The Minnesota News Media Institute is pleased to present the 13th Cohort of the Editors & Publishers Community Leadership Program. This intensive, months-long program is funded in part by a generous grant from the Blandin Foundation and was founded in 2005, modeled after the successful Blandin Community Leadership Program.
Annually, MNI recruits editor-publisher teams who want to develop their community leadership and vision skills. The program encourages newspapers to develop and strengthen social capital within their communities, to learn of the power they have to frame issues and mobilize action and ultimately helps them to advance the health and vibrancy of their communities.
Congrats to Cohort 13 — The “Class of 2017”
Pete Mohs has been publisher of the Brainerd Dispatch since January of 2016, and the weekly Echo Journal, based in Pequot Lakes and Pine River, since 2004.
Mohs is a past president of the Minnesota Newspaper Association board of directors and participated in the Editors & Publishers Community Leadership program 10 years ago.
Mohs started his journalism career at the St. Cloud Times while in high school and college. He became a full-time reporter for the Dispatch in 1983 before switched to advertising sales for the Dispatch in 1995.
Matt Erickson graduated from the University of North Dakota with a degree in communications. He has been with the Brainerd Dispatch for 17 years, starting a reporter in 2000 covering the city government and crime beats.
In 2011, Matt took the position of night editor and was named editor of the Dispatch in 2014.
Melissa Swenson is currently the publisher at Detroit Lakes Newspapers. She has held this position since July of 2016 and was previously the Publisher of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Melissa started her career with Forum Communications in 1999 as the Regional Marketing Director for several weekly newspapers in the Lakes Group Division.
Melissa lives in Detroit Lakes with her husband Tim. They are recent empty-nesters, as their youngest daughter, Grace is a freshman at MSU-Moorhead, however they do have two fur-baby’s at home, Ole and Lena (the cutest dogs on planet Earth).
As editor of the Detroit Lakes Tribune and very recently of the Wadena Pioneer Journal and Perham Focus, I can’t help but wonder what got me messed up in this newspaper gig because it certainly didn’t start out that way. I entered the career of journalism through the U.S. Air Force, training to be a TV and Radio reporter/broadcaster at the Defense Information School in Maryland. After four years of doing mostly TV news for stations in Turkey and Italy, I came back to enter the civilian world.
I worked as a reporter/weekend anchor for the CBS affiliate in Fargo for three years before going across town to the FOX affiliate, where I was the nightly news anchor for three more years.
With a growing family (four kids) and irritating commute from my home in Detroit Lakes, I made the decision to stay home with my children for a few more years before delving back into the news business – this time on the print side. I worked for four years as a multi-media journalist for the Detroit Lakes Tribune, where my love of this side of journalism grew far beyond what I thought it would.
Last year, in February of 2016, I became editor of the Detroit Lakes Tribune and was so, so proud of our family-like staff when it broke a state record for winning the Mills Trophy six times, the most any Minnesota newspaper has received the award for best weekly newspaper in the state.
Now, as I take on Wadena and Perham, the pressure is on, but I’m loving it. This is the best business ever.
I started my newspaper career with ECM back in the early 80’s. In 1984, I was offered a position with the Advertiser in Mora, working in the Graphics department. After the sale of the Advertiser to the Kanabec County Times, I was moved up to an Ad Sales position, then into the Advertising Sales Manager position, overseeing 3 locations. I held that position for over 25 years. In 2015, I was named Publisher at the Kanabec County Times, Pine City Pioneer and the Isanti-Chisago County STAR. I have been working in the newspaper industry for the past 33 years.
Kirsten Faurie is the editor at the Kanabec County Times, a 3,000-circulation weekly newspaper based in Mora, Minn. and managing editor of two sister publications: the Braham Journal and the Isanti-Chisago County Star. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in marketing communications and a minor in journalism from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls. Her husband, Mike, teaches special education at the local school district. Together, Kirsten and Mike care for their 9-month-old daughter, Alexandria. Kirsten’s hobbies include hunting black bear and white-tailed deer, fishing, gardening, reading books that never got to be New York Times Bestsellers and sitting around the campfire with a cool drink and warm friends. She may have a wry sense of humor but more than makes up for it in her passion for serving her community with relevant, high-quality journalism.
I am originally from Redwood Falls, MN and graduated high school there in 1980. I attended Concordia College in Moorhead, MN in 1985 and have worked in miscellaneous positions of management, production, manufacturing, service, and sales prior to being hired at the Sauk Centre Herald in 1998 as the sales manager. I had no previous experience in the newspaper industry but was fortunate with my degrees in Writing and Business to be well prepared for my current position. We started an agricultural newspaper, Dairy Star, a month into my employment. Two years later my current partner and I branched the Dairy Star off from the local newspaper and entered a three-way partnership with the local publisher. After growing the Dairy Star into four states we merged our publication with the Sauk Centre Herald, and simultaneously purchased the Melrose Beacon and Albany Enterprise. We began branding our new name, Star Publications following this merger. At this time, we also started a second agricultural publication, Country Acres. I continued in my role of sales manager and we added websites for all our publications, started a sign business, combined three shoppers into one, and began basic web design services for our customers. Two years ago, the Sauk Rapids Herald came up for sale with the passing of Rollie Doroff and our group decided to purchase this paper. Six months later we expanded the paper to include free distribution and added a third free agricultural publication, Benton Ag, to our mix. We currently employ 13 sales people and 50 employees overall.
Natasha Barber began as editor for the Sauk Rapids Herald two years ago after Star Publications, of Sauk Centre, purchased the paper following the death of previous publisher Rollie Doroff. Barber graduated from Saint Cloud State University in 2005 with a degree in mass communications, news/editorial sequence.
Although participating as a freelance writer for the custom publishing department of the St. Cloud Times for many years, Barber had become comfortable with her family life and management job outside of the newspaper industry. However, when the opportunity arose to enter the field, she seized it. Barber now oversees, produces and edits the content of the Sauk Rapids Herald, its bi-weekly inserts Benton Ag (agriculture) and Pulse (health and wellness), as well as the various special sections produced throughout the year.
Although technically a single mom with a 10-year-old son, Barber doesn’t like to over-credit herself. As without the overwhelming support of her parents and live-in boyfriend, she would not be able where the many hats it takes to be a mom and editor of a community newspaper.
Shoot, score, hit, win, loss, three-pointer, pass, run, touchdown are words I write often in my work, loving sports journalism most. A Greenbush, Minn., native, I began my journalism career as an intern at the local newspaper The Tribune during the summer after my junior year of high school. Graduating from Greenbush-Middle River High School in 2011, I would attend Mayville State University for two years and the University of North Dakota for two years, graduating from there with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication in Spring 2015. From the time I graduated high school to the time I graduated from UND, I had interned at both The Tribune and The Exponent in East Grand Forks, Minn.
Right of college, I began working full-time at the place that gave me my first start—The Tribune—and also covering stories for the North Star News in Karlstad. On the job, I keep plenty busy, covering school board and city meetings, sports, concerts, and plays, writing feature stories, laying out some pages, and managing The Tribune office. I love working in journalism for the chance to not only inform people and leave a record of history, but also make an impact. I enjoy when people come to the office or stop me in the community to tell me what they thought about a certain story or what it meant to them. In my free time, I enjoy watching sports, from my favorite Minnesota professional teams to my younger brother at his high school events. Returning home to work, I wanted to make a difference in a community that has given and continues to give me so much support.