A few weeks ago, I went into a meeting and learned what just a couple months earlier I thought was unthinkable.
The Lake County News-Chronicle was closing.
I left the Zoom meeting and sat down on the floor of my office and I cried. I’m crying again as I type this.
Almost five years ago, I walked into that musty little blue building on Sixth Street in Two Harbors and let me tell you something, it was awful.
I lifted the trap door and went into the basement once. It looked like Buffalo Bill’s basement in “Silence of the Lambs,” if Buffalo Bill buried his victims in print blocks. I shut the door and never considered going back.
I had waited a long time to become a reporter. I struggled through a number of different jobs in Washington D.C. and even got a master’s degree in education. Nothing ever seemed to fit until I walked into the newsroom at the Duluth News Tribune in 2013.
Two years later, I jumped to the Chronicle and realized I had no clue how to be a reporter. I had never covered schools, local government or written a preview story. I didn’t know how property tax levies worked, school administration was a mystery and we haven’t even touched the hard stuff.
Through the work of some extraordinarily patient editors, I started to learn how to be a reporter.
Since those first few months on the job I’ve made plenty of mistakes, I’ve gotten better at my job and I’ve stumbled into a few controversies.
I also think about the wonderful time I’ve spent getting to know folks on the North Shore. Whether it’s talking to Kurt Mead about peregrine falcons at Tettegouche State Park, chatting with Jamie and Penny Juenemann about their daughter, Jessie, or just shooting the “bleep” with Rich Sve after a county board meeting, I’ve learned so much about this community and I’ve loved every minute of it.
As I’ve grown as a reporter, I’ve learned a few things:
Always keep a pair of old boots in your car. You never know when you could end up hiking around Gooseberry Falls State Park or following a potter around looking to dig his own clay;
Keep a pencil handy. In northern Minnesota, it’s always possible your ink could freeze; and
Anyone and everyone can be a source, you just need to sit back and listen.
I am heartbroken over the demise of the Chronicle. It’s been around for 130 years. It cannot be overstated what a loss this is for the community and for me personally.
I don’t typically think of everything in terms of wins and losses — you’ll drive yourself mad doing that — but I can’t help but think about this situation and the broader pandemic in those terms.
I remember talking to Two Harbors football coach Tom Nelson a couple years ago in the locker room after the Agates lost unexpectedly to Duluth Denfeld.
“That was a darn good football team we lost to out there, Jamey,” Tom said. “I don’t know — this team could lose in the first round of sections or we could end up in the state playoffs. It’s all about how the kids respond to this L.”
Two Harbors went on a tear and ended up winning the section and going to the state playoffs for the first time since 1977.
Over the past few months, the world has taken a number of “Ls.” It’s not just the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems. Personally, I’m trying to deal with being stuck at home, like the rest of the world, and grieve the loss of the Chronicle. I’m also dealing with the fact that my father has been in the hospital for several weeks, and it’s incredibly painful that I can’t go be with him. Neither can my mom or siblings — mom couldn’t even touch him the one time she saw him last week.
But I am not alone.
All over the world, people are suffering from this disease and other, everyday tragedies. We, as human beings, have taken some collective Ls, but we’re dealing with it.
I look around at the plans for graduations, drive-by birthday parties, socially distanced happy hours and many, many others and I see hope.
The Chronicle shutting down is unquestionably an L, among so many others we’ve experienced the last few months.
But we are responding to this in positive and innovative ways. The Chronicle may be gone after today, but remember this: I’m still here.
Teri Cadeau is still here.
It may look different, but we still want to tell the stories that are important to you, and with your help we will.
This column is already too long, but I want to say — from the bottom of my heart — thank you to every single one of you who has been patient, kind and understanding.
I love you, Lake County. That won’t be any less true tomorrow than it is today.
Damn it. I’m crying again.
Jamey Malcomb is a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle and Pine Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com or 218-879-1950.