Monday, August 16, 2004


Yesterday's Star Tribune saw columnist Doug Grow take "insatiable" Minnesota Public Radio to task for "snap[ping] up" WCAL, the classical music station at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Grow is constitutionally incapable of approaching a story from any angle other than big-bad-villain-terrorizes-helpless-victim, so he begins by gamely laying his trusty template over this story, aided by the headline writer, who renames MPR as "Mega Public Radio" (such wit!) and adjectivizes WCAL with a condescending "little."

Problem is, Grow's (extra-large, perpetually bleeding) heart just isn't in it. Halfway through he introduces a "disclaimer" that "MPR is as good as public radio gets." More significantly, he admits that "MPR didn't act alone in this deal."

Could it be . . . a voluntary transaction between two consenting parties? Do tell, Doug!
St. Olaf College was a co-conspirator, willing to sell away tradition, an audience and a staff for $10.1 million, which will be added to the school's already bulging endowment.
Grow can't take his sugar without a little medicine to wash it down, so he has to load up that sentence with ominous overtones, but it's hard even for him to avoid the conclusion that both MPR and St. Olaf are pleased with the situation. And here's a more objective characterization of the sale, from the Strib's original news story back on August 11:
St. Olaf was approached by MPR and the sale made sense, said Jan McDaniel, vice president for college relations. "WCAL is just a jewel, but when we asked what it's doing for the students today and in the future, that answer came up empty in all aspects of the operation."

The proceeds will be added to St. Olaf's current $185 million endowment, allowing the college to invest more in academic programs.
But what about WCAL's audience? Who will speak for them?

Well, I've been a frequent listener (and occasional contributor) for many years, so I'll give it a go. Much as I enjoy hearing Bill Morelock play Shostakovich symphonies and Glenn Gould on my way home from work, I can't fault St. Olaf for concluding that the $10.1 million of their capital that allows my daily commute to be a little more enjoyable--a commute 40 miles away from Northfield in a car equipped with a CD player, mind you--would be better spent on their students.

I'm such a selfish bastard, aren't I?


You might be intersted in the further developments:

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:21 PM  

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