Celebrating 10 years at MinnesotaBrown

This sign marks the end of the township road. MinnesotaBrown.com World Headquarters lies just beyond these trees. (Aaron J. Brown)

MinnesotaBrown.com World Headquarters lies just beyond this sign at the end of a township road at an undisclosed location in Itasca County, Minnesota. (Aaron J. Brown)

Polls just opened here amid the pine forests of Northern Minnesota and across the whole technicolor landscape of the United States of America. In this pause before the flurry of tonight’s election results, let me remark on 10 years of blogging.

Aaron Brown in an underground mine.It was on this day in 2006, the day after the election, that I started posting original material on the hand-coded website where I would share my weekly newspaper column and family news. It was a hokey old site that belonged to a previous decade even at the time.

Over the first year, I would edit a master blog file before FTPing the updated page to my domain. My skills were minimal, based solely off a couple days of coding instruction in a college English class. Nevertheless, I went for it. Readers couldn’t link to an individual post. They could only view the sprawling mass of an entire month’s worth of posts.

I had no idea whether people were reading it or not. This was before social media and I used no analytical tracking at the time. Then one day a state representative whispered “So … MinnesotaBrown?” And it occurred to me that someone was reading this hot mess after all.

Before long, I spruced up the joint. I migrated over to a Blogger site in 2007, before moving to the WordPress setup I have now in 2013.

But the story of MinnesotaBrown is hardly a technological marvel. I’ve covered news, politics, and culture in Northern Minnesota for a solid decade, perhaps even more intimately than I did when I was a newspaper reporter and editor in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I no longer had to paginate 8-10 news pages and adjust the styles on wire copy. Everything I wrote was something I wanted to write. All I had to do was be willing to work for free!

Here I am in lovely downtown Mitchell, S.D., during our vacation this past August.

I covered two Iron Range busts and one boom. Economic development projects have come and gone. Nonferrous mining? Just around the corner, friends. Same as 2006. My blogging has landed me regular appearances on Minnesota Public Radio, AM950, WCCO, KDAL and more. I’ve been cited in the negative ads of both Republicans and Democrats, which I take to mean I’m doing a good job. Right?

I do take pride in some notable accomplishments. I don’t think efforts to expand high speed internet in Northern Minnesota would have been as successful without my work here. With the evisceration of budgets at local newspapers I’ve provided social commentary that I think has made a difference in local politics. I often hear from young professionals and people new to the area who have fresh ideas, people who find comfort here in the the community of this website.

The blog led to opportunities. Without this blog I don’t think I’d have been as successful as a contributing producer at Northern Community Radio, which led to my Great Northern Radio Show. Or gotten the deal to write my book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range” in 2008.

Though my early stats are inconsistent, I can say that at least 250,000 individuals have read one of my articles, with more than 2 million total pageviews. About 5,000 of you are semi-regulars, roughly akin to the readership of a small town newspaper.

13048236_769298649836319_5358715893192859796_oThe biggest change in these ten years isn’t the blog platform or even the erstwhile “blogosphere,” though both have changed plenty. I am simply not the same person I was 10 years ago.

Sure, I’m still a college speech instructor, writer and independent-minded liberal. My voting habits haven’t changed much, nor has my typical workday. But in looking back at my first post, and the first few years here, it’s clear I was a whirling dervish of partisanship and self-importance. I wrote some good stuff, but most of it would only appeal to those who expressly agreed with my position to begin with.

Since 2006, I have gone from a person who saw his future in elected office to one who realizes that my true calling is in my work as a writer and creator. I’ve gone from an ego-driven obsessive with a drinking problem, to a sober, sensitive obsessive with occasional egotistical lapses. My family has grown and we’re happy. I’d love to host the Tonight Show or be on the New York Times bestsellers list. But I’ve come to understand that the joy is in the work, not the prestige. I feel blessed to have realized this at my age.

Oh, I’m still capable of being partisan, and certainly at constant risk of thinking too highly of my opinions. It’s the curse of the overeducated newspaper columnist. But I’m aware of this. And I have the ability to do better work as a result.

So, big questions that remain as this blog moves forward:

Is this a good use of my time? So far, that’s a close call. Lately, I’ve been blogging less to focus on pay gigs and family, but I think limiting posts has produced better writing. I still feel like this blog provides a perspective and a service that otherwise would not exist.

How long will I do this? I make no secret that I would love to write more regular pieces for larger publications. A more frequent column in a widely read newspaper remains one of my biggest (and probably most futile) goals. I sometimes feel the urge to write another book. If my radio show ever found a way to broadcast more frequently I’d have very little extra time. If any of those things happen, I’d wheel the blog into the shed. Until then, I’ll keep going. I’ll stop when it’s done.

Will anything change? I always talk about adding some merchandise to help pay the bills, or writing e-books that might interest readers here. I’ve flirted with a podcast or regular YouTube videos. Those things might happen, but given my current work and family schedule I’m not in a hurry. There is a time for everything, and that time will come on its own schedule.

Someday I’ll send this blog off to the printers, put the massive volume on a shelf for posterity and, in due time, croak fat and happy. Like all bloggers, it will be said that I wrote a lot of things that don’t matter anymore. I do this because I know I’ve written just a tiny handful of things that did. And I still believe my best work lies ahead.

Thank you for reading MinnesotaBrown.com. Go vote. I’ll be live blogging tonight, and I expect we’ll have plenty to talk about.


  1. Gary Thaden says

    As a non-Ranger (Minneapolis resident) who cares about Minnesota and thus how things are going in northeastern Minnesota I appreciate you blog. It has given me insight into the issues, thoughts, and attitudes of northeastern Minnesota. I understand the things change, but i wanted you to know how valuable your writing about your part of our state has been to me.

    Thank you.

  2. Thanks for the good commentary Aaron. Agree, disagree, feel like punching the screen, I always look forward to your insights and thoughts.

  3. Two thumbs up, Aaron. You have provided information not covered well elsewhere, with an even and fair hand . I hope you can fulfill your heart’s desires, and deeply appreciate your continuing efforts to keep us northern folks informed as you continue your journey.

  4. Thank you for your efforts Aaron. Your words and insight are appreciated. I started following your blog in 2007/2008 when I lived in Aurora. I followed you from Norway when I spent a couple years teaching there. I read regularly when I returned to the Range in 2012 and still read today as I am once again off the Range. Throughout my time reading you have been thoughtful and balanced. I would be disappointed to wake one day find that the blog had been retired. However as I attempt to balance a career and young family myself, I would understand that decision. Thank you again for sharing what you have and best of luck with your endeavors for the future.

  5. Happy to be one of your regulars!
    ✌️️? And Yes, I voted.

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