Editor's note: Did you know MPR covers 95% of the state? Our regional network is made up of 80 stations with staffed offices in Collegeville, Moorhead, Sioux Falls, Worthington, Bemidji, Rochester and Duluth. Longtime MPR employee and regional director Kristi Booth, based in Bemidji, leads a dynamic and community-focused team: Patty Mester, regional manager, based in Duluth; Kay Hocker, regional manager, based in Rochester and Natalie Grosfield, lease manager and regional office coordinator, based in Bemidji. In addition to managing the day-to-day operations of the network stations, the team plans and implements many key MPR initiatives in the state and advocates for MPR at the state legislature. With all the important work they do for our listeners, they immediately came to mind as a group to profile in our We Are MPR series.
What excites you about coming to MPR to work every day?
Kristi: Variety! No day is the same. One day, I may be working with the Prairie Home team on a regional tour, the next day I'll schedule meetings with local foundations and the St. Paul-based institutional giving team. That variety is what is challenging and wonderful about the job. Plus, interacting with our local audiences is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
Patty: The impact we have on our listeners and members every day is what gets me out of bed every morning. Being able to have conversations with our listeners and hear about their favorite programs or driveway moments is so rewarding. From our Class Notes program with Classical MPR to MPR Connects! series each fall, our work makes an impact within the community.
Kay: Before I started working at MPR, I was a news junkie and had been for many years. Two years in to the job, I'm still just excited that I work here as I was on my first day. I love it as much on the inside as I did on the outside. I'm energized by that.
Natalie: Even though most of what I do is behind the scenes, I always have the best interests of our listeners in mind. Being able to meet fans in person and hear how MPR is a part of their lives is really inspiring.
What's your favorite MPR memory or story?
Kristi: One of the most satisfying and rewarding things I've been involved with recently was the American Spiritual Ensemble residency and public concert tour. It was meaningful in so many ways to me both personally and professionally. It was a big project in that it involved almost two years of planning and was a huge internal departmental collaboration, it extended our college partnerships in new ways and it introduced the Negro Spiritual to new audiences. Our audience impact was intense - there were literally tears.
One of my funnier memories is when I was about to introduce Ira Glass at an event and he asked me if he should have his tie knot loose or tight!
Kay: My favorite memory is recent. Testifying at the Minnesota State Senate about the essential public service that MPR provides to the state was so inspiring and moving.
Patty: My favorite memories are those moments that come up every day when I engage with our listeners and members. Those moments are very real where they share their personal comments about their experience with MPR that appeals to their intellect but attaches to their emotions. MPR talks about important issues, current concerns and honors the past on the continuum of those issues and concerns and that is very emotional for the smarties that listen to us. In turn I get to be a part of the lives of listeners and members which is very exciting.
Natalie: Our recent MPR Connects! event with APM Reports journalist Madeline Baran. Hearing her talk about her work on "In the Dark" and the impact it had on the whole state as well as the nation was incredible. The whole APM Reports team made a huge impact on the state and the nation with that project. It is a shining example of what journalism is all about.
What makes MPR's Greater Minnesota network so special?
Kristi: I drive all over the state for my job, and in some places, MPR is the only news source. I know there are people who really mean it when they say, "MPR is my friend and I don't know what I'd do without it." It's their connection to the world outside of their small town. We are invaluable to them.
Natalie: The way our members and listeners talk about us is so intense and heartfelt. It's a great feeling to be part of something that impacts so many people.
Patty: Folks in Greater Minnesota love that we have network stations. Having that local presence gives people in the area more ownership of MPR. Here in Duluth, I have the opportunity to talk to community members everyday and I think that is really a key to our success. Plus, with the many events we have across the state, we bring MPR to them!
Kay: I agree with Patty. Here in Rochester, there's an immense pride of having an MPR local office. Minnesota is a diverse state in so many ways. From the Red River Valley to the metro and the Bluffs in the SE part of the state to Iron Range, MPR is the link that keeps all of those places linked with each other and keeps everyone informed with what is happening in and out of their region.
Kristi: MPR aspires to be a great connector of ideas, people and communities. Our work in Greater Minnesota does just that!
Note: After ten years in her role as regional manager, Patty Mester is leaving MPR in mid-July. She's been appointed president and general manager at Duluth Public Television. Congratulations to Patty!