Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Yes, I sent this to Jay Leno June 11, 2013

I HOPE THE SON of my long ago boss possesses a sense of humor. When I received my June 6 issue of The Gaylord Hub, a community newspaper in Gaylord in southern Minnesota, I chuckled at the in-house subscription renewal ad published on the classified ads page.

Fortunately, I am not about to expire. Or at least I hope not.

Published in the June 6 issue of The Gaylord Hub.

Read the ‘Hub’scription ad published in the June 6 issue of The Gaylord Hub.

And, yes, I mailed this to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno for consideration.

Now, please continue reading of my association with, and deep appreciation for, The Gaylord Hub in a letter addressed to the current publisher and editor, Joe Deis.

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Dear Joe,

Thirty-five years have passed since I arrived at your dad’s weekly newspaper fresh out of college with a journalism degree ready to set the world afire. Or at least Gaylord, Minnesota.

Your father, Publisher and Editor Jim Deis, set up a corner office furnished with a desk and chair and equipped with a phone and a Remington manual typewriter. He also handed me a stash of thin yellow paper upon which to type my news stories. (Yes, I can hear the quips about yellow journalism.)

Being the first reporter ever hired to cover happenings in Gaylord, I came to The Gaylord Hub in 1978 as a bit of a shock to the locals. Here was this 21-year-old out-of-towner suddenly asking questions, quoting public officials and seeking out stories beyond the usual Legion Fish Fry.

I was particularly disliked by the school superintendent; by a certain teacher, whom I quoted (how dare you do that) at a school board meeting; and by a local realtor, whom I had also quoted at a city council meeting. I will never forget their anger—which to this day I find totally unsuited to men in these positions. When you speak at a public meeting, expect to be quoted.

Your dad, bless him, totally backed me up. On everything. He knew my standards, my dedication, my journalistic ethics in getting it right. Today I still hold to the highest standards in decency, fairness and accuracy.

For two years I covered news and events in Gaylord, transitioning from greenhand to experienced in all aspects of community journalism—reporting to photography to lay-out to overseeing the final product at the printing plant to delivering the bagged newspapers to the post office.

I covered major fires (church, school and chicken barn), wrote about tragic accidents, sat through endless public meetings, found local angles in national news stories, covered the controversy over chicken barns and more.

Joe, I shall be forever grateful for your dad’s guidance those first years as a reporter. Every newbie needs a mentor and Jim was mine.

All these decades after exiting Gaylord for work at another weekly newspaper and thereafter a southern Minnesota daily, I still get The Hub each week. I read the familiar names, sometimes in the obituaries now (including your dad). And I think back on those long ago years of entering journalism shortly after Watergate was exposed by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

The profession was wide open then; I had my pick of jobs.

So much has changed. While community newspapers like yours still exist, many papers today are owned by large media companies. With that often comes a loss of community connection and care. Not always. But finances, more and more, take precedence over the editorial side. The internet, certainly, has factored into the demise of the newspaper as we once knew it.

Times change. I got out of the newspaper profession decades ago, knowing the long and odd hours would not be conducive to raising a family. My family became my focus and I’ve never regretted that choice.

Yet, during those years away, I never lost my passion for writing and have returned to writing, although not at a newspaper. (Click here to read a list of the projects I’ve pursued in recent years.)

All of that said, I find it remarkable, Joe, that you are carrying on the tradition of community journalism established first by your grandfather, Frank “Chick” Deis, and then by your father, Jim. Three generations running a small town newspaper. Outstanding, from my perspective.

Warm regards,

Audrey, “The Cub from The Hub

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling