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MPR-Keillor deal preserves Prairie Home, Writer's Almanac archives

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Garrison Keillor performs in 'A Prairie Home Companion' in 2015.
Garrison Keillor performs in "A Prairie Home Companion" at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul on Oct. 17, 2015.
Nate Ryan | MPR

Updated: 6:25 p.m. | Posted: 2:55 p.m.

Fans of A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer's Almanac will be able once again to view archived materials from those shows under terms of a deal announced Friday by Minnesota Public Radio.

Public access to the archives had been suspended after MPR severed its contracts with Garrison Keillor, the creator and host of the shows. That move followed revelations that Keillor had been accused of inappropriate behavior toward a woman who worked on A Prairie Home Companion.

Under the agreement announced Friday, MPR will pay Keillor $275,000. Both parties agree they will not will sue each other. And MPR will restore access to the thousands of past shows that it had scrubbed from its website following the news last November that it had severed contracts with him.

Keillor's attorney and brother-in-law, Eric Nilsson, said the deal was "liberating" for his client.

"It will allow Garrison to focus on the future and his work," Nilsson said. "This grants some closure to an unfortunate episode, and he can move on." 

In a statement, Keillor said the agreement "means that we move on to more interesting things, namely writing stories and creating a podcast. Compared to sitting in mediation, writing is one of life's great pleasures."

Keillor had suggested in a Facebook post recently that he was considering restarting The Writer's Almanac, which on the radio was a short daily show dedicated to poetry, on social media.

Loft Literary Center director Britt Udesen said the return of The Writer's Almanac archive is good news for poetry.     "I think the more access poets have to the work of others the better it is," Udesen said. "It's always lovely to hear a poem read, even if it's not read by the poet. It adds that life to it that it otherwise wouldn't."

In a statement, MPR CEO Jon McTaggart said: "These archives feature the work of thousands of talented artists, poets and musicians ... We are pleased that these performances will once again be available to fans of these programs."

Actor Sue Scott, who regularly performed on Prairie Home, said she's pleased the archive will again be available.    "There's 24 years of my life in those archives," she said, "so I'm just thrilled to have those back up and available for people to listen to and enjoy."

The statement from Keillor's lawyer and a memo from McTaggart to MPR staff both specified that the agreement did not involve the woman who brought the allegations or the former Prairie Home employee who first brought them to MPR's attention. 

"This agreement deals only with matters between Mr. Keillor and MPR, and does not include provisions for other parties," McTaggart's note said.

Access to the archives was to resume at prairiehome.org and writersalmanac.org. later this month. The agreement suggests the archives could move to another platform after three years.