Latest Reformer column explores collapse of local news

The Minnesota Reformer published my latest column today, this one about the collapse of local newspapers. Last week the International Falls Daily Journal announced it would cease publication later this month. This comes after other small weeklies have closed while other papers have either merged or reduced publication. It’s not just happening here, but across… Read More →

The world changed and it’s not changing back

The iron mines run hot. Houses sell fast. Cars and trucks fly off the dealership lots, to the point where some customers must wait to buy one at all. Anyone raised amid the booms and busts of the Mesabi Iron Range would recognize this as a boom. And yet, dissatisfaction oozes from local dialogue. The… Read More →

Our awkward summer of smells

We’re bracing for something unusual right now: the prospect of a normal summer. The global COVID-19 pandemic went on long enough that the weirdness of it began to feel routine. Now we each must adjust, again, back to a life similar to our old one.  The first thing I’m noticing is smell. Wearing a mask… Read More →

And fate shall dwell at the crossroads

The intersection of Itasca County Highways 57 and 336 is one of those sleepy crossroads you see all over the back woods of northern Minnesota. When my wife and I moved to that neighborhood 16 years ago I learned that no road goes directly from one place to another. Every highway leads to an intersection… Read More →

Love, hate, and a year of Bob Dylan

EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote another piece about Dylan’s 80th Birthday for the Minnesota Reformer a few days ago. That piece was designed for a broader audience, while I aimed this one at a more local readership for the Mesabi Tribune. It was a surprisingly fun exercise to approach the same subject with a different goal… Read More →

Pressure, time, and the tricky business of hope

Pressure and time. That’s how minerals concentrate into ore formations beneath the earth. You might learn this in a geology class. But pressure and time also explain how humans extract those ores. Now we’re talking economics, the kind that affects our lives here on the Mesabi Iron Range. This spring brings an avalanche of news… Read More →

‘The Ocho’ lives, but numbers can lie

Most folks get the idea behind the state legislature or Congress. We are all drawn into districts based on population. Each district elects representatives to make laws and speak on our behalf. If we don’t like the representative we vote them out for a new one. Most of the time, we pay little attention to… Read More →

Deadline or bust

“Deadline” is such a harsh word. “Line” seems to imply a fixed point after which some consequence is realized. And “dead” suggests that the consequence is death. You know, pass away, croak, kick the bucket, go to heaven, expire, breathe one’s last, succumb, bite the dust, trip the light fantastic. Depart, transcend, buy the farm,… Read More →

Drawing lines won’t solve problems

This week we learned that Minnesota would keep all eight of its Congressional seats after the federal government released the results of the 2020 Census. Good news for our state. We almost lost a seat. Nevertheless, this political analysis will now fixate on maps and lines as demographic change shapes new maps. Political districts are… Read More →

Part History, Part Mystery

Longtime readers at MinnesotaBrown might wonder where I am or why I only post my weekly newspaper column these days. The answer is found in this story by Kristen Vake at CBS 3 in Duluth. This weekend the radio show and podcast “Power in the Wilderness” by Karl Jacob and myself will re-launch on Northern… Read More →