As I type this, the Dickinson County News office is quiet enough to hear a clock tick away its seconds from a spot on the wall. Highlighters and correction tape weigh down a random pile of Post-It notes. Interviews are still trapped in a cassette tape recorder the size of a Buick, and the scattered piles of paper on my desktop are an "opportunity for improvement."
By the end of the night, that's going to change. Drawers will be empty, a wastepaper basket will be filled with the scraps I should have purged long ago. For the first time in more than 23 years, I won't be writing community-level stories in the six-county area nestled against Minnesota and South Dakota.
I have taken the position of Lead Midwest Writer at Catena Media, which operates the playiowa.com website. It's a big, scary step, but I'll get to work from Spencer for my best friend. That also means I can stay connected to the volunteer groups that make the Lakes Region what it is today (as long as they'll still have me). I love it here, and I've loved this job.
As a professional questioner, I think I can anticipate the next question you may have: "What is the Dickinson County News going to do?" The answer — at the risk of speaking out of turn — is found on every other page of the issue you see right now. Seth Boyes and Matt Heinrichs have worked with our publisher Paula Buenger to divide up the responsibilities. This is a new opportunity for the guys I see in the foxhole every day (before COVID). They tell me they're nervous, but they shouldn't be.
They have a whole team of support behind them in Spencer and Spirit Lake, and they have the skills that only come naturally — either you have it or you don't.
They have it.
I'm not sure I had "it" back in the fall of 1997. The Spencer Daily Reporter ran an ad for some part-time sportswriting help as the newsroom waited for a new sports editor to arrive. I went to the library, looked up the previous year's football results and turned in a high school football "Pigskin Preview" as a writing sample. The clock started ticking with that first cross country coach's call. There have been helicopter crashes, murder trials, stray cat disputes, blizzards and tornados — I've been Tasered and rode in a stunt bi-plane for first-person stories. I've talked to a psychic and a few future presidents.
We put it all down on paper and send it out into the world — never knowing if 12 people read our account or 1,200. If you read something — anything — from this desk, thank you.
I've been humbled to have your time for a moment. I'm forever grateful to everyone who gave me this chance and so many others.
The clock still ticks.
But now it's someone else's time.