I often tell people that I came into my current work in community newspapers as the “Intern Who Never Left.” The statement usually draws a smile and perhaps a look of surprise since most employees today never make it past their two-year anniversary, as studies suggest, but in fact, my statement is not far from the truth.
As a senior at Hamline University in 1979, I had already edited the student run Hamline Oracle my junior year and thoroughly enjoyed my experience. I had a talented staff who were devoted to the Oracle and its mission of bringing high quality news to the Hamline community, but we were also a close group of friends and colleagues who enjoyed working together, often engaging in vigorous debates on a wide range of topics. We invariably knew what was happening at the University before anyone else given our role in the media and we enjoyed a network of acquaintances that spanned every academic and athletic department on campus. We even shared part of our newsroom with the staff of the Hamline Law School’s newspaper, which was a section within the undergrad newspaper. It was my first experience, in a real sense, with community journalism.
Several of my staff members went into journalism as a profession. One of my assistant editors bought a newspaper of her own in a western suburb of the Twin Cities years later, becoming quite successful as a community newspaper publisher. Another assistant editor worked for a number of outstate dailies upon graduation, won numerous press awards, and eventually landed high profile jobs in Washington, D.C., working for a DFL congressman and later a well-known vice-presidential running mate who bragged that she could see Russia from her home state.
But in the spring of 1979, upon my own graduation, I accepted the offer of full-time employment from deRuyter-Nelson Publications, and moved from my dorm at Hamline to a modest upper room in a home on the 1400 block of Van Buren in the Midway. Monitor headquarters at the time was located at Thomas and Fairview, so my commute each morning, as you can imagine, was a matter of minutes. It was my first full time job and my introduction into the work world.
While I started as editor back in 1979, my path in journalism has been a circuitous one. While I wrote and assigned stories for the Monitor and edited copy, I also did typesetting for the graphic arts division of our operation and eventually started selling advertising for the Monitor in addition to my editing responsibilities. One of our typesetting clients were the owners of the Longfellow Messenger (before it expanded into Nokomis), who approached us about buying out the Messenger.
As the company and its commitment to community journalism grew over the years, the decision was made to redirect my time exclusively to marketing and advertising. Today, with new owner TMC Publications, my work continues in 2022 selling print and digital advertising for the Monitor, the Messenger and our newest newspaper, the Southwest Connector in southwest Minneapolis. And our commitment to community journalism continues to grow.
And while we no longer have our headquarters in the Midway – for many years we officed out of Iris Park Place which now is the base for Sejong Academy – I have been fortunate to remain connected to the communities we serve in various ways. I sit on the Hamline University Annual Fund Board which helps to raise money for scholarships and financial aid for Hamline’s best and brightest. I also sit on the board of the Longfellow Business Association which has been working with other community organizations the past two years to help rebuild Longfellow after the tumult from COVID and the civil unrest.
But despite all the changes I’ve seen to the communities we serve and the incredible evolution of our newspaper industry as a result of the changes in technology over the years, I have remained steadfast in my belief that community journalism is important now more than ever before. As our nation has navigated the challenges of the pandemic and dealt with contrasting story lines about the virus and best practices, it does not escape notice that readers have needed the integrity of the Fourth Estate to help them navigate uncertain times and assist them in sorting out fact from fiction.
And I’m proud to be working in a profession which helps provide quality information to readers who are anxious to find out what is happening in their neighborhoods - to their neighbors, to the businesses down the street from where they live, to their elected officials, and to all the little things that make their community what it is, to their quality of life.
But beyond that, I’ll just come out and say it: I still continue to see myself as an intern after all these years. I’m still a student constantly learning new things about our industry and about the clients that we serve. I’ve always been a believer in lifelong learning and the more I have learned the more I have realized that there was more I needed to learn. That’s right: Keep reading, keep learning, and keep sharing what you learn with others in your community by supporting community journalism!
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