Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sing it, Sister!

I was asked by my Crave Momma, Kathy Hanson, to read a Strib article about "buying local" and to let her know what I thought.

I didn't find it a terribly well-done article (I believe the online version is now different from the printed version as there has been much banter between Ms. Hanson and Mr. Alexander) but I am not a huge fan of the Star Tribune. I'm more of a Pioneer Press girl.

Below  is a copy, word-for-word, of the discussion between the two.
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Steve,

While I applaud your effort to educate consumers and/or business owners about shopping local with your article today I must tell you I am terribly disappointed in the lack of effort made to substantiate the facts and promote shopping local this holiday season.

You missed the mark on all counts if you were trying to help businesses, educate consumers or connect your readers (consumers) to local businesses. 

I don't have time to provide you with the links that are readily available but you did not talk to Cinda Baxter of Project 3/50- a HUGE resource and nonprofit founded here in the Twin Cities for the SOLE purpose of supporting shopping local. She has facts and figures galore that will definitely "prove" the benefits of shopping local. Any number of her data points are quantifiable and you can find them easily. The most common fact is that "about" .77 of every dollar spent stays in our communities when you shop local and "about" .47 stays in our communities when you shop big box. By stating that it's hard to prove the benefits of shopping you gave the reader an out and provided them with no incentive to shop local!  Multiplier effect is yadayadayada to an average reader. Dull stuff. Make it resonate! 

If your goal was to help businesses- you should have contacted any number of shopowners who have figured out how to use social media and the press and made it a point of focus in your article not a throwaway sentence in your last paragraph. There are several organizations, non profits, that are devoted to supporting local. You didn't mention any helpful organizations or groups that help build connections and educate floundering businesses in this recession. 

If your goal was to educate your readers- provide the list of local businesses that Metro IBA has on their website. Or go to any number of sources to find it yourself and post it. If it was in the business section and not intended for consumers- do you not think business owners shop over the holidays? 

Why didn't you mention all the benefits to buying all your holiday needs at local stores and NOT big box? Don't buy your kitchen supplies for Thanksgiving at Williams Sonoma or Crate and Barrel- shop Marie Dwyer's Cooks of Crocus Hill and support local! Her family is here, she pays taxes for schools and roads and hires local employees who also pay taxes! Why didn't you mention shopping the local bookstores that ARE viable, rather than mention the one that closed? Common Good Books is a member of Metro IBA and you didn't mention them. They are a rare breed and you got bogged down in taxation rather than give a solution! 

Your article did not energize me as a business person or a consumer to feel the responsibility to shop local this holiday season. It was boring and focused on businesses that are not top of mind this holiday season. Toys, gifts, stocking stuffers kitchen wares, clothing, restaurants are all destination spots this season and you gave nothing to the reader to help them make educated decisions on where to spend their money.  There are over 150 women owned local businesses that have been shouting SHOP LOCAL for years and years. Any number of them would have been happy to give you more exciting and helpful information. 

Look to American Express and what they are doing for Small Business Saturdays. amazing. 

If you truly want to do something purposeful with your writing you must provide the reader with resources and action items and a reason to shop and eat local. 

It was a fabulous opportunity to showcase what a localvore community we have and you missed the mark completely. 

Please reach out to the men and women of your community who have a "dog in the fight"  and ask questions and write articles that support our wonderful community and give your readers something to grab on to emotionally as well as physically. 

Thanks for your hard work and sorry for the candor but you got me fired up!

Kathy Hanson
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Kathy:

We’re not here to convince people to shop local. We’re just writing about a group of people who think it’s important.

The amount of money that stays in the community isn’t clear-cut. A flier the Metro Independent Business Alliance handed out yesterday urged people not to use the standard comparison of how much money stays in the community -- 68 cents out of $1 if you shop locally versus 43 cents if you shop at national chain stores – because it’s not accurate.

To quote the filer “misleading information about the local premium has `gone viral,’ potentially undermining the credibility of all buy local campaigns and pro-indie organizations.”

I wish we had included the shop local website, www.buylocalmn.com.
 
Steve Alexander
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Steve,

Fascinating that you don't see the need to support your local economy. "Convince"? How about present the facts and let the readers decide? It's not like I am asking you to endorse a political candidate!
Also interesting that as a reporter you did not contact any other source about the benefits of shopping local, but rather took Metro IBA's word for the misleading facts on taxes. 

If the Star Tribune is not here to educate consumers and readers about what is best for their local community- who is supposed to report on it then?

It's a fact that supporting independent businesses helps the local economy stay more viable while keeping our communities vibrant and unique.  By keeping the commerce within our neighborhoods and cities we also support all the entrepreneurs and their families who spend money within their own community, rather than send it out of state to some corporate executive with no vested interest. 

It's unfortunate you didn't write an article with a bigger and better purpose during this tough economy when so many little businesses are suffering. 

You really missed an opportunity to do some good.

Kathy
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I love it when passion cannot be contained. Sing it, Sister!
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