Over the past several months, as newspaper people we have done our best to cover what we were allowed to cover from a news perspective.
Honestly, sometimes it felt like we couldn’t win either way.
One day, we’d receive a phone call from a reader saying, “I only see obituaries, city council and school board meetings in your newspaper. There’s nothing else.”
My response. “That’s because nothing is happening other than government meetings. Nobody is allowed to do anything. No town festivals. No sports. Nothing.”
We cover 14 city councils, nine school boards, and county government, which is critical information for our readers.
The next day, I’d receive an e-mail from a reader saying we shouldn’t have covered the FAKEBRAI bicycle event that took place in our area because it showed a lack of social distancing and masks. If we covered any event in which people were together, we received phone calls, e-mails and online comments slamming our news coverage.
We know we can’t make everyone happy all the time. That’s impossible.
But, we felt that we needed to add more content. More flavor. When nothing was happening, what could we do? Get creative.
We’ve been blessed with historical features spearheaded by Dianne Ruud and Lee Epps, two great historians representing the counties of Fillmore and Houston. And, they have both taken requests from readers and turned them into stories.
Al Batt fans begged for his weekly column to be published in the Fillmore County Journal. He was a long-time staple of the Bluff Country Reader, and his headlines alone capture a reader’s attention.
“Sports returns!” That was the headline last week, and we placed it right on the front page. The reason being that we haven’t published anything current for sports since mid-March. We were fortunate enough to have Sports Director Paul Trende publish the top athletes of the past decade, which was very well-received by readers. Now Paul is back in the driver’s seat with sports, and we are fortunate to have the talents of Lee Epps, Christine Vreeman, Leif Erickson, Deb Finseth, Ron Mayer, Sam Clemens, and Heather Kleiboer covering sports and many other high school and town events important to our readers.
We’ve also added a page titled “Agriculture News,” which is vital to our region. We’ve always published stories relating to farming, but we knew we could do more. Maddie Smith is to be credited for leading our newspaper in the direction of publishing a weekly column. Since she was a Journal Student Writing Project contributor in high school, now attending the University of Minnesota, she has continuously asked us how she can help. We felt that agricultural news was an area we could improve upon. With Maddie’s leadership and experience as the Minnesota FFA state treasurer, now vying for an opportunity to serve at the national FFA level, she is the right person for this job.
You’ve probably also noticed that we’ve added an “Arts & Entertainment” page to the newspaper. We have felt that this is an area that deserves more attention. We have so many creative and talented individuals living in our area. While we’ve started sharing stories of local musicians, we have plans of highlighting all types of artists. If you want to contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (507) 765-2151, you can let us know of any suggestions.
Some of you probably remember “Real Bites” as a feature in the Journal many years ago. I decided to bring “Real Bites” back to the dinner table of our newspaper for a couple of reasons. First, we are fortunate to have so many outstanding locally-owned dining establishments in our region. We need to support them, whether dine-in or carry-out. Another reason is because I like to eat, and I don’t think I am alone.
On a regular basis, our Fillmore County Journal team is continuously thinking of how we can improve the content of this newspaper. In our eyes, complacency is not an option.