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Register editor feels at home at MNA convention

By Staff | Jan 28, 2008

This last week found the Register's General Manager, Lori Nauman, and myself and our spouses spending some time in Minneapolis at the Minnesota Newspaper Association Annual Convention. This column is being written on Wednesday, just before we are leaving for the convention. When you read this on Monday, we will already be back, and hard at work.

Well, we will be back in the office anyway.

I have been attending the annual convention for a lot of years. How many? Lets just say that at my first convention (when I was barely of legal age) I heard then Vice President Spiro Agnew speak. And lets also just say that he was not overly fond of the press, so his speech to a convention hall full of hundreds of journalists was interesting to say the least.

Over the years I have learned a lot at the convention as they always have a great array of seminars and round table discussions on current newspaper topics. They also have a great lineup of speakers, from state and national leaders like Agnew, Hubert Humphrey, and Elmore's own Walter Mondale, to entertainers like Garrison Keillor, who has spoken there twice. Last year Sid Hartman and Dave Mona put on quite a show. This year it’s Don Shelby. You get the idea. Many famous people have spoken there.

The one speaker who drew perhaps the biggest crowd to the annual banquet ever, spoke exactly ten years ago, in 1998. And it is a night that I will never forget. You see, the speaker was the newly elected governor of the State of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura. And the person who got to introduce him to a room full of nearly 800 journalists was…me.

Back in 1998 I was the president of the Minnesota Newspaper Association and one of my duties as president was to introduce the speaker at the banquet of the convention. That speaker was Jesse, who had taken office just 21 days before the convention started.

We had contacted Jesse earlier and after many conversations with his staff we were fairly sure he was committed to speak at the convention. But we were not totally sure, because we never got a 100% guarantee that he would show up. We were always told that he would “fit us in” because he had other things to do that evening as well. I think he had chores at his ranch.

With a banquet hall full of newspaper folks already starting to dine, the executive director of the association and myself waited patiently by the door. Sweating bullets and wondering what we do if he didn’t show up. I’m pretty sure the crowd would have turned ugly if I tried to fill in and tell a few jokes.

Finally Jesse and his entourage showed up, including a body guard or two. He had obviously not dressed up for the occasion, as he was wearing a velour sweat suit and tennis shoes. He was also pretty obviously in a rather surly mood. He had a “Lets just get this over with” attitude as I tried to chat him up and explain how the evening was going to go, when he would speak, that I would be the one introducing him, etc.

As we entered the banquet hall, however, he mellowed out. That is because as we entered the room, hundreds of newspaper journalists stood up at once and gave him a standing ovation. He turned to me and said, “Wow.” It was obvious that he had not expected that kind of a reception.

During dinner, which neither of us ate very much of, he did loosen up and talked a bit with me about the recent election and what he wanted to do as governor. Sharing the head table on the podium were several other dignitaries, including Senator Paul Wellstone. Jesse and Wellstone took the time to greet one another before Jesse's speech and chit -chat a bit. I had the rare opportunity to just sit there and listen in.

I think I gave Jesse a pretty nice introduction, and he actually gave a pretty interesting speech, although he did give a jab or two to the press. This was before his “Press Jackals” tirades and his comment about running reporters over with his big SUV. I opened it up to questions after his speech and the reporters present got a chance to grill him on some of his proposals for the state.

All in all, a very memorable evening. In the annals of the Minnesota Newspaper Association, I will always be remembered as the president who introduced Jesse Ventura.

This year’s convention will undoubtably be a little calmer. But it will also be memorable. We already have learned that the Register has won three awards from the Newspaper Association this year. We just don’t know what they are yet.

Winning three awards is pretty impressive, especially given the fact that the Register is in a category size that includes a lot of top-notch publications. I, of course, don't claim credit for any of these awards, since I wasn't part of the staff at the time. But it does show that the staff here at the Register is top-notch and that they are dedicated to delivering an award winning publication to our readers each week.

(It is ironic that they are putting out this week’s paper while I am in Minneapolis accepting awards that they won, but don't tell them that, please. I will have to thank them later…)