Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

If I hear a media report about Randy Shaver… September 21, 2021

Randy Shaver trading cards. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo March 2021.

IF YOU’VE EVER READ the children’s picture book series, If You Give A… by Laura Numeroff, you understand the premise of how one thing leads to another. In her book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, for example, Numeroff writes about a mouse who, if given a cookie, will then want a glass of milk and then a straw and then…

That domino thought train followed for me after I heard a news report about KARE 11 TV anchor Randy Shaver’s induction into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame over the weekend. I remembered a photo I’d taken of a Randy Shaver trading card during a stop at Hopefull Treasures/Wilker’s Antiques in March. The antique shop is housed in an aged building in the small town of Hope just off Interstate 35 south of Owatonna.

Hopefull Treasures/Wilker’s Antiques. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo March 2021.

Recalling that image, I opened my photo files. Then I Googled the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame. There I found Shaver’s bio and current portrait along with those of four other 2021 inductees. Shaver has been with KARE 11 since 1983, working in positions ranging from reporter to sports director to evening news anchor.

I then began scrolling through the 2001-2018 Hall of Fame Honorees, looking for familiar names. And I found lots of them—Cyndy Brucato, Herb Carneal, Ralph Jon Fritz, Halsey Hall and, then, pause, Brad Nessler. I clicked on his bio. Nessler and I attended journalism school together at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He graduated a year before me, his focus in broadcasting and mine in news editorial/print journalism. Professionally, this small town boy from St. Charles in southeastern Minnesota excelled. Today he works as the CBS play-by-play sportscaster for the Southeastern Conference in football and basketball. I remember him, from my college days, as an all-around nice guy.

A vintage radio at Hopefull Treasures/Wilker’s Antiques. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo March 2021.

Once I finished scrolling through the Hall of Fame honorees, I then shifted to reading about The Pavek Museum in St. Louis Park which initiated this broadcasting award. I’d never heard of the museum. The 12,000-plus square foot museum houses antique radios, televisions and broadcasting equipment, most from the collection of Joe Pavek.

Well, then, who is Joe Pavek? He was an amateur radio operator and electronics instructor at Dunwoody Institute. And a collector.

The Pavek Museum opened in 1988 to preserve and present the history of electronic communication and provide a learning environment for those interested in the science of electromagnetism and sound, according to the museum website. That educational facet includes a Broadcast Workshop for kids to learn about the history of electronics communications while creating a 1960s style radio broadcast.

So there you go. If you give a writer a media report, she will remember a photo which will lead her to a website and then to…

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

When reporters cover tough topics… January 31, 2019

 

THE NEXT TIME YOU CRITICIZE a journalist or rant that reporters are nothing but a bunch of biased writers, consider this. My local newspaper, the Faribault Daily News, recently placed first in the Social Issues category of the 2017-2018 Minnesota Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest. For a series on domestic violence.

The award-winning series, titled “Abuse,” published over a period of a year and covered the gamut from information to interviews with survivors and their families, advocates, police and more. These were powerful pieces, written primarily by reporter Gunnar Olson but also by Regional Editor Suzanne Rook.

It is the personal stories which made this series. Emotional stories. Gut-wrenching, difficult stories. Stories that needed to be told, heard, written, read and, then, remembered.

 

 

When a reporter can take a topic like domestic abuse and violence, interview people in a caring and compassionate way, and then share those stories through dynamic writing, that work deserves recognition. By fellow journalists. And by readers. I applaud the Daily News for raising awareness, educating and connecting people to this social issue via deeply personal stories.

As a former weekly and daily newspaper reporter, I will confirm that writing stories like this is difficult. I once wrote a series on eating disorders that included interviewing a survivor and the mother of a young woman who died from anorexia. Although I kept my professional persona in place while working on the series, inside my heart hurt for every single individual I interviewed. Reporters have a job to do. But they are still human.

I often hear newspapers criticized for printing nothing but bad news. That raises my ire. Do not kill the messenger. Newspapers are not PR mouthpieces. They are newspapers. It is their job to report the news—good and bad. Features and hard news. They do not cause the bad news. People do.

Today, more than ever, journalists are under attack. For writing fake news. For not writing something they should have or for writing something they shouldn’t have. They are losing their jobs. The free press is threatened. That should scare every single person. Democracy needs a strong and free press.

Yes, I’ve sidetracked a bit. But I’ll circle back now and reaffirm how much I appreciate my community newspaper. Reporters keep me informed of local issues and happenings, of good news and bad. I am grateful for their hard work and their willingness to stretch beyond the everyday news to cover important topics. Like domestic violence.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

And the Pulitzer Prize goes to… an editor in rural Iowa April 13, 2017

Art Cullen is in the center of this photo on The Storm Lake Times website. That’s his brother to the right, his son to the left.

 

HE BEAT OUT WRITERS from the Houston Chronicle and The Washington Post.

He is Art Cullen, 59-year-old editor of The Storm Lake Times. On Monday he won the Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing “for editorials fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.”

 

A farm site just across the Minnesota-Iowa border on the west side of Interstate 35. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

That’s right. Rural Iowa. The state that welcomes visitors to “Fields of Opportunities.” The land of corn and beans and hogs. I like Iowa, just an hour south of my Minnesota home. It reminds me of my native rural southwestern Minnesota with fields, farm sites, small towns and wide open spaces.

That a writer from a northwestern Iowa community of around 10,000, from a newspaper with a circulation of 3,000, won the Pulitzer Prize delights me. You don’t need to be big city famous or work for some well-known newspaper to be recognized and honored. You just need to do outstanding work. It’s not easy being a journalist in a small town. I remember. I worked as a reporter, photographer and more at Minnesota weeklies and dailies decades ago.

To take a strong stand on the editorial page like Cullen did against corporate ag takes guts. And a deep understanding that the editorial page is the heart of the newspaper. As a journalism student at Minnesota State University, Mankato, in the late 1970s, I heard repeatedly that message of editorial importance. It ranked right up there with the basics of reporting—who, what, when, where, why and how.

 

Small farming communities define Iowa. This is downtown Garner, just across the Minnesota/Iowa border. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Cullen clearly understands community journalism and the accompanying responsibilities of a strong editorial voice no matter the risks. And there are risks—financial and otherwise. Express an unpopular opinion and you risk raising the ire of advertisers, subscribers and others. Read a sampling of Cullen’s editorials, and you begin to understand why he won the Pulitzer Prize. Here’s a man determined to consider the facts and then offer his common sense opinion.

I doubt Cullen’s new-found fame as a Pulitzer Prize winner will change how he approaches his job at The Storm Lake Times, a newspaper he co-owns with his brother and where his wife and son also work. I expect he will continue to work with the enthusiasm of a man passionate about community journalism. I appreciate that family-run newspapers like his still exist in an age when too many towns/cities have lost their hometown papers to newspaper chains. When that local ownership is lost, quality and quantity of local coverage usually diminishes.

The Storm Lake Times remains undeniably local. Alongside a photo and headline announcing the Pulitzer Prize are stories about a cat sanctuary, a second grader finding a four-leaf clover and a popular area fishing spot. It doesn’t get much more down-to-earth rural, more “this is still life in Iowa even when you win the Pulitzer Prize” than that.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots needs your “best of” vote August 5, 2015

TYPICALLY, I AM NOT ONE to promote myself. That is why, perhaps, I am not some famous worldwide blogger.

I have, though, made a name for myself in Southern Minnesota. Not because that’s highest on my priority list. Rather, I am passionate about writing and photography and my work seems to resonate with readers, Minnesotans or not. Minnesota Public Radio has noticed as has MinnPost.

Best of Southern MN 2015 logo

That all said, I am once again among nominees for the “Best Local Blog/Blogger.” The regional arts and entertainment magazine, Southern Minnesota Scene, is sponsoring a competition to choose the “best ofs” in Southern Minnesota. And I happen to fall in to the miscellaneous category.

Now, if you think my Minnesota Prairie Roots blog worthy of this honor, please vote for me in the miscellaneous section of the ballot. There are lots of other categories to vote in, too, such as art, music, theater, restaurants and more.

You can vote once a day per email address.

I am competing against four other blogs/bloggers. So your vote is important. Please share this on social media, if you wish.

Minnesota Prairie Roots has been voted the best in southern Minnesota.

Minnesota Prairie Roots was voted the “Best Local Blog/Blogger” in Southern Minnesota in 2014.

Thank you for your support as I defend my title of “Best Local Blog/Blogger” in Southern Minnesota.

FYI: Click here to vote.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling