I have been doing this job a long time – over 14 years now. Not in the role of editor, but in the role of a local news reporter. It has been a job I have both enjoyed and struggled with over the years. It certainly has had some definite highs and some definite lows with many challenges along the way. Newspaper reporters, editors and publishers all across Minnesota have also felt the ebb and flow of providing the news and stories of local communities.

The Minnesota Newspaper Association celebrated its 150th anniversary last week at the annual convention held in Bloomington. The convention, with over 600 people from Minnesota’s finest newspapers, was brimming with the usual hoopla and activities conventions are notorious for: great food, great conversations, exceptional speakers and of course, a celebratory banquet.

We had the honor of listening to Jerry and Patty Wetterling. They told their story in their own words about the mystery of their missing son, Jacob, finding out the bitter truth of his abduction and demise, and the days leading right up to the charges being filed. And in addition to relaying their message of unrelenting hope, they also thanked the press for the role played throughout the entire 27-year journey.

Not able to contain the tears, Patty Wetterling sent a heartfelt message of thanks to the reporters and staff from the St. Cloud Times and other newspapers for their complete and compassionate coverage of the Wetterling’s story. She continued by saying thank you to newspapers all across the state. “Thank you for what you do. You play an important role in your communities. Keep up the good work.”

I sat in one session and listened to a panel of distinguished journalists tell personal stories of their roads to winning the Pulitzer Prize. It was truly inspirational to say the least. Some of the stories they had worked on took a few years from conception to completion. Their message to the reporters in the room and reporters everywhere was what an important role we all have in our communities and to never give up. Not every story is a Pulitzer but every story is important.

The message of the role local newspapers provide their communities was also sent by Senator Amy Klobuchar. She spoke of her 88-year old father, James John Klobuchar, who is a Minnesota journalist and author. He also wrote for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis for three decades. She said she understands the importance of the job local reporters have to write the stories of their communities and thanked each of us for keeping tabs on local government and telling the tales of the everyday people in our home towns. And in this new fast-paced world of social media and fast-breaking news, coverage that does not include alternative facts is more important than ever. She thanked us, the newspaper reporters, for doing our jobs and not giving up on our craft and the integrity ethics of reporting.

The First Amendment protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression without interference from the government. The freedom of expression includes the rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances and the implied rights of association and belief. It is because of this amendment that we are allowed to do our jobs.

I am proud to be a part of a newspaper that brings you the stories of our community. We bring you the stories of your local government, your schools and churches, as well as your cousin’s nephew’s daughter’s first fish.

We will continue to bring you the news and stories of our community. We hope you all continue to #dothelake.