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A change of heart: Journalist who reported Minnesota county was 'worst place to live' is moving there

Christopher Ingraham is greeted by a dairy cow during his tour of Red Lake County, "the ugliest county in the country" , on Thursday, August 27, 2015, in Red Lake Falls, Minn. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

RED LAKE FALLS, Minn.—A Washington Post journalist said he is moving to a Minnesota county he once reported as being "the absolute worst place to live in America."

Christopher Ingraham, who writes about politics, drug policy and all things data, announced Saturday morning on his Facebook page he is moving in May to Red Lake County.

"It's true, we've been planning it for a while now," he told the Herald. "We are just trying to find a place to stay, and once we have that ironed out, we'll be heading out there."

Ingraham triggered a social media storm after he penned "Every county in America, ranked by scenery and climate" in mid-August. The article listed the best and worst places to live in the contiguous U.S. based on measurable qualities, including sunny winters, temperate summers, low humidity, topographic variation and access to a body of water, researched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Red Lake County, which is known for being the only landlocked county in the country surrounded by two neighboring counties, ranked last in Ingraham's article.

In fact, almost every county in Minnesota and North Dakota had extremely low to low natural amenities, according to the article. Out of the 3,111 counties that were ranked, Cook County, Minn., was the only county in Minnesota and North Dakota to break the top third of the list—it came in at 310. Lake County—ranked at 1,264—and North Dakota's Dunn County—1,306—were the only counties to be listed as having at least average natural amenities.

Ventura County in California was the most desirable place to live, according to the article. The data did not include Alaska or Hawaii.

The designation for Red Lake County angered many residents throughout Minnesota, with several posting photos of Red Lake County's landscape and defending the state's beauty.

The uproar culminated into a visit to the county by Ingraham after being invited by Jason Brumwell, owner of Voyageur's View Campground and Outfitters north of Red Lake Falls. Ingraham was greeted by city officials and business owners as he toured the county, which included a welcome by the local school's drumline, a roofless school bus ride, kayaking and a visit to a dairy farm.

"The cows were lovely," he said. "Hopefully, we can move next to the cows."

Ingraham said he expects to live in Red Lake County with his family for about one or two years, though the length of their stay is "open-ended."

He and his wife, Briana, who wanted to take some time off to raise their 2-year-old twin sons, decided to move from Ellicott City, Md., to Red Lake County in part because they wanted to raise their children in the country and "partially for an adventure."

He added his trip to the Minnesota county also played a part in the decision.

"It really made an impression on me, I think," he said. "It was kind of under very strange circumstances, obviously, going out there, but I had a lot of fun.

"It just kind of stuck in my mind. The more my wife and I talked about the idea, the more it grew on us."

Ingraham plans to work for The Post from Minnesota. He said he is worried about the cold, but since he and his wife grew up in upstate New York, they should be fine.

"It'll be a little colder (in Minnesota), but I think we can handle it," he said.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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