Meet Cohort 14

Meet Cohort 14

The Minnesota News Media Institute is pleased to present the 14th 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.

View the complete list of program participants 2005-2018

Meet Cohort 14, the “Class of 2018”

Brielle Bredsten, Aitkin Independent Age

Brielle Bredsten is the editor of the Aitkin Independent Age, a community newspaper in northern Minnesota. In 2013, Brielle received a bachelor’s degree in professional writing and technical communication, with minors in creative writing and advertising from Metropolitan State University. While attending college, she served as editor for the campus newspaper, the Metropolitan. Afterwards, she was a reporter for the Mille Lacs Messenger, Isanti County News and Mille Lacs County Times (now the Union-Eagle). In 2015, Brielle and her husband moved to Aitkin with their three dogs and two cats. Last year, they welcomed their daughter to the family. Brielle enjoys writing creatively and recently won second place for creative non-fiction in the Brainerd Writer’s Alliance fall contest. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with loved ones, traveling, photography, hunting, fishing, snowshoeing, hiking and more.

Michelle Van Hee, Madelia Times Messenger

I am Michelle Van Hee and I am the owner/editor/publisher/writer/photographer/and pagination queen of the Madelia Times-Messenger and Hanska Herald newspapers. I also own a monthly advertiser called Pure Gold, plus we have several special projects that we create and publish each year, and I have a photography business all under the umbrella of Van Hee Media. I have owned this business since 2014, but was the editor of the Madelia Times-Messenger for three years before that and wrote freelance for the paper for a decade before that. I have a writing background, but have learned all I know about the newspaper industry through mentors, taking various classes, learning by doing and flying by the seat of my pants most of the time. I also have a Young Living business as well as being a certified life coach.

I have an amazing staff of an ad designer, an office manager, a part time sports writer, a part time writer who helps cover meetings, and one full time sales representative as well as a couple of part time sales people. My husband, Jeff, helps at the paper as much as he can, but he owns his own IT company and coaches football, basketball and baseball at Madelia High School. We are very involved in our community and the schools.

We have two grown children, a daughter who is a nurse and lives in Sioux Falls, S.D. and a son who attends Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato. We love spending time with them, but that is hit or miss with their busy schedules and ours.

In our free time … wait … we really have no free time. Work is pretty much what we do. Thankfully we love what we do and are blessed to live in a town with wonderful residents and a supportive and active business community.

Terry Lehrke, Morrison County Record (Little Falls)

Terry Lehrke is the managing editor for the Morrison County Record, located in Little Falls. She started with the newspaper while she was in high school when it was still “The Rich Prairie Shopper,” and located in Genola.

During her Record career, Lehrke has held numerous positions including typesetting manager, business computer manager, internet services manager, staff writer, news editor and managing editor.


Peter Grimsrud, News-Record (Zumbrota)

I started doing odd jobs for my grandfather in the late ’70s. My dad and I were the only two who knew how to run the huge camera to shot line art and halftones of photos. My dad worked full-time in Rochester and commuted to do this.

One Christmas, my father couldn’t be reached and my grandfather made me come to work, leaving my visiting cousins, to do the photos for that week. My dad showed up when I was nearly finished.  I moved to Zumbrota in fall of 1980 and began working part-time at the Zumbrota News/Zumbro Shopper. I started by setting Gorman’s Grocery ad using I believe a Compugraphic 7200 machine. I did job printing on off days on one of our three Kluge presses. I did a lot of handfeed with a bit of sandpaper over my finger to not smudge the ink.

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield. In the beginning of 1988, I started working full-time for my dad… I rented a cheap apartment and ended up living and working in Zumbrota for the next thirty years. Shortly after I returned, my dad purchased four struggling newspapers that neighbored us with the idea that we could run this if I committed to work for him permanently. We did well and put four of my younger siblings through college.

I served on the ZM school board prior purchasing the newspaper in 2007. I’m proud that our school received top U.S. school honors shortly after I stepped down. Since I purchased the newspaper, revenue streams have gradually diminished as small town businesses retire/close.

I’m remarried with a blended family of five children.

After 20 years of working for my dad in sales and production, I started writing a column. I’m proud that I have earned three awards in the “best columnist” category over the last eleven years. I spent numerous years of my life volunteering for civic organizations. I just stepped down from the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee after serving for six years. Serving five provincial towns has been a challenge to do any of them well and consistently. My energy and commitment runs in spurts and across the different cities we serve. The Zumbrota newspaper has served three generations of Grimsruds well since 1946.

Ted Almen, The Kerkhoven Banner

Ted Almen, 60, grew up in Kerkhoven and was too afraid to go anywhere else after graduation from Gustavus (’80 – Business) so asked father John if he could come back and join the business. Little did he know that John and Jan would fool him by retiring a year later, leaving for their lake home and leaving him with the task of giving people in Kerkhoven and surrounds some sort of a newspaper once a week. He and wife Kari Jo, who he conned into joining him in business eight years later, have been at it ever since but now have hatched a plan to pull the very same gag on their unsuspecting daughter at some point. The Almens have two other children — Spencer, who lives and works in Boston; and Madeline, who is a sophomore at the University of Denver.

Jordan Almen, The Kerkhoven Banner

Jordan Almen, 26, has spent her whole life in Kerkhoven except for her college years at Gustavus Adolphus College (graduated 2014 with a BA in Communications), and two years living in the Cities working for Vermillion State Bank. She decided she wanted to return to her roots and become a fourth generation journalist (third gen. at the Kerkhoven Banner). Dad and mom happily accepted her request to return after a little trepidation (ours, not hers) about how dim the lights were in Kerkhoven as opposed to Minneapolis where she currently lived. She is not questioning her career and personal move, however, and is enjoying her new role as reporter/photographer/ad sales/office organizer/staff entertainment manager/and sometimes flower waterer.

Jordan currently resides in her dream home — in other words the only one she could afford to buy — in Kerkhoven, a 1900-vintage Victorian that needs a lot of work. She will get it as soon as she can afford it (and whenever dad gets the ambition to come over and show her a few handyman tips.) Residing with her is a fat cat who spends most of the time hidden under a bed due to her skinny dog, both of which she rescued from animal shelters.

Jordan covers city government and does a lot of human interest feature writing, giving the subscribers to the Banner information they need to know as well as a lot they never knew. She won a first place award in this past MNA Better Newspaper Contest for her writing (accompanied by her pertinent photography) of the devastation at a local dairy farm hit by a summer tornado. More than that she has won the accolades of many Banner readers who have enjoyed and actually took the time to stop her or the publisher to tell them how much she has improved the newspaper since her return to Kerkhoven. Jordan envisions taking over the business some day.

Sophie, 12, Golden Retriever and office greeter. Chief job is to go lean up against customers in hopes of getting her head scratched, as well as to bark hysterically at the Roomba while cowardly staying far enough away as to never make contact with it, and also nuzzling relentlessly under the arm of anyone trying to type on a keyboard until she gets some attention. Sophie must go outside 10 times a day, mostly for no real reason as she barks to come back in before her human can make it back to his or her desk. She’s a lover.

Stacy Ruff, The Observer (Belgrade)

I grew up with a general love for writing and took writing intensive courses in school, but it wasn’t until I moved to Belgrade, MN in 2013 that I was given an opportunity to write professionally. Jim Lemmer, the editor of the Observer gave me an opportunity to cover the local city council meetings. I would go on to write other features for the paper as well.

In late 2016, Jim began talking about retirement and I spoke to him about buying the paper from him. I was given a one month crash course in editing and publishing before taking over The Observer on January 1, 2017.

I have three daughters that tag along to local events for newspaper coverage and serve as my inspiration.

Jason Miller, Wadena Pioneer Journal

Jason Miller has served as publisher of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal since August 2016. Prior to that, he held multiple positions with Forum Communications Co., including Deputy Editor and Sports Editor of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, and Manager of Forum Communications design hub. He began working with Forum Communications in 1999.

Miller lives in Detroit Lakes and spends his time chasing around his 2½ -year-old daughter and attempting to teach his 7-year-old son the finer points of lifelong recreational sports such as bowling and golf.


Paula Quam, Detroit Lakes Tribune

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.