with the percussion opening to Pomp and Circumstance. People feared I might have a heart attack. The Hancock graduation seemed so wholesome, like what America is all about. They'd show young and old pictures of all the graduates on a screen. I remember the theme song played in the background. I had trouble getting outside at the end for when the grads tossed their hats in the air. Katie did better than me at that.
At my last Hancock High graduation, Katie sat beside me and said "would you like to call me and talk about it?" I appreciated the gesture but I just figured "what's done is done." I wonder if she'd like to talk to me now.
I followed the same routine every year covering the Hancock Fourth of July. I remember that year after year I'd chat with Chris Ver Steeg who'd be sitting on the same church steps. Maybe if I go to heaven, I can re-live some of these things.
In the meantime, let's all give a middle finger salute to the company that owns the Morris or Morris/Hancock paper or whatever you want to call it.
Addendum: That predictable but effective Chokio-Alberta football offense featured the "toss-sweep!"

- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Local newspaper in spasms of retreat

The newspaper that purports to be the Morris newspaper is going through changes again. The changes all fall in the category of retrenchment. The ownership tries putting lipstick on a pig of course. What would you expect them to do? The strings are being pulled from elsewhere. The local management can always just claim that it is responding to directives from elsewhere.
It's like those poor Wells Fargo employees who had to do terrible things. There was no local owner who had to face his customers in church on Sunday. In this sense maybe we can bemoan the loss or severe decline of mom and pop businesses in America. A local bank owner would never do the kinds of things that Wells Fargo was caught doing. Now we have the local newspaper with non-local ownership cutting expenses to try to keep profit margins up, extracting enough money from legacy customers to keep profits decent at least in the short term.
I saw the "new" Morris paper on Monday. I was at the Morris Senior Center. I did what I always do: check out the size of the product. Surely this "new" product, which purports to include the discontinued Hancock Record, would be larger. A business friend of mine on main street told me that he had been told by a paper rep that the typical size would be 20-26 pages. I'm not sure we should even be wowed by that. Didn't the paper put out many editions of at least 20 pages in the days when it was still twice a week? The paper was twice a week through my whole tenure there. We didn't charge to run obituaries.
The June 17 edition of the paper, newly named the Steven County Times, is 18 pages. There is no increase in size. And yet the paper trumpets that it now includes the Hancock paper. I might suggest this is outright fraud, right out of the Wells Fargo playbook.
What will happen when fall comes? Hancock residents will expect to see a decent amount of space allocated for Hancock sports coverage. And if the paper does that, it will alienate many Morris readers. Katie Erdman, when she was at the Hancock paper, would devote considerable space to photo spreads on the Hancock Homecoming coronation, the graduation and some other big events. If the paper remains at 18 pages, can this really be in the works? My closing months at the paper eleven years ago, an experience somewhat like being waterboarded, exposed me to lots of talk about how the paper's website would be so super dynamic - apologies to Willie Martin, RIP. I don't check the paper's website often. I doubt that it's a full-service site for local news and sports - it's more of a tease.
I actually got along well with the Forum when it first took over from the Morrisons. This was despite the fact I knew I wasn't their type. The co-existence worked for an extended time. And then the climate changed abruptly as if a directive came down. The Forum is like that. I was able to parachute out of there. And then the paper went through stages of retrenchment or downsizing. That was also "spun" as something positive.
Now we have an 18-page paper, same as before, that presents itself as now including the Hancock Record. Surely my fellow Morris residents will see what's happening.
The names "Morris Sun Tribune" and "Hancock Record" appear under the new "Times" nameplate. But surely there is more to Stevens County than just Morris and Hancock. Is the new paper going to try to usurp the role of the Chokio Review? Oh, of course not. The paper is just toying with names and cosmetics. It's like these "redesigns" that newspapers are always trumpeting. As if a redesign will have any substantial positive impact on how the paper fares. They are just a turn-on for the paper staff. Paul Gillin of "Newspaper Death Watch" calls them "lipstick on a pig."
The Canary supplement has shrunken down to an average size of 16 pages, whereas in the past we only saw the 16-pagers during the typical "slow" times for the press. The current Canary has "filler" feature articles, of all things, and other fluff just to try to pump up the size. The Canary is supposed to be advertising. Wait until Jim Gesswein catches up with the times and starts cutting back on his print advertising. Car dealers don't have to advertise as much because cars are made better today. People don't have to buy cars as often. I used to take car photos for three major dealers every week for a long time, and I often wondered: Why are people buying cars so much? Can't they keep their old ones going a little more? Well, now I think they do.
Of course, car dealers now use the electronic media like all get-out. All of our other local institutions should do that too. Let's get local sports reporting established online. The sites could be like what we see for the UMM teams. It would be fun. You could click to see a schedule page, a roster page, a coaches page etc. I actually expected this trend a long time ago but it didn't happen. "Maxpreps" already has pages set up for the Morris teams. But we need more coaches and fans submitting material for those pages. I write lots of local sports and submit links to the Maxpreps pages. It's fun.
A big difference between now and when I was with the Morris paper, is that now I'm not expected to cover every team all the time. I write what I feel like writing. I don't pretend to cover anything comprehensively. The sports section of the local paper is like a political football: It strives in vain to report, promote or puff all the teams that consider themselves important. The great Marv Meyer once said to me: "Brian, there are people who read your articles because they have an ax to grind, and that's the only reason they read them."
How nice to be away from that now. I don't have to work with Trent Oberg anymore. I don't have to work with Steve Harter anymore. In the late 1980s the whole Morris community blew up with controversy over the management of high school sports. Anyone at the paper would have had trouble navigating through all that.
Let's detach more
So, the days of being interested in how the Morris (or Morris/Hancock) paper is functioning are waning. The local paper and its non-local ownership is rapidly making its product less relevant. Do you really need to pay to get an obituary published? Isn't the funeral home website, or better yet an independent website, good enough for this? Change takes time.
The paper has completely axed its free-circulation shopper, the Ad-Viser. Cut, cut, cut. The newspaper will remain stable only to the extent that it accentuates pure service, and of course it is not doing that. Willie's Super Valu is now forced to use direct mail to get its flyer out. I actually get to see the Willie's flyer now. Many years ago I informed the paper that I didn't want that bulky Ad-viser in our mailbox, so full of Alexanrdia stuff. Our family hardly ever visits Alexandria, and besides, we're a low-consumption family. More and more of our local families or individuals are going to be like that now with our "graying" demographics.
Stop buying the paper and stop advertising in it. Sheesh, stop supporting those "sucker ads," like even for the honor roll. The paper should just publish the honor roll. It doesn't need "sponsors" though I'm sure they're glad to get some sucker businesses to do that.
Wake up and smell the coffee. The paid circulation of the Morris paper is only about 40 percent of what it once was. And it won't even help to "absorb" Hancock (not that the paper is really going to do that). Forum Communications is a charlatan in the Morris business community.
Addendum: The Elbow Lake newspaper gives its customers 26-28 broadsheet pages a week. Why the disparity vs. Morris? Also, the cutting of the Ad-Viser has apparently opened the door, as expected, to the Lakeland Shopper making a new invasion here. I even noticed the Lakeland Shopper using a Senior Perspective display stand at the entry to DeToy's Restaurant Wednesday morning. I advised Jim Palmer of this. Detoy's often has a biscuits and gravy special on Wednesday a.m. I recommend it. 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 17, 2017

County fair confuses us once again

The Stevens County Fair appears to be sticking with the format it had last year. As I left DeToy's Restaurant this morning (Saturday), I noticed a flyer on the billboard that had August 8-13 as the fair dates for 2017. Last year I got totally confused as to what was going on.
The community supper was switched to Tuesday. I thus thought the fair would be open to all, including all the standard attractions, beginning on Wednesday. I felt the fair had simply expanded. We were shocked upon arriving at the fairgrounds and seeing "private parking" signs at the entry road north of the ethanol plant.
"Private parking?" I couldn't believe it. I drove all the way in to find someone I could personally ask. I was told that yes, it was indeed private parking. On an official day of the fair, Wednesday.
The fair was promoted on at least one billboard as beginning on Tuesday. What if an out-of-town person were to drive by, see those dates and plan accordingly? I know that the year I went to the Appleton fair, I probably saw the dates on some promo material. What if I had driven all the way to Appleton only to find that the fair wasn't really on yet? I'd be very upset.
Did the Stevens County Fair switch its community supper to Tuesday just to try to accommodate the Superior Industries people, so they could attend both that and their own private event? Why has the fair board allowed a big local private company to essentially reserve a chunk of our county fair for private purposes? Do they cut a nice big check to the fair board for having that privilege?
I realize we're living in times where private business interests are absolutely paramount and we're supposed to defer to all these business interests just like we elected big business tycoon Donald Trump. I remember a time when public interests and public purposes were really important. They in fact had primacy. I guess no more.
Whether I like it or not, the big business interests are taking over. We're not even supposed to question them. We're supposed to bow down to the Apostolic Christian big business bigshots who reflexively vote for Trump (that famous groper of women) and Republicans. They no doubt support the health care proposals coming from the GOP-controlled House and Senate.
I'd like to share some questions about these health care proposals, as presented by Eileen Gleason, a retired Federal prosecutor who has been a judge and in private practice. Her questions originally appeared in The Advocate, May 31, 2017.
- Who asked you to strip health insurance from 23 million Americans? Really, exactly who? And why?
- Do Americans want the freedom to not have insurance they cannot afford? They had this freedom all their lives and didn't like it.
- Why hand out windfalls to the wealthy? Why not write a bill providing the most protection using funds available without a tax cut?
- Why not fix the problems with the ACA? Why throw the baby out with the bathwater just because the baby was dubbed Obamacare?
- Why rush to vote without a Congressional Budget Office score? Now that it is out, why not repudiate this bill?
- Do those with mental illnesses want no coverage for mental illness or lifetime coverage limits?
- After this bill, who will care for the uninsured mentally ill? Prisons? Homeless shelters?
- Why abolish the Medicaid expansion, which allowed life-threatening conditions to be diagnosed and treated, and saved lives?
- The experience of states with underfunded high-risk insurance pools is not good. Will you commit to adequately fund these pools?
- Why leave it to the fifteen male Republican senators to negotiate behind closed doors about this important issue? Why are birth control and maternity services in jeopardy?
- Why defund women's health services at Planned Parenthood, while funding treatment of men's health conditions (erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer), without limiting where men can be treated?
- Why are Republicans threatening to withhold cost-sharing insurer subsidies and destabilizing the insurance marketplace?
- Why let insurers charge the elderly five times the premiums charged to the young?
- Why permit the sale of policies which do not cover the current essential health benefits, thereby sharply increasing costs to those covered?
- Why are the AMA and AARP, among others, against this bill?
- How about a waiting period of one week between finalizing the Senate bill and voting on it? Are you afraid of the feedback?
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, June 12, 2017

Listen to my song re. Sam Smith, his statue

A striking monument at our Summit Cemetery: Samusl Smith
The years pass and the U.S. Civil War becomes ever more remote. We get refreshed in textbooks. We have emotional distance because our forebears fade into the mists of time.
Us Morris MN residents can feel a surprising connection to those mid-19th Century events. You might think we are too far to the West. No we are not. A stroll through Summit Cemetery can reveal for you a most striking reminder. There is one monument that will jump out at you. You will notice the "running rifleman" statue. It's the final resting place of Samuel Smith, Civil War veteran on the Union side of course.
Samuel was a significant early resident of the Morris area, a farmer. He and wife Catherine had 12 children, eleven of them boys. Thus the name has gotten passed on pretty well. You have likely crossed paths with at least one of the descendants. I believe it's important that we continue to remember the significance of the monument.
I have written a song called "Ballad of Sam Smith." It was recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Frank (Franklin) Michels. I invite you to listen by clicking on this link from YouTube. Thanks.
Thanks to Brent Gulsvig of Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck for his wizardry getting the song online. It wasn't until about three years ago that I realized you can get music placed online with such ease. It seems like a miracle.
Frank Michels' studio is what you'd call a demo recording studio. I first had some demo recordings made in the 1980s. Back in that pre-digital age, the purpose of a demo recording was to pitch your material to a music publisher. In other words, the goal was to have the song become commercially successful. I suppose you'd want the song to end up in the proverbial "top 40." You can imagine what the odds are of this. It was very hard getting any kind of audience for your work. You'd have to play a cassette for someone.
Today the whole landscape is much different. Songs can be placed on YouTube pretty routinely, at least for someone like Mr. Gulsvig. You won't make money but you can get a fair number of people to listen to your work.
The doors have been opened just like for those who self-publish books. As a C-Span commenter put it, "the barriers to distribution have come down." Self-publishing of books has become respectable, as opposed to the days when self-publishing companies were treated almost as unethical. "You too can be an author."
Doug Rasmusson of the Morris area self-published delightful collections of his writing. It was tough getting your creative material out. Not at all today. Blogging has enabled me to feel like a legitimate writer still.
Meanwhile the legacy media crumbles. The Hancock paper is now discontinued. The free advertising shopper called "Ad-Viser" is no more. Of course, the more the newspaper company reduces its services, the faster its decline will be. I would advise everyone to just move on from the print media.
Now, how do I work with a demo recording firm? I send a package that includes a melody sheet with chords, a lyric sheet and a rough tape of me singing. I had to special order a cassette recorder because you can't even buy these things at RadioShack anymore. The Nashville people do not work with microcassette players/recorders.
The studios can get the job done surprisingly fast. Michels sends me an email with a song attachment. Bob Angello, another pro I work with, puts the song in an online "drop box." An advantage to Bob's approach is that he can make changes and adjustments right at the source and doesn't have to send me the song again.
I enjoy writing topical songs. My next one to be recorded might be about the First Minnesota Regiment in the Civil War, called "Take Those Colors." That song title is based on the abrupt order given by General Hancock on the night of the First Minnesota's fateful charge at Plum Run, Gettysburg. The First Minnesota had to plug an opening in the Union line while reserves were on the way. "Take Those Colors." Sam Smith was assigned to the ambulance corps for the Battle of Gettysburg.
Here is the link to a blog post I wrote on Sam Smith and his statue. This post is on my companion blog site, "Morris of Course."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

MACA softball girls finish season 17-6

Tigers 9, 'Waska 4
The Tigers came on strong to beat rival Minnewaska Area 9-4 in what would turn out to be the Tigers' second to last game. Our triumph was on Saturday, May 27, down south at Marshall.
The score stood 1-1 through the first three innings. Then the Tigers began pulling away. Coach Mary Holmberg smiled as she saw her team score three runs in the fourth inning, four in the fifth and one in the sixth. We outhit the Lakers 10-8.
Liz Dietz was a factor both at the plate and on the pitching rubber. At bat she had two hits in four at-bats and scored a run. She pitched the whole way. She struck out one batter, walked one and gave up eight hits and four runs (three earned) in her seven innings.
Ashley Solvie had a two-for-four line and scored two runs. These Tigers each had one hit: Bailey Marty, Emma Bowman, Piper Gibson (a double), Brooke Gillespie, Nicole Solvie and Kalley Hottovy. Carley Stewart rapped two hits in four at-bats for Minnewaska. She drove in a run and scored one. Bailey Stewart went two-for-three with a run scored. Morgan Hess had a hit and a run scored. Abby Ver Steeg had a one-for-three line. Kaitlyn Lange doubled, drove in a run and scored one. Ashley Blom doubled and picked up an RBI. Hess took the pitching loss.
New London-Spicer 11, Tigers 1
The Wildcats of New London-Spicer slammed the door on our Tigers to end our season on Tuesday, May 30, again at Marshall. It was actually a close game through five innings, then the Wildcats erupted with a nine-run sixth. The Tigers had their season end with an 11-1 final score. The Wildcats pounded 13 hits while we were anemic with just two. Fielding totally favored the Wildcats who had one error while we had five.
Our hitting was anemic but give credit to Olivia Christopherson who pitched the distance for NL-Spicer. She gave up just the two hits and set down eight Tiger batters on strikes. She walked just one and gave up the one run which was earned. Liz Dietz took the pitching loss this time. She worked 3 1/3 innings and struck out one batter. Ashley Solvie and Devin Fuhrman also pitched.
Our hits were by Nicole Solvie and Kalley Hottovy. Katelyn Nordmeyer connected for a home run for the Wildcats. She had two hits as did these other Wildcats: Courtney Hanson, Morgan Swenson, Jordan King and Shea Oman. Also hitting safely were Christopherson, Michelle Johnson and Brianna Deming. The final 2017 won-loss record for the orange and black is 17-6.
Baseball: NL-Spicer 7, Tigers 1
The Morris Area Chokio Alberta baseball Tigers were dealt a 7-1 loss in what would turn out to be their second to last game of the season. This loss was at the hands of New London-Spicer on Saturday, May 27, at New London.
Our bats were kept quiet by pitchers Matt Spaulding and Will Roguske. Spaulding got the win with his six innings of work in which he fanned three batters, walked three and allowed three hits. He allowed one run which was unearned. Roguske had his pitching arm called on for one inning. He struck out two batters, walked none and allowed one hit.
Toby Sayles was the losing pitcher for the orange and black. Toby got roughed up a bit as he allowed eleven hits in five innings. He struck out six batters, walked two and allowed seven runs all of which were earned. Chandler Vogel was the other Tiger hurler. Chandler mopped up with no hits allowed.
We were outhit 11-4. Spaulding had two hits in three at-bats for the victor. He drove in two runs. Jake Schmidt went two-for-three with a run scored. John Perkins had a two-for-three line with an RBI and run scored. These Wildcats also picked up a hit: Roguske, Wyatt White, Josh Soine, Evan Haugen and Derek Dolezal.
We had one player with a multiple-hit game: Chas Metzger with two hits in three at-bats. Sayles and Ryan Bowman each had a hit. Sayles had an RBI. We had three errors while NL-Spicer had two.
Paynesville 6, Tigers 5
The double-elimination format meant we'd be out with one more loss. That loss came on Tuesday, May 30, at Montevideo, at the hands of Paynesville. My, we led 5-1 thanks to a rally in the top of the sixth. Paynesville owned the rest of the game. The green crew rallied for three runs in the sixth and two in the seventh. The final score had the green on top 6-5 over the orange and black.
We outhit the green 10-9. But we had four errors compared to the green's two. We had two pitchers working: Tim Travis and Chandler Vogel. Vogel was the pitcher of record with a stint of just 2/3 of an inning. Travis allowed just one earned run among the four total runs he allowed. Errors must have loomed. Travis struck out three batters, walked three and allowed six hits. Vogel allowed two hits.
The winning pitcher was Austin Imholte with one inning of work. Sam Oehrlien and Spencer Imholte also pitched for the green.
Ryan Dietz socked a double for the Tigers. Parker Dierks was spectacular with four hits in four at-bats including a triple. Parker drove in a run and scored one. Ryan Bowman went two-for-three with a run scored. Denner Dougherty had a hit and a ribbie. Travis added a hit to the mix. Jared Rohloff hit safely and drove in a run.
Sam Haines shone for Paynesville with three hits in four at-bats including a double. Sam drove in a run and scored one. Garrett Leusink's bat made noise at three-for-four, and this Bulldog tripled, drove in a run and scored two. Grant Ludwig tripled, drove in a run and scored two. Gavin Stanger and Grant Fuchs each hit safely.
This is my final MACA sports post for the 2016-17 school year. It is a pleasure to stay journalistically involved. I hope more than a handful of players, parents or fans visit my sites occasionally.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com