A museum powered with a free press
This year’s Minnesota State Fair marked a special milestone for Minnesota newspapers. It was the 30th anniversary of the Minnesota Newspaper Foundation’s museum at the Fair.
I have been fortunate to be part of the foundation as one of its board directors for several years. During that time, I have also volunteered to work at the museum to educate fairgoers about newspapers in the state.
More than 75 volunteers sta around 150 shifts at the museum during the entire Fair.
My first boss, Chuck Warner, was key in getting the museum o the ground in 1987 when I worked for my hometown newspaper in high school. At 94 years old, he is still instrumental in supporting the effort.
The museum draws more than 20,000 visitors a year. When we think of museums, the thought of vintage equipment quickly comes to mind. But this museum is so much more.
A central element of the museum’s mission is to explain to visitors the central role newspapers play in democracy. In the editor’s corner, which is where I was camped out, Fairgoers can have conversations with editors and other Minnesota journalists. The editors explain the crucial role journalists and newspapers ll in a community, as they bring the news and information that a ect every aspect of residents’ lives. It may be community decisions, business developments, births, deaths and much more.
We are often called on to describe, and even defend, how democracy is sustained through a newspaper’s key roles as a watchdog in holding public offcials accountable, an investigative arm for community issues and problems and a leader in problem-solving community dilemmas.
A big hit this year was the availability of some First Amendment signs. Our precious First Amendment highlights the importance of a free press in our democracy. With the political climate out there these days, it’s no wonder people found the signs popular.
A free press is extremely crucial to our way of life and our democracy. Even though some get upset from time to time about what is reported in the press, how the news is reported or what is being left out, just imagine for a moment life without this reporting. That was the basis for our statewide “Whiteout” campaign last month in which the front page of the newspaper was left intentionally blank.
For many years, the museum found its home in the Heritage Square. But in 2014 the museum was forced out because of a new transit center. Since then, the museum has had space at the 4-H Building.
Critical to our lives lled with having a free press is what Thomas Jefferson once said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.”
During the entire 30 years, the museum has published the Maynard News. In the mid 1980s, as the newspaper was converting to o set composition, owners of the Maynard News donated the printing equipment to the foundation in an effort to preserve the traditions of letterpress printing.
As the museum points out, it’s important for all of us to go in hot pursuit of supporting a free press.