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.


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


12 Responses to “Yes, I sent this to Jay Leno”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Definitely worthy of Jay Leno and I loved the letter ! I think it is so important to let others know of the impact they have had on our lives and your letter really gave credit where credit was due. I am sure Joe will treasure that letter for many years to come. Thanks for sharing!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I agree that it’s important to tell others how they’ve impacted your life. Joe’s dad was a wonderful mentor and encourager.

  2. What a wonderful letter! This has me feeling all nostalgic for the way things used to be for writers of all kinds, before the internet made everyone think they could be a writer, editors and mentors be damned. Paper, ink, and, most importantly, real people who were in the same room with you…Working online is a wonderful thing for many reasons, but you just can’t beat the excitement of interactions with real people and the feel of paper in your hands, paper that has your own byline.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well said, Kathleen, well said.

      Be sure to read my post from Sunday. I promise, you will find it of interest.

  3. Jackie Says:

    I’m sure Joe was appreciative of your letter to him, it’s always a good thing to share with others the impact they (or in this case Joe’s dad) had on your life. I loved reading about your early years in Gaylord and the passion you had for your reporting/writing. It’s evident that the things you learned in those early days have carried you through to now. You have such a way of bringing stories, and photo’s to life that keeps our attention and makes us want to read more. I Love your Blog Audrey, so glad I found you 🙂 I hope the ad makes the cut for the Leno show, it’s chuckle-worthy that’s for sure!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Perhaps I should alert Joe to this post, huh?

      Thank you for your kind words re. my blog. My passion has always been writing with photography following.

      If anyone sees the ad on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, alert me. It’s not that often I can stay awake long enough to watch.

  4. treadlemusic Says:

    Would like to affirm all that has been already stated! I so love and appreciate your literary prowess and creativity! Love the “ad”, too!!!

  5. Lovely letter for a man who will, I’m certain, be so pleased to receive it. Yes, the world of journalism has definitely changed – I love the image you draw of a small town and the men who ran it – and YOU entering their world and, thankfully, being backed up by your boss. great story, there!

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