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Child’s question prompts newspaper reflections
Howard Lestrud, Contributing Writer
Howard Lestrud, Reflections

What is a newspaper? The question is simple, but the answer is not so simple.

Friends of ours in Blooming Prairie were entertaining their granddaughters recently and showed them a photo of themselves published last year in a local newspaper.

Grandpa told one of his granddaughters, 5 years old, that the photo appeared in the newspaper. What’s a newspaper?” the young girl inquired. Grandpa replied in astonishment that it is a number of pages of news happenings, printed in ink on paper.

He went on to say that world happenings included government meetings, sports, social events, comics, advertisements, obituaries. He still has yet to give a more detailed response. It’s difficult to call out” an instant response.

Just give this revelation some thought and realize there are many things we take for granted that youngsters already know. My grandson, now, 19, grew up not knowing what yogurt is.

Google and cell phones have made it easier for young people to grow up in a mobile society.

I feel fortunate to have grown up on a small dairy farm near Blooming Prairie and to have been linked to two southern Minnesota newspapers, the Austin Daily Herald, and The Evening Tribune of Albert Lea. My parents subscribed to both. My grandmother, Sena, subscribed to the Blooming Prairie Times.

I loved the fall of the year because that’s when the World Series was played. I couldn’t wait until the two newspapers from Austin and Albert Lea landed in our rural mailbox.

I would go outside with newspaper in hand and would reconstruct the play-by-play of a World Series game. The New York Yankees were usually always in the World Series. I was Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris at the same time. I also became Duke Snider and Roy Campanella of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

My love for sports grew stronger as I sat by the radio and listened to Howard Cosell talk sports.

My older brother Dave also gave me a more meaningful definition of what a newspaper is. He worked in production of The Herald. He introduced me to Duane Rasmussen, whose parents Geraldine and Harry Rasmussen owned The Herald.

Duane gained experience in every facet of newspapering, hoping someday to have his own newspaper. That did happen as he purchased the Forest Lake Times and St. Croix Valley Peach, a shopper. I worked for Duane for 25 years at the Forest Lake Times.

I actually started hand printing my own little newspaper when I was a young teenager, circulation - 1. My newspaper was called Haystack Notes.

While attending Austin High School, I became editor of the high school newspaper, The Sentinel. My co-editor was Judy Arett, sister of Bev Hoveland of Blooming Prairie. Some of my first writings were about sports.

I remember interviewing athletic director Harold Red” Hastings and football coach Art Hass. Both took me under their wings and gave me suggestions for news articles.

My first real story in The Sentinel was a story on Tom True, an Austin Packer wrestler who won the state championship. My story started out, Yeah Yeah! Tom True, a True champion.”

That experience on the school newspaper, and the fact that my brother introduced me to some key people, helped me get a job at the Herald. My first published article outside Austin High School was published in The Herald’s column, Teen Scene.

I worked on the Austin Daily Herald sports desk for Tom Koeck, sports editor.

The rest is history, working for two daily newspapers and a chain of weekly newspapers. My retirement next brought me to Blooming Prairie, where I currently do some freelance work for Rick Bussler, owner of the Steele County Times and Dodge County Independent.

That’s a long answer to the question: What is a newspaper? Many people get their news on the internet.

Thankfully, there are many people who prefer reading the newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee. The oldest newspaper in the world, under the same title, is the Gazzetta di Mantova, regularly published in Mantua, Italy since 1664.

Newspapers have been my livelihood for nearly 60 years. That’s what a newspaper means to me.

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