Minnesota News Council

A chance to learn makes a good day – and that was my day today. Recently I was named to the Minnesota News Council and today was orientation, a real learning experience for this “public” member of this 24 member advisory group, a newspaper reader among journalists, listening in on the conversation of professionals at their best.

The Minnesota News Council, created in 1970, is a nonprofit organization supported entirely by voluntary contributions from media organizations, businesses and individuals. The purposes of the MNC are to present complaints about accuracy and fairness to news organizations, to hold public hearings re. unresolved complaints, and to conduct public forums to foster trust in journalism.

Our orientation involved a mock hearing. The scenario offered this newbie a chance to see the group process at work and to listen in on the keen questions and observations of my new colleagues.

I need to learn more about news councils in other states. I know Minnesota’s is the oldest, but that’s about all I know now. I learned it’s modeled on a British prototype. In a litigious environment, when everyone waits to hear the “verdict”, it’s a unique forum for open dialogue sans finger pointing and financial settlements.

I find myself mulling it over in my mind — the process, the perspectives, the purpose of the Minnesota News Council. A first blush, it seems to me an altogether intelligent and constructive venue for giving the people a voice and the press a chance to engage in honest dialogue with their subjects and their readers. I’m eager to learn more and, in time, to plunk my own oar in the deliberative waters.