Here are a few of the things he learned last week

Last week, I attended the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s annual convention in Bloomington. Usually, we have a newsmaker for one of our luncheon speakers, but that didn’t happen this year. Instead we had a couple of reporters telling us amusing stories from their careers — nothing that seemed worthy of sharing with readers.

As a result, I am left with a hodgepodge of notes for you. The only quote I wrote down from either luncheon speaker was from travel writer Rudy Maxa, who reported that last year airlines filled 86.4 percent of the seats on all flights in 2011.

From the few times I fly each year, I would have thought the number was even higher. My flights all seem to be full.
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Scott Schmeltzer, publisher of the Albert Lea Tribune, gave a seminar on sales training.

Among the things he said was that a Web site called Pinterest.com is going to be as big as Facebook. It’s designed to be like your refrigerator door, a place to hang photos, kid’s drawings and stories that you find interesting.
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Minnesota House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, and House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, squared off in a debate.

State Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans has been touring the state preaching the necessity for tax reform. Surprisingly, both Dean and Thissen agreed that there is a need to reduce corporate taxes in Minnesota, but Thissen said, “It’s not going to happen this year.”

Frans has been touring with a three-legged stool that won’t stand up because the legs aren’t properly balanced. The idea is that the income, sales and property taxes ought to be somewhat even in the amounts they take from the citizens. Dean said that the problem with the prop is, “In South Dakota, they don’t have a three-legged stool; they got a bench.”

South Dakota has no income tax, and Dean said Minnesota has to do more to be competitive with its neighbors for jobs. “We are in for the fight of our lives over the next five years,” he said.

Thissen said one of the overlooked consequences of the 2010 election when the Republicans swept to power in the Legislature is that not only were the new Republicans much more conservative, but most of the DFLers that lost were from the moderate wing of his caucus, leaving the DFL that much more liberal at the same time that the Republican caucus was becoming more conservative. Thissen said the division between the two parties has reached the point that “We don’t have any neutral standards about what are the facts that we can agree upon.”

Dean said the Republicans are working hard at reforming state government, and they are reaching out to the agencies and asking for their top 20 ideas, and then asking them to come up with a budget to fund their top five activities.

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Tony Casale, who once worked at USA Today, and now owns American Opinion Research, which does a lot of polling for news groups, said consumers want newspapers to be more pro-active than reactive. That is, they want newspapers to tell them what is going to be happening in the community — the meetings, games and fund-raisers coming in the immediate future are more important than what happened in the past.

He offered this example: The day after Pearl Harbor, the lead story in the Wall Street Journal began with the implications of the event, what it would mean to the nation to go to war. Everybody already knew the United States had been attacked. The next day they wanted to know what it meant.

Thus, he suggests that when the Federal Reserve acts, we should not be telling people what the Fed did, but telling them how the action will affect them going forward.
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Reed Anfinson, publisher of the Swift County News in Benson and president of the National Newspaper Association, said that in 2001, 5 percent of bills were paid on-line. In 2010, 60 percent of all bills were paid on-line.

He said that by September the Post Office will be broke if it doesn’t undergo massive reforms. He said that 25,000 to 35,000 local post offices actually lose money.

Anfinson is concerned about the struggles of newspapers. About 85 to 90 percent of all news comes from community newspapers, he said, noting that the newspaper industry lost a quarter of all journalists in the past 10 years.

As a result, he said, without the press serving as a watchdog, there will be much more government corruption. “A crisis in journalism is a crisis in democracy,” he said.

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