A little bit about me… I grew up on a cattle and crop farm in north central Iowa. With no brothers, every day was “Take Your Daughter to Work” day. I have vivid dreams every fall about helping with the harvest.
My father and I both loved horses and ranch rodeos, and my earliest career choice was to work on a ranch. That career never happened, but it’s still fun to think about.
It’s striking to realize that after many generations of farmers on both branches of the family tree, no one in my extended family farms today.
Our farm was in a rural area known as Heathen Valley. We had many friends and many youthful adventures in our rural neighborhood, which was near a landmark still known as Four Corners. It got its name because with ponds and the east fork of the Iowa River, you could fish at all four corners.
My sisters and I attended a K-12 school, where my graduating class was the second-largest in school history. There were 34 of us, and almost two dozen of us classmates began kindergarten together.
I always liked to read and write, so journalism was an extension of that. My newspaper career began at age 12, as a writer for small weekly newspapers. I worked with some wonderful editors and correspondents during that time. School news and sports were my first “beats,” but I also covered local meetings.
One paper let me hang out in the back shop where the paper was produced. The young people who helped were known as “printers’ devils.” Many of us get to revisit those days at the Minnesota State Fair Newspaper Museum, housed in the 4-H Building.
After high school, I graduated from Iowa State University. My career path never strayed from community journalism, with papers in Iowa and Minnesota. I moved to the Twin Cities in 1983 and live in Macalester-Groveland neighborhood in St. Paul, after many years in Merriam Park.
Many, many people and stories come to mind when looking back on my career. One of the strangest was in the early 1980s, when a rural Minnesota high school bought a portable breath tester to use with the junior-senior prom attendees. The story was picked up by the wire services. Today we’d say it went viral.
Another story a few of you might remember is the all-night public hearing on I-35W expansion in south Minneapolis, back in 1992. It may have been the last public hearing on such a topic with that format. To those who stayed all night with me, I salute you.
My current work has me editing Access Press, a monthly paper for people with disabilities, and writing for community papers including the Villager, Monitor and Messenger. I do some writing for Food Service News and other trade publications.
My work is largely focused on St. Paul city and county government, land use and regulatory issues, although I do venture across the river to do Minneapolis stories from time to time. I also write and research St. Paul history.
A few random thoughts on my work life:
*Issues take time to be resolved. I began writing about what became the Green Line light rail in 1983. I also remember when the Blue Line was Hennepin County’s third transit priority. It was the first light rail line built in the Twin Cities.
*The second thought is that so many things have changed over my years of writing. How communities organize, who is involved, what form outreach takes, which issues are important … things in some ways look very different than they used to.
Journalism itself has really changed. I remember listening to the wire services machines humming and clicking in the background of a newsroom or hearing the bells for major news. I remember when getting a fax machine for a newsroom was a big, big deal.
But what hasn’t changed is the need to get the news out, deadline after deadline. And for me, it continues to be a great general education. You learn something new every day.