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We can't just report on our community; we must be part of it

Three times the young man thanked me as we walked out of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. He was one of News Tribune's "20 Under 40" award winners, just honored at an evening event last month. The recognition clearly meant a lot to him.

Three times the young man thanked me as we walked out of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. He was one of News Tribune's "20 Under 40" award winners, just honored at an evening event last month. The recognition clearly meant a lot to him.

And it was clearly deserved. One of his professional colleagues had nominated him, and a panel of expert judges had picked him from a pool of finalists. He is young, accomplished and making a difference in our community.

For the second consecutive year, we published a "20 Under 40" special section, which has proven extremely popular -- more than we ever expected.

And "20 Under 40," along with a special cooking contest we sponsored last week, has given me a new appreciation for how much impact a newspaper can have in its community -- as well as how much the community responds when the paper gets involved.

We know you expect us to tell you about crime and politics and the ongoing budget saga at City Hall. But if reporting the news is all we do, then we're not fully doing our job.

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Our town really appreciates it when the News Tribune gets involved. We do it in a lot of ways. We're a sponsor of Grandma's Marathon, a contributor to the United Way of Greater Duluth and a member of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, to name a few. Others at the paper and I serve on charity boards -- work we enjoy and that, for me, has generated some great story ideas.

But when we step out and use the power of the newspaper and our Web site to highlight good work of people in the community, or just provide a place for readers to share little bits of themselves -- even something as simple as a recipe -- we're helping build our community.

We're not simply dispassionate tellers of news. We're involved and giving back.

The cookbook event was the "Six Ingredients or Less" contest that we sponsored last week at Johnson Mertz Appliance on Haines Road. More than 550 area cooks responded to our ads, submitting more 1,100 recipes for easy-to-make meals. On Thursday a panel of judges had a cook-off at Johnson Mertz and picked winners among 12 finalists. A special thanks to Rich Mertz at Johnson Mertz and all his employees.

On Oct. 29, we'll publish the cookbook section with recipes and stories about the cooks. In coming months, we also plan to publish more of the submitted recipes in the paper and on duluthnewstribune.com.

As with the "20 Under 40" winners, the recipe contestants and those who came out to watch the cook-off couldn't say thanks enough to me and others from the paper, including news assistant Kris Vereecken, who came up with the idea.

We don't do sections and events like these for public recognition. We do them because we think they'll create content that readers will enjoy and that advertisers will support with their messages and dollars.

That's our business model. Bring in the audience, and the advertising will follow.

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We know the whole thing works when we get positive reactions like we did for our two recent events.

Last week, I had coffee with another of our "20 Under 40" winners. She said she's still hearing about her award from clients and others in the business community. "They keep telling me, 'That was a really big deal,'" she said. Then she told me she wants to be a judge for "20 Under 40" next year. And she offered ideas for how we could make our recognition event even better.

A newspaper often must be careful not to involve itself in the stories it covers. We have to stand back, like an umpire, and call 'em as we see 'em.

But at other times, it's the right call to join the game.

Rob Karwath is executive editor of the News Tribune. You can reach him at 218-720-4177 or rkarwath@duluthnews.com .

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