Thirty-six years ago last month I walked up the steps to the second floor of the Grand Forks Herald building on Fourth Street North, across from Central High School, and inquired about job openings.
Tremendous changes have taken place in the newspaper industry since that day when I got my first off-the-farm job, but one thing that hasn’t is that I still have a desk on the second floor.
That may come as a surprise to some readers of the newspaper who, judging by their comments on social media, are convinced the Herald is located in Fargo. Those same readers, and, maybe others, too, also firmly believe that all the news on the Herald pages is about Fargo. I know that because people have told me that. Ironically, the comments often come after first complimenting me on a Grand Forks-area story they liked. Somehow, the perception is stronger than the reality.
And the reality is that the Herald publishes many news and feature stories every day written by me and by co-workers who sit in the desks surrounding mine. We reporters and photographers are joined by a few others who work in our corner of the building, including Kimberly Wynn, the Herald’s managing editor, and Korrie Wenzel, its publisher.
If I’m not in the office, it’s because I’m on the road driving to an assignment or interviewing somewhere in northeastern North Dakota or northwestern Minnesota. During the past two weeks, I’ve been to Crookston to interview a longtime University of Crookston employee who retired; to Fordville, N.D., to talk to farmers about their cattle operation; and to Park River, N.D., to visit with the owner of the bowling alley there. This weekend I’m going to Devils Lake to do a “color” story about the 36th annual Devils Lake Volunteer Firefighters Fishing Tournament.
Those are just a few of the stories I’ve worked on or will be working on. I’ve also made dozens of phone calls to people who live on both sides of the Red River for stories.
I’m not unique in my time on the road covering stories for the Herald. Most of my co-workers also put a lot of miles on their cars – or on our photographers’ cars if we ride with one of them – driving to towns on both sides of the Red River.
They, like me, are trying to do their best to cover the news in the Grand Forks Herald readership area made up of 16 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. I acknowledge that sometimes our best isn’t good enough; we might not cover an event because of deadline issues, because all of the reporters are working on other stories or because we didn’t know that it was happening.
There are more logistical and judgment-call reasons for not covering stories, but one of them definitely is not that the Herald doesn’t have any reporters in Grand Forks.
Readers who need physical proof of my presence in Grand Forks are welcome to visit me at the Herald office. My cubicle is near the entrance to the newsroom so you’ll see my smiling face when you walk in. If, by chance, I’m not there, I’m probably on the road, covering a story; you can leave a note on my desk.
You’ll recognize it’s mine by the pictures of three kids, two coffee cups and piles of local and regional story notes and ideas.