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MNA sprouts fond, fun memories

By Staff | Jan 31, 2016

This is a week that I look forward to every year. It’s the annual Minnesota Newspaper Association Convention.

In fact, it is the 149th annual convention of the Minnesota Newspaper Association.

That is a lot of years. And, I have to admit, I have not made it to all of those conventions, despite being an old guy. But, I have been to an awful lot of them.

My first one was in 1971 at the age of 20 and it was quite an experience.

I missed a few years after that when I was a publisher in a small town in North Dakota and attended the North Dakota Newspaper Association convention instead of the Minnesota one, for obvious reasons.

But I have pretty religiously attended them since 1977. I may have missed one or two, but I really don’t remember skipping any.

My favorite one, as I have mentioned before in this space, was in January of 1999 when I was president of the newspaper association and had the honor of introducing the speaker at the annual banquet, the recently elected governor of the great state, the honorable Jesse Ventura.

Yes, I introduced the ‘Gov’ to a roomful of about 600 journalists, some of the folks he hated the most.

It was quite the night.

First off, he and his staff would just not firmly commit to the governor coming to the convention and speaking at the banquet.

They basically said he would show up if nothing else was going on and he felt like it.

The day he was to speak they said he would come, but they were not sure when he would be able to get there.

Swell. The banquet started about 6:30, with dinner first and then the program at 7:30 with the speech set to start about 8 p.m.

The governor was indeed late. By the time he arrived, everyone had been seated for a good half hour and the meal was being delayed as much as possible.

The executive director of the association and myself positioned ourselves at a side door to the hotel where the governor was going to arrive not the front door.

We waited. And then waited some more.

He finally arrived, dressed comfortably in a velour sweatsuit outfit and tennis shoes.

And, he seemed plenty cranky for having been made to stop on his way home from work just to talk to a bunch of jackals. I mean reporters.

I tried to explain to him that the people waiting for him were not members of the Twin Cities media, but rather reporters, editors and publishers from many of the 400 or so small town newspapers in the state that had just elected him governor.

When he walked into the banquet hall and received a polite standing ovation, he seemed to mellow quite a bit. He turned to me and said, ‘Wow.”

We actually had quite a conversation while sitting at the head table enjoying our meal. Well, that is not quite true. I was too nervous to eat much, and he might have been, too, as he just ate a little salad and not much else. But, we did have a nice talk, mainly about Minnesota politics, as I recall. And newspapers. And the movie ‘Predator,’ which he was in.

And, how I had not given him much of a chance to be elected governor.

Shows what I know about politics.

To be perfectly fair and honest, Gov. Ventura’s speech was actually pretty good. Sure, he took a jab or two at the press, but he also spoke eloquently about his plans for the state and what he wanted to accomplish in the next few years while he was governor.

There was another gifted speaker at the podium that evening who was just going to bring ‘greetings’ from Washington. But instead, U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone gave an impassioned speech about the power of the press, and how we, as journalists, had a responsibility to use this power for the good of all people, especially those who needed help and could not help themselves.

I remembered back in 1990 or so when Wellstone had showed up at my newspaper office in Tyler, Minnesota, in an old school bus painted green and then proceeded to spend an hour explaining all the wonderful ideas he had for when he got elected to the senate.

I thought to myself that this hyper-excited little guy didn’t have a snowball’s chance in heck of getting elected to the U. S. Senate.

Again, shows what I know about politics which admittedly is not much.

And so, when I?say there is no way somebody like Donald Trump can get elected president, I just think back to that convention in 1999 and sitting at a head table with Jesse Ventura and Paul Wellstone.