Today I spent my final day as a news reporter. I loved the last three years and felt like the work I got to do was exciting. I met so many good people and experienced many events I would have never attended without the job. As a high school teacher, I often taught the newspaper and yearbook classes, so this was a chance to do something I had wanted to do for many years. I am grateful to the editors and other staff members with RiverTown Multimedia for helping me learn how to do the job and for giving me such interesting assignments. I retired once in 2016, but then flunked retirement and went to work again. Now I'm looking forward to trying retirement again.
After three years as a reporter in Minnesota, I have decided it is time to move on and I will be retiring at the end of March. As I move toward that date, I am working on two big projects that will round out my second act career as a journalist. First, I have been working on a series of articles about bridges in the region. That will be published in our annual Progress Editions which will be delayed a few weeks this year because of the transition from RiverTown Multimedia to O'Rourke Media Group. The second project is a seven-part series on land and water quality. It will look at concentrated animal feeding operations - CAFOs - and how they affect agriculture. Then the series will look at how water is protected, both for drinking and for other uses. Then the series will end with a good look at sustainable and regenerative agriculture. There are some interesting people doing work in all of these areas. I'll be listing link to the articles in both series as they become available. Check back here.
One of the motivations for moving to Minnesota for us was to live near our grandson, Archie. Another motivation was to be near a lake and get a boat. Both have worked well, and we now have a second grandson, Oscar, to make the decision seem even better. Before Oscar was born, I wrote an essay called "A Baby and a Boat" about this move and the time on the lake. It was published recently in "Grandparents Day," an online magazine from Australia. You can read it here.
We drove to Camp Pepin just south of Stockholm, Wis., to see an ice carousel. A group took chain saws and cut a circle in the ice on Lake Pepin, added a small boat motor, and sent the circle of ice slowly spinning. Visitors stopped by throughout the day to enjoy the unique experience. I wrote an article with photos and video and you can read it here.
I've been working as a news reporter for RiverTown Multimedia for two-and-a-half years. During that time, we have undergone some changes, as have most media outlets. We have combined smaller newspapers, reduced publication dates, and laid off staff members. Today we had a meeting and learned that the RiverTown section of Forum Communications will be sold to O'Rourke Media Group from Chicago on January 1. Initially I don't think it will make much difference to readers or reporters, but it will be an interesting experience to watch the transition and see how everything develops.
As we drive the backroads of southeast Minnesota and western Wisconsin, we often see old farm equipment that has been placed along the road, near driveways, or in front of barns or garages as decorations. The project I did earlier on old pickups inspired me to do another photo essay on farm equipment. Those photos are available here.
Earlier this year I read a book called The Cold Vanish about people who disappear in American wilderness areas. The stories included are fascinating, but I also noticed a couple of references to the Jon Francis Foundation which is located in Stillwater, Minnesota, not that far from where we live. I contacted David Francis, director of the foundation and father of Jon, and talked with him about the amazing work they are doing to help families who have lost members in wilderness areas. His background story and the work that is being done by the foundation is inspirational. Read it here.
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Driving around Minnesota and Wisconsin, we often see old pickups that have been positioned as decorations in front of farm houses or at the edge of fields. I had an idea to take photos of them and build a project showing the variety of pickups and their locations. The result is a photo essay published in RiverTown Multimedia publications.
After retiring from teaching, I assumed that I was done working. By chance, after we moved to Minnesota, I found out about a job as a news reporter. That was something I had always wanted to try, so I applied and got the job. I've now been working with RiverTown Multimedia for two years and have truly enjoyed it. Getting out to cover stories has taken me all over this region and I have had the opportunity to meet some incredible people who call this area home. Taking photos and writing articles suits me very well, and I am so glad I had the chance to experience this job. It is the perfect second career for me.
Photo by John Jancik
Dr. Steve Gardiner is the author of six books and over 1,000 articles.