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Tug of War at the MNA convention

By Staff | Feb 2, 2020

It is that time of year again. Time for the 153rd Annual Minnesota Newspaper Association (MNA) Convention.

Yes, the Minnesota Newspaper Association has been around for a long time. It began in 1867 when some publishers and editors got together in Red Wing and decided to form an association for all the newspapers which were springing up around the state. They called it the Minnesota Editorial Association.

And, no, I was not at that first convention, in case you are wondering.

The first convention I?attended was in 1971. Then, 20 years later, I was elected to the board of directors of the Minnesota Newspaper Association. In 1998, I became the president of the association.

I have written in this space before how, despite everything that happened during my presidency, my one claim to fame as president was that I was “that guy” who introduced the new governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, to a roomful of 600-plus journalists from around the state. Ventura had just been sworn in as governor a couple of weeks before he came to the 1999 convention to be our featured speaker at the banquet.

You have to remember that Gov. Ventura had very little love for the press reporters, editors or probably anyone working at a newspaper, including the paper boys and girls.

He called all of us “jackals.” That term, however, came into play after he spoke at the convention.

I remember that night well. It was a stressful evening.

First of all, while he had been invited to speak, and his staff had “sort of” said he accepted, there never was any firm confirmation.

They said the governor will try and work it into his schedule. Of course, we had a set time for the banquet. He didn’t seem to care. He was going to show up when he wanted to, on his way home from work, we were told.

The night of the banquet, and all 650 people already in the hall, the executive director of the MNA and myself were by a side door anxiously awaiting his arrival.

He finally showed up, and we were trying to get him up to the big banquet hall. Two ladies attending the convention were also on their way towards the hall when they spied Gov. Ventura and tried to visit with him.

Meanwhile, I am trying to get him away from the women and off into the hall, as we were already pretty late. It was pretty much a tug of war.

Ten years later, after I moved to Blue Earth, I learned the two women were Kelly Anderson and Lori Nauman of the Faribault County Register.

That story gets us laughing every time we bring it up here at the office. Let’s just say I was not very happy with those two ladies trying to chat up the governor.

Not happy is an understatement, by the way.

Anyway, we got the governor to the banquet hall doorway and we walked in to a standing ovation. For the governor, not me, obviously.

He turned to me and said, “wow.” He was quite surprised at the standing ovation. So was I, to be honest. But, it is a case of “Minnesota Nice,” I suppose.

Then during dinner I tried to explain to him that most of the folks in the audience came from small towns across Minnesota, and we were not the “jackals” from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. We were much more interested in what our mayors and city councils were doing than the governor.

Ventura’s speech was actually pretty good, telling about his plans for the state as governor, although he did get in a barb or two at the press.

The newspaper convention has evolved over the years. It is much less formal than in years past. Like most events like this, anything goes for attire. Just like in church.

There still are educational sessions, meetings and speakers. This year one of the those we will hear from is PJ Fleck, the outspoken coach of the Minnesota Golden Gopher football team. Another is Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lori Skjerven Gildea.

I expect both will be extremely interesting, although in probably completely different ways.

Yes, another thing that happens at the convention is an awards banquet.

The staff of the Register are once again going to be recognized with five awards.

We know two are for advertising, two for photography and one for the newspaper as a whole. But, we won’t learn the exact specifics of each award until after we arrive at the convention.

So rest assured, you will see more about that in next week’s edition of the Register, so stay tuned for more.