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COLUMN: Winning people over in small towns

Having worked in numerous Minnesota and North Dakota towns as a journalist gives one a unique perspective on the expectations of local readers.

On any given day, your local journalist can suffer the lament and fury of disappointed readers and out of nowhere be bombarded by the kind praise or thanks from someone you were able to assist with press or find the time to cover an event.

There are X number of events and Y number of reporters and our main goal is to avoid the Zzzzz's of putting our readers to sleep. More than that, we strive to be at as many events as we can. There's also the notion that we have to cover both towns as fair as we can.

New York Mills and Perham are kind of like the Hatfield's and McCoy's, one Focus reader told me.

While I don't attest to witnessing any feuds going on between the two towns, I think she might be onto something.

Although, everyone I've encountered, in my few short months here, has been helpful, kind and supportive.

I've also had my share of constructive criticism, as well. But believe me, in the end that is the most helpful kind of comment one can get in this profession.

It isn't always pleasant for the reader or the reporter. It's easy to get frustrated with the local press.

Oh the humanity!

Why can't we all be perfect?

I think the best thing I've experienced here came in the mail this week. It was a thank you card from a loyal reader who had a serious beef with a portion of my coverage earlier in the year.

To see her happy, after the few telephone run-ins we had over the spring season, is a defining moment in my short writing career here.

There were a couple weeks there where my phone would ring and I'd say, "Oh no, I bet it's Mrs. X!"

"Mrs. X on line one for you, Bob," Rachel, our receptionist would chime in.

Apologies and promises to do better, that's all I could give.

It appears, at least for one reader, I managed to be successful.

The last line of the thank you note, which happened to be from Mrs. X, had a warning.

"I'll be in contact," she said.

Luckily, I now look forward to that phone call.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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