Content with its content: Minnesota Public Radio celebrates 50th anniversary with events in Moorhead
MOORHEAD—Dan Gunderson used to do his job with a manual typewriter and edit tapes of his radio stories with a razor blade.
Now, the Minnesota Public Radio news correspondent uses a computer, digital camera and smartphone, writing online versions of the work he records for a radio audience that also can be accessed anywhere, whether it's Dilworth or Kazakhstan.
The format and delivery has changed plenty since he joined MPR's Moorhead bureau in 1987. Still, Gunderson said the commitment of local listeners and readers who support MPR's mission of good journalism remains the same.
"You just never know really where the stories are going to end up about something that happens in Fargo-Moorhead," he said.
The stories could end up anywhere, but the public radio network behind these stories will honor its long presence in Moorhead with several events as part of MPR's 50th anniversary celebration.
The Moorhead bureau, located in Concordia College's Welcome Center at 1118 8th St. S., got its start in a different spot on the Concordia campus in 1971 when Classical MPR 91.1 FM went on the air.
Moorhead's MPR News 90.3 FM followed suit in 1992. Gunderson is the sole journalist here, contributing stories to the MPR network that also has one reporter at six other bureaus across the state.
He's part of a small staff in Moorhead that includes Regional Director Kristi Booth, a colleague who splits her time here and in Bemidji, and MPR News Associate Digital Producer Sara Porter.
Porter spends her days moving radio packages to the network's array of websites and social media accounts, and also looks for regional, national and international news from several sources.
The focus is still regional, Gunderson said, though his stories about environmental issues, agriculture and technology in North Dakota and western Minnesota often gain a wider audience as they're played on other MPR stations or disseminated online.
"They might be happening here, but they're not limited in terms of interest," he said.
Booth said there's a lot going on here, and that's a big reason why there's a bureau in Moorhead.
"It's good we can tap into all that Fargo-Moorhead has to offer and share that with our MPR audiences, no matter where they might live," she said.
Gunderson said he enjoys MPR's commitment to quality journalism that allows him to dive into important stories.
That's something Porter enjoys, too, though her focus on the network's web presence means she especially appreciates Facebook conversations about those stories.
"When it's civil and people agree on things or I see people change their minds, I think that's just like mission accomplished since we're out there to inform people," she said.
Porter and Gunderson work closely with Connie Peterson, account executive and site coordinator in the Moorhead bureau who spends her time talking with businesses and organizations that sponsor programming. She's done the job for several years and said she's impressed with the "loyal listeners" who support their work.
MPR has grown and evolved since starting in 1967 as a college radio station at St. John's University in St. Joseph. It's now a network of 46 stations that airs three services: MPR News, Classical MPR and Twin Cities-based music outfit The Current.
MPR also launched a national programming division in 2004, and American Public Media now counts popular programs like "A Prairie Home Companion" among its portfolio that reaches more than 20 million people on 1,000 U.S. radio stations each week—making it the second-largest public radio producer and distributor in the country behind National Public Radio.
Peterson said MPR's success and financial support from listeners and businesses come down to one thing that hasn't changed over the decades: People are content with its content.
"They really feel that we have great programming, and they respect us as a company," she said. "There's so many different reasons why people like MPR."
Gunderson said MPR's focus on local and regional stories also plays a role in its success, and that's something he expects to remain over the next 50 years.
"The importance of quality content won't change," he said. "How you deliver it will change, but what you deliver should remain consistent."
Several events are taking place in Moorhead for Minnesota Public Radio's 50th anniversary. For more information, visit www.mpr50.org.
• Now through Oct. 13: Faces of Minnesota photo exhibit at the Hjemkomst Center, 202 1st Ave. N.
• 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 28: MPR Day featuring live broadcasts with MPR News, The Current and Classical MPR hosts at Rourke Art Museum, 521 Main Ave.
• 9 p.m. to midnight Sept. 28: The Current Music Exchange Showcase featuring several bands from Manitoba and Minnesota at Red Raven Espresso Parlor, 916 Main Ave., Fargo; $5 cover charge.
• 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 12: MPR 50 open house at MPR's Moorhead bureau in the Concordia College Welcome Center, 1118 8th St. S.
• 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 14: Bring the Sing community singing event at Concordia College's Centrum in the Knutson Campus Center, 901 8th St. S.; visit www.classicalmpr.org/sing to register.