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Press Clippings: Here's to a new chapter

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I have a collection of old newspapers that numbers around 500 editions; some dating back more than a century.

Devlyn Brooks.png
Devlyn Brooks is the new publisher for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, Perham Focus and Detroit Lakes Tribune.
Vicki Gerdes / Forum News Service

Some issues contain major historical headlines involving war, assassinations, terrorist attacks and elections. Other editions contain everyday events that make up the story of a community.

I started collecting these newspapers before I ever thought about working for one. Turns out the collection was a premonition of sorts. Because a couple short years later, I wrote my first news story for the “Northern Student,” the student paper at Bemidji (Minn.) State University.

This year marks my 29th on a newspaper staff, a fitting time to accept the new challenge of becoming publisher of the Detroit Lakes Tribune, Perham Focus and Wadena Pioneer Journal.

My newspaper journey has taken me all around Minnesota the past three decades, including stops in Bemidji, Cass Lake, Nevis, Warroad, Fertile, International Falls, Baudette, Northfield, Faribault, Lonsdale and finally Fargo. There are few jobs in the newspaper world I haven’t done.

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And my work has given me a front row seat to some of the biggest stories in our region over the last 30 years: Gov. Jesse Ventura’s shocking election; Sen. Paul Wellstone’s plane crash; the 1997 and 2009 flooding of the Red River Valley; the I-35 bridge collapse; and many more.

Sure, the work has significantly changed over the years.

At my college newspaper, we used adhesive spray to cobble together the stories, photos and advertisements on big page-sized grids before we hauled it off to get printed at the daily newspaper in town. Later, when I started my first full-time writing job at that same daily newspaper, we saved stories on floppy computer disks that you prayed wouldn’t malfunction. In 2002, when I arrived at the scene of the Wellstone plane crash, I had to call in the paragraphs I’d written by hand in a reporter’s notebook to someone at the Star Tribune who transcribed them for me. No laptops that day.

Today, our reporters shoot photos and report the news with tools that I never could have imagined as a young reporter. Our sales team makes it possible for our advertisers to reach the entire world, or just the smallest demographic slice, through print, video and digital. And our publication titles include not only our printed newspapers, but various special sections, websites and social media channels that keep our readers informed on a 24/7 basis.

But while the tools and the distribution methods may have evolved, the mission of a community newspaper remains as true today as it was three decades ago when I got into the business: Bind a community together; be the first draft of a community’s history; share a community’s stories; bring buyers and sellers together; and serve as a fair and equitable public square.

I have much to learn about Detroit Lakes, Perham, Wadena and the surrounding region. And I look forward to this next chapter in my newspaper journey!

In the coming months, I’ll be making it out to participate in more events, visit more businesses and greet more local people. Meanwhile, I encourage you to reach out when you have questions, a story idea or way that we can work together. I look forward to hearing from you!

Devlyn Brooks is the publisher of the Detroit Lakes Tribune, Perham Focus and Wadena Pioneer Journal, and their associated websites. He can be reached at dbrooks@dlnewspapers.com or at 218-844-1451.

Devlyn Brooks is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and serves Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minn. He also works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at devlyn.brooks@forumcomm.com for comments and story ideas.
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