Mike Jacobs: Herald brings pleasure while delivering the news
I’m proud to be associated with the Herald – and relieved to be shed of responsibility for it.
On Sunday – that was July 10 – I indulged in one of life’s great pleasures. I read a good newspaper.
Yes, I held it in my hands and turned the pages.
Of course, it was Saturday’s newspaper. The Herald no longer prints on Sundays.
I’d missed the paper on Saturday. It sat in the mailbox overnight. Even if I’d picked it up, I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to read it then. Saturday afternoons tend to be busy. Sunday mornings are more relaxed.
The Saturday paper was a wonder.
Of course I am well aware of the challenges facing daily newspapers, and I am familiar with what can go wrong. I spent more than 50 years in the newspaper business, so I appreciate good newspapering.
That’s what the Herald delivered over the weekend.
The front page confronted three tough issues, the Fufeng project, abortion rights and residential schools. Plus it delivered good news at the bottom of the front page.
Sam Easter’s reporting made me re-evaluate the project. The headline said, “Bulletin raises alarm on Chinese investments.” Throughout the debate about the project, I’d dismissed concerns about the company and the potential for espionage. The Chinese already know what there is to know, I figured, and the project’s proximity to Grand Forks Air Force Base likely wouldn’t be a security risk.
Saturday’s article raised a different concern. Perhaps it’s not information that China seeks, but influence – and not local influence but national influence. Easter quoted from a bulletin released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last week:
China “may view the U.S. business community as an especially important vector to influence local, state and national leaders, given that companies are key constituents of and often contributors to politicians at all levels.”
In Fufeng’s case, that could include two U.S. senators, both Republicans and both enthusiastic about economic development projects.
Just below the Fufeng story, the word “abortion” appeared in the headline. Ingrid Harbo reviewed the history of abortion rights in North Dakota and recalled the controversy surrounding an abortion provider in Grand Forks.
Today North Dakota has only one abortion provider, the Red River Women’s Center in Fargo, which is set to move across the river when the state’s law banning most abortions goes into effect later this month. There’s been significant pushback; a fundraising effort brought nearly a million dollars and protests in several of the state’s cities drew both supporters and opponents of abortion rights.
And next to that was a provocative story about residential schools for indigenous children. North Dakota had at least 13 such schools. The article focused on one of the largest, at Fort Totten. Although the school was on the Spirit Lake reservation, most of the students were from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, whose reservation was 70 miles away.
Denise Lajemodiere, a writer and activist who is a member of the Turtle Mountain band, searched a cemetery at Fort Totten looking for graves that might hold remains of the band’s children. Louise Erdrich includes a character who attended the Fort Totten school in her multi-layered Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Night Watchman.”
This is a painful issue, but one that we must confront.
Then there was the good news. Mosquito numbers are down despite a wet spring.
The editorial page was lively, too, with an editorial lamenting “a setback to baseball in Grand Forks” as well as a clarion call to build another bridge across the Red River. As always – or almost always – there was a variety of opinions in letters to the editor, which took up much of the page.
Chuck Haga delivered a thoughtful assessment of our times, following an abrupt opening sentence: “I did not enjoy this latest Fourth of July,” which broke on newspapering’s rules, which is never start a piece with the first person pronoun.
Then there was the sports page, where Brad E. Schlossman provided a list of “5 notable games on NHL schedule for UND fans.” I saved that article for reference. I subscribed to the National Hockey League channel and should be able to watch every game of the coming season. Of course, I can’t do that, so I appreciate Schlossman’s head-up.
And there was so much more.
My point is that the Herald delivered a strong, relevant and readable local newspaper on Saturday. I’m proud to be associated with the Herald – and relieved to be shed of responsibility for it.
And yes, these opinions are my own, and were not reviewed with today’s Herald staff before I hit the send button just meeting my deadline.
North Dakota’s anti-abortion law, set to take effect July 28, does not penalize a woman who receives an abortion, whether illegally in North Dakota or legally across the river in Minnesota. A clumsy sentence in last week’s column may have caused confusion.
Mike Jacobs is a former editor and publisher of the Grand Forks Herald.