Joel Kramer

Editor & CEO,

When he was 12, Joel Kramer delivered Newsday in Queens, N.Y. Later, he became the editor of both his high school and college newspapers, and then worked as a writer or editor for Science Magazine, Newsday and the Buffalo Courier-Express.

In 1983, he moved to Minneapolis to become editor of The Star Tribune. In 1992, he was named publisher and president, a position he held until 1998, when the newspaper was sold to McClatchy Newspapers. Subsequently, he spent three years as a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

In 2002, he joined Becky Lourey as her running mate in her unsuccessful attempt to win the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) nomination for governor at the state convention. His political career lasted six weeks. Among the things he learned is “that I’m not cut out for running for office.”

On the civic front, Kramer has served as chair of the board of the Children’s Theatre Company in the mid-1990s, and more recently as board chair of Achieve!Minneapolis, which galvanizes community support for public education in Minneapolis. In 2003, Kramer started a think tank called Growth & Justice.

Kramer and his wife, Laurie Kramer, launched in 2007. The couple are also investors in Minnesota Jewish Media, a private partnership that owns American Jewish World, a local newspaper for the Jewish Community, and Kramer serves as chair of the MJM board.

[BONUS 0801] - Part 1: Introduction (5:13)

Joel Kramer, editor & CEO,, and his wife, Laurie Kramer, founded the non-profit community news website in 2007. He says the project was started after Minneapolis’ major dailies began reducing their news staffs. According to Kramer, was well supported because, “This is a very civic community and very politically active community, and people were extremely nervous of what the implications of [newspaper downsizing] was.” Kramer said they started “to partly replace what was being lost and partly to try new things – new ways of doing journalism with the new technology.” emphasizes interpretive reporting because, “We don’t believe in objectivity and in a dispassionate human observer who has no biases and no point of view. We want [our journalists] to be good reporters, and we want them to be fair and accurate,” says Kramer, “but we also want them to bring their life experience to bear on what the story is really about – what it means….”

[BONUS 0802] - Part 2: The Business Model (7:05)

Joel Kramer, editor & CEO,, says his organization operated with a budget of about $1.25M in 2010, 38 percent of which came from foundations, 36 percent from members and events and 25 percent from advertising sales. He says he initially considered becoming a for-profit organization in 2007, but he decided that model would not support “sustaining, high-quality journalism.” “You can make money on the Internet,” says Kramer, “if you are national or global. If you keep your content creation costs to a minimum. But in our mission, I still don’t see any way to make a profit.”

[BONUS 0803] - Part 3: Community Journalism (8:32)

Joel Kramer, editor & CEO,, says during the deepest part of the recession, 2008 and 2009, the was kept afloat by tapping its initial pool of fund-raising, but it broke even using its non-profit formula of annual membership giving, annual foundation support and annual advertising sales to finance operations in 2010. Kramer has learned the Internet is “a very difficult space to have a decent-sized [news] operation.” He says to compensate 10-15 reporters and pay them a decent wage “is very difficult.” Kramer says journalists establishing online news sites and “thinking that quality journalism will carry the day by itself – that’s very naïve.” He says, “You’ve got to be focused on raising the money.”