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Thank you for everything

My time with the Pioneer Journal has been very rewarding and filled to the brim with what makes this place tick.

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Michael Johnson, Wadena Pioneer Journal editor
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WADENA — I can’t say that I’ve timed it like this, but it’s perhaps fitting that my final week with the Pioneer Journal should land on the week of Thanksgiving.

You read that right. I am closing my roughly five years with the Pioneer Journal this week as I have accepted a new position as news editor of Agweek, a farming focused arm of the Forum Communications Company.

As I reflect on my time here I can’t help but be overcome with thankfulness for the community that I’ve had the pleasure to serve. From the weekly and monthly board meetings where I get to listen in on the issues facing local government, to the kitchen table conversations with families in rural Minnesota, very few people have told me that they would not be willing to talk to me and share their story, opinion or observation.

That can be easy to take for granted when you’re out there everyday asking people to open up and to tell you things that you want to publish to the world. People are typically so open and willing to do that, which makes my job so much easier and makes the stories so much better.

I often have people tell me how much they liked this story or that. I can honestly say that each story that is good is not because I made it good, it was that I was given good information to share.

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I wholeheartedly thank all those who were so willing to share with me.

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Michael Johnson taking photos at the 2022 Wadena-Deer Creek Homecoming parade.
Contributed by Doug Dutke

I thank those community members who would stop in to let me know of something or send me an email, text message or phone call to keep me in the loop about things that I often was far out of the loop from.

I thank the subscribers who chose to keep supporting a product that has seen more than its fair share of change as we leverage print and online platforms to deliver the news.

I thank the readers who read from cover to cover; who go to the newspaper to stay up on current issues; who let me know when they didn’t see something that should have been in the paper.

I thank our advertisers who help us continue to print our newspaper and our special section publications.

I thank the all-knowing Britanie Rentz who continues to serve our readers everyday at the Pioneer Journal. I’m thankful to Helen Allee and Robert Berndt who work in tandem to make sure our stories make it from the print plant to the post office and spread throughout the communities each week. My work would be wasted if not for them.

I am thankful for every meeting I ever went to where someone showed up with the Pioneer Journal in their hand ready to ask questions because of something they read inside those pages.

It brought me great pleasure to see Tri-County Health Care place an issue of the Wadena Pioneer Journal in their time capsule this fall as a remembrance of the community issues of that day in 2022. I'd like to think that I've helped capture at least a fraction of the milestone moments that have occurred here in this short time in the region's long history.

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There are too many community members to list here that have been so very kind and helpful in my job. I appreciate you all. I loved hearing your stories and am so grateful that you allowed me to tell those stories. Thanks for submitted photos and stories, too. Less work for me was always welcome.

As I mentioned earlier, I am taking a position with Agweek. This means I do not have to leave this region. I plan to still have a presence here, just not in the same capacity as I once did, which involved pretty much showing up for everything. For those of you who have grown tired of seeing me everywhere, taking your picture, asking you questions — breathe a sigh of relief.

I have at times stepped away from journalism and each time it seems to come calling again. Why? Why do this work that is stressful, scrutinized, even looked down upon by some of our society?

I think author Chinua Achebe can explain it better than I can.

"There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian. It's not one man's job. It's not one person's job. But it is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail — the bravery, even, of the lions."

I can’t say I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing from the perspective of a lion, but I have been able to share the perspective of hundreds and hundreds of people right here in this small corner of the world. I hope I did you justice.

So in my parting words I want to tell you to stay connected to your community newspaper. This is your paper and the people who help put it together need to hear from you and need your support. Become invested in local journalism. Continue the community conversation that has helped build this place from its very beginning. Come chat with the staff about things you’d like to see in the paper and write letters to the editor, whomever that may be.

Related Topics: WADENA PIONEER JOURNAL
Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in the city of Verndale, Minn., but is bent on making it as country as he can until he returns once more to the farm living he enjoys. Also living the dream are his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at mjohnson@agweek.com or 218-640-2312.
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