About 10 years ago I was interviewing a couple about their purchase of a hotel, restaurant and bar in a rural community as their retirement project. I had worked in that business, and there was nothing about it that seemed to fit with the freedom and reduced stress you would think come with retirement. “A change is as good as a rest,” they told me. I was too young to understand. Up until then my life had not stopped changing. But I’m starting to get it.
Last week we went to press with the first issue of the Blaine-Spring Lake Park Life under my direction. With editor Tim Hennagir’s departure to become the managing editor at our sister-paper, the Monticello Times, there were shoes to fill. Tim and I sat side by side for the five years I’ve been with ABC Newspapers as the editor of the Anoka County Union. He had a great passion for the Life and worried about every painstaking detail as the newspaper transitioned from a subscription title to a free paper that is now delivered to 16,500 homes.The Life instantly became the largest circulated newspaper of our three-paper group, which also includes the Coon Rapids Herald.
I am a champion of the reporting and photography that appear in our papers. It’s the best deal in town at less than $1 a week if you subscribe, or free if you live along one of the Life’s many new delivery routes. Since being hired in 2007 my responsibilities as the editor of the Union have been pretty consistent. I’ve got a handle on covering the city of Anoka as a beat reporter along with directing the news content of a paper that covers eight very different communities.
But any time I get a little breathing room in my work life, I start to get itchy for a new project, somewhere new to focus my energy. So I have agreed to take on some new responsibilities and opportunities, including being the new editor of the Life. I’m pretty excited to have a hand in a newspaper that brings our work to so many people in the community. Tim left the newspaper set up for success, and I’m happy to continue that tradition.
The recent shuffling also includes the addition of two new beat reporters to the Life’s coverage area. Reporter Eric Hagen will be covering both Blaine City Council and the community at large. Eric has also been with ABC Newspapers for five years where he has worked in the communities of Andover, Ham Lake and East Bethel. He also covered Blaine for the Sun-Focus before joining ECM Publishers in 2007. Tammy Sakry will report on Spring Lake Park. She has been with ABC Newspapers for 14 years and has recently covered Ramsey, St. Francis and the St. Francis School District, all for the Union. Readers will continue to reap the benefits of Elyse Kaner’s comprehensive coverage of the Spring Lake Park School District and the local arts scene.
My job will be to help coordinate that coverage, be a point of contact for inquiries and put the paper together each week. Add in some coverage of the Anoka County Board by Managing Editor Peter Bodley, sports by Sue Austreng (and Jason Olson when he returns from parental leave in October) and Anoka-Hennepin School District courtesy of Kelly Johnson and we’ve got a pretty well rounded team.
I’ve spent nearly 15 years working in the community newspaper industry, starting out in Manitoba until I moved to Minnesota in 2007. I’ve covered everything from house fires to crop damage. I’ve lost count of the number of kitchen tables I’ve sat at while people shared some of the most intimate details of their lives.
In my most terrifying moment as a reporter I found myself with my back pressed up against the steel panels at the auction mart while dozens of bulls were being run through the alleys on their way to be sold. And the closest I’ve ever come to a holy moment on the job was at Goodrich Field in Anoka while documenting the homecoming of National Guard troops in 2007. So this work is not new to me. It’s just more of what I enjoy most – putting together a newspaper that is informative, enjoyable and relevant to people in the community.
So while the Union might be my first love, there’s plenty to go around. And that includes the Life.