Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Former Duluth reporter’s book makes for compelling reading: see her Sept. 16

By Claire Kirch

If professional success begins with being in the right place at the right time, Minneapolis Star-Tribune editor Laurie Hertzel found that in Duluth, Minnesota in the mid-1970s. Hertzel describes her journey in a newly published memoir, News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist (University of Minnesota Press, Sept. 2010).

Bored with a part-time job shelving library books at the old Carnegie Library downtown, a teenaged Hertzel applied for a job at the Duluth News Tribune. She was hired to answer phones, write obits, and make coffee for the newsroom staff. Hertzel’s colorful descriptions of her workplace make it sound like a newsroom straight out of a 1940s-era movie, with fedora-wearing, chain-smoking middle-aged male reporters covering their beats amidst ringing phones and clacking typewriters.

Over the next 18 years, Hertzel moved on to copy-editing, news reporting, and writing features about life in Duluth during a time of extraordinary change, as the city struggled to survive after losing its manufacturing base, and the News-Tribune adapted to declining readership.

The most poignant chapters in News to Me relate how Hertzel chanced upon the story of her career, also an important chapter in Duluth’s history: in 1986, at the height of the Cold War, Hertzel accompanied to the USSR a group of 33 Duluthians wanting to establish a sister city relationship with Petrazavodsk. While there, she discovered a community of expats, taken in the 1930s as children from northern Minnesota to Russia by their communist parents, some of whom were later executed during the Great Terror.

Hertzel may claim to be an “accidental” journalist, but her talent for telling some great stories about this unique, beautiful city we call home makes it a happy accident indeed. She will read from News to Me at her Duluth book launch Sept. 16 at the Spirit of the North Theatre at Fitgers Complex, beginning at 7 p.m.