Publisher’s Perspective

Chad Koenen

Every once in a while I have a person ask me how I got into the newspaper industry, especially when a person finds out I am serving on the board of directors for the Minnesota Newspaper Association.

One would think I could come up with an aha moment in which the clouds opened up, the stars all aligned and inspiration struck to lead me into the journalism profession. Unfortunately, no such event happened and I have yet to come up with a great story to captivate the people who ask this simple, yet interesting question.

The truth is I simply needed a major, and after three years in college, I had an advisor tell me that I should just find something I am good at and give that a chance (I changed my major at least three times in three years). I ended up taking a journalism class that provided us a choice, either turn in one story each week we wrote for our college newspaper, or write two stories a week for class. I’ve never been one to go over and above what’s needed, but being paid enough money to buy a few beers was too appealing to turn down. 

So while my story of getting into journalism is rather boring, I do enjoy hearing about teachers reading articles directly from the newspaper to students in their classroom. Last week I had a few students tell me about their teacher reading them stories out of the Star Tribune, which is a great way to share with students about some of the events that are happening in their own community. 

One of my favorite memories of being in high school was Thursday’s in John Tauber’s English class (of course that name means little to most of you since I graduated high school from Wheaton). Every Thursday, armed with a copy of the Star Tribune, Mr. Tauber would start his class by reading the News of the Weird. 

The weekly feature in the Star Tribune was exactly as it sounded, a collection of strange news stories from across the world. Our teacher typically added his own two cents after each story, which included things like a man who got in a heated argument with his wife and went outside for a walk, only to be picked up a week later by police officers more than 260 miles away after his wife reported him missing. The story got better when he was forced to pay a $500 fine since he broke that community’s curfew.

Another recent News of the Weird story I found online included a person from Pennsylvania who called state police after running out of gas. When he was told a state trooper would respond to the call, the person said he changed his mind and hung up the phone. When the state trooper responded to the call he learned the vehicle had been stolen the day before. 

Typically after reading these unusual stories, Mr. Tauber would read a few stories from the actual news in the newspaper as we discussed the current events of our state. 

While there is a lot we can learn from books and online, simply picking up a newspaper and reading the contents inside can open a whole new world of information and conversational pieces.