Reporter Tom Cherveny receives praise for work on story

Tom Cherveny

West Central Tribune regional reporter Tom Cherveny received a collegial tip o’ the hat from MinnPost writer Brian Lambert on Thursday when Lambert included a mention of Cherveny’s work on his column.

Lambert writes a daily column for MinnPost called “The Glean,” which “offers two daily helpings of the latest news, information and opinion of interest to Minnesotans,” according to the MinnPost website. “Brian Lambert does double duty, offering an early-morning, quick-hit look at some of the latest must-read stories and talkers and then a late-afternoon look at the day’s developments and buzz.”

In Thursday’s Glean column, Lambert wrote about Cherveny’s recent reporting on a double murder that took place in Granite Falls.

Lambert wrote: “Tom Cherveny of the West Central Tribune has the best story on the arrest of the man charged in that double murder in Granite Falls: ‘Andrew Dikken, arrested Tuesday after eluding authorities for two weeks, entered the home of Kara Monson in Granite Falls sometime after 3 a.m. on Sept. 2 and began shooting her and Chris Panitzke as they were sleeping in a bed, according to the allegations in a criminal complaint filed Wednesday. … The complaint also alleges that within hours of the shooting Monson had received text messages from Dikken, a former boyfriend. Investigators also learned that Dikken had sent a threatening message to one of Monson’s family members that indicated he was threatening Kara’s life, according to the complaint.’”

You can find Cherveny’s full story here.

MinnPost is a “nonprofit, nonpartisan enterprise whose mission is to provide high-quality journalism for news-intense people who care about Minnesota,” the website states.

This blog post originally appeared on the Forum Communications Company blog. The West Central Tribune is owned by Forum Communications. 

Who’s ready for spring?!

It’s always a busy day in the newsroom whenever there’s a snowstorm. Like most people in the area, we thought those days were behind us for another year.


This morning, I followed local people’s comments about the April snowstorm on Facebook and Twitter, and then compiled them into a Storify that I think pretty accurately represents how all of us are feeling right about now.

Here’s hoping the snow melts quickly and spring comes sooner rather than later. Stay warm!

Braving a snowstorm to get the story

Sometimes, reporters have to go above and beyond to get the story.

Rick Reigstad, a MnDOT snow plow driver, clears snow from the mirrors of his plow Sunday morning on US Highway 12 in Kerkhoven.

For our reporter Carolyn Lange, Sunday was one of those times.

After making several attempts with MnDOT to schedule a ride along with a snow plow driver, her chance came on Sunday morning. She called in around 5 a.m., and MnDOT called back an hour later to tell her that today would be the day.

Around 7 a.m., she headed out in the cold and snow and spent the morning with plow driver Rick Reigstad, taking the route from Willmar to Kerkhoven and back again.

After spending the morning with MnDOT, Carolyn headed back in the early afternoon, anticipating a bad ride home. Conditions were so treacherous that she had to pull over, not knowing if she could make it back in her car. Thankfully, she found a plow to follow and made it home safe and sound.

Despite a stressful ride home, Carolyn says her time on the plow Sunday helped her write today’s story about an advanced technology that helps MnDOT plow drivers do their jobs more effectively.

“I had heard about the technology and had seen the printouts, but I didn’t fully understand until I saw it in action,” Carolyn says. “It was different to watch every part of the process and see firsthand through the window.”

She also thinks everyone could benefit from a ride along with a snow plow driver.

“Everyone at MnDOT was so gracious. It was a bumpy ride, but they took the time to explain everything,” she says. “They face so many challenges out there. If people could take a ride with them, I think they would have much more respect for what the drivers do.”

Thank you to the snow plow drivers, everyone at MnDOT and the reporters who go above and beyond (and out in the blizzards) to keep the public informed!

Lighten up: Tips for parents with struggling readers

I’ll admit that it’s been a long time since I’ve had a struggling reader in my home. My stepdaughter Nicole, who had a brain tumor at the age of 5, is 34 now.

Brain surgery and radiation at such a young age left her with learning disabilities, leading to a delayed arrival at her love for reading.

We tried lots of things to help her at home. We even did our best to teach her phonics, since that was out of vogue in schools at the time. Eventually, she became a voracious reader. I’ve never seen anyone with as much determination as that little kid had. We encouraged her reading as much as we could. She and her brother knew that they wouldn’t necessarily get a new toy on a shopping trip with me, but if they got me into a bookstore, they had a sure thing.

The “Little House” series was a particular favorite and still is. Don’t talk to her about the people who question whether Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote those books. There’s no messing with a true Laura fan.

An article on the Education News website made me think of Nicole this week. In it, author Kumar Sathy talks about three ways to promote reading comprehension for struggling readers. He admits they may be controversial.

The first is an interesting idea that might surprise some people: Put closed captioning on the television and mute the sound. He doesn’t advocate doing this for an entire day and would never suggest it as a substitute for real books. The TV watching with captioning, which shows words at the speed of conversation, could be considered a reward, Sathy said.

Nicole was a crazed “Sound of Music” fan and had her very own copy of the movie when she was a kid. She liked to watch it often and often wanted company, usually me. With the technology of the time, closed caption probably wasn’t available, but I think it might have helped her.

His other tips revolve around what sounds like common sense to me — don’t talk about it so much. Kids need a break. Give them time to read what they want and when they want without having to answer a lot of questions about what they read or the types of sentences they read.

Finally, find ways to sneak in reading strategies during other activities. Sathy offers suggestions, depending on a child’s age. They can be as simple as looking for objects that have two syllables in their names or names with particular letters or sounds. Older kids can describe what they see in complete sentences or by using certain words.

What Sathy seems to be saying to parents and other adults is, “Lighten up,” and have some fun. There are ways to reinforce kids’ work in school without making it seem like a big effort.

I wish I’d had a few of these tips about 27 years ago. It might have saved all of us a couple years of frustration.

Maybe Sathy’s article, with its irreverence, will give ideas for someone else out there with a struggling young reader.

Anglers venturing out for first ice opportunities on lakes in Kandiyohi County

Anglers are venturing out on foot to enjoy early season ice fishing opportunities on lakes in the Willmar area.

Anglers are venturing out to enjoy some of the season’s first ice fishing in Kandiyohi County.
While caution is always a must, there are reports of four inches of good, solid ice on some of the area’s larger lakes. It’s adequate for foot traffic, but not strong enough for four-wheelers or other vehicles.
The best ice is found on the area’s larger lakes, such as Green, Diamond, Nest and Eagle, according to Brad Foshaug, Brad’s 71 Bait, Willmar.
He said earlier this week that anglers are reporting the ice on some of the shallow, prairie lakes is questionable. He advises staying to the larger lakes where the ice formed after last weekend’s heavy snowfall.
As to be expected, anglers are tight-lipped about the fishing, but it’s not hard to figure out. “I’d say the fish are biting,’’ said Foshaug, who added that he was kept busy filling the bait buckets of anglers.
As conditions can always change, it’s always a good idea to check ahead with your favorite bait shop for information on ice conditions and where the fish are biting.
The Minnesota DNR offers these ice safety guidelines:
4 inches for walking
5 inches for snowmobile or ATV
8-12 inches for car
12-15 inches for a medium-sized truck

Putting together the biggest paper of the year

Each year, the West Central Tribune publishes a behemoth of a paper one day prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s one of the best-selling editions of the year and includes 20 promotional inserts. Some 4,000 extra copies are printed to accommodate the coffee-laced, sleepy-eyed shopper looking for their fill of coupons as they hit the stores at some ungodly hour for the Black Friday sales. Because of the sheer size of Wednesday’s paper, the editors who comprise the Tribune’s news and sports desks will send the newspaper to press one hour early.

Martha Medrano prepares inserts for a recent edition of the West Central Tribune. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

I never met a deadline I couldn’t hit. You learn rather quickly in the newspaper business that a deadline should be respected and rarely pushed.

Tonight’s deadline, however, will prove a bit tricky. Sadly, like most editors, I’m guilty of a mistake or two. Sometimes they come in bulk, as if you’re in a slump. They also often have little regard for deadlines, appearing like magic as the worst possible time. You tell yourself it’s the nature of the job. When you read 10,000-plus words, and countless headlines and photo captions each day, you’re going to skim over a misplaced comma, a missing period, a run-on sentence, etc., etc. Sometimes you’ll even venture down the path of all things unholy and spell a source’s name wrong. It’s painfully embarrassing and frustrating, but it’s also human nature. But with all eyes on Wednesday’s paper, the pressure to avoid these errors, while working with time constraints, is obviously heightened.

We’ll see what comes from tonight. It’s 10:15 a.m. on a sunny Tuesday, and I’m already sketching out front page designs. Hopefully the outcome is a fine one. Hopefully the error gods see fit to smile on us for the holidays. Hopefully we hit deadline. The latter, obviously, was a poor attempt at humor.

If, however, the newspaper disappoints, I urge you to turn to the inserts. Your pain will be short lived.

–Dan Burdett, Presentation Editor

Walk In Access programs takes a second, big step while proving its value

The Walk In Access has grown to offer access to over 15,000 acres in this, its second year in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s Walk In Access program is providing more opportunities for hunters in its second year and proving its value.
The program has expanded from offering access to about 9,000 acres last year to more than 15,000 acres this year, according to Tabor Hoek, private lands director with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.
It is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture as a pilot project in Minnesota. There is USDA funding for two more years. Hoek said proponents would like to see Minnesota establish an on-going revenue source to sustain it, and they’d like to see the number of acres enrolled reach 25,000.
The program costs about $25 per acre, including all of the administrative costs, payments to landowners, and mapping and related work required.
The Walk In Access program has certainly proven its value to hunters. It’s impossible to measure usage, but anecdotal evidence is very strong that Walk In Access lands are seeing lots of usage. That will be more than evident this weekend with the opening of the pheasant season.
The Walk In Access program is also a great way to recognize the many landowners in the state who are generous enough to allow hunters on their lands. Hoek noted that in most cases, the Walk In Access sites are lands where the landowners have long been receptive to allowing hunters.
The WIA program saves them the hassle factor of responding to all the phone calls and requests to hunt their lands, while also offering some compensation –about $12 to $13 per acre- for the valuable resource they open up to the public.
Expanding hunting opportunities is critical for many reasons, from the economic benefits provided our rural economy to the valuable experiences young people enjoy in the outdoors. The challenge of providing hunting opportunities is only going to grow as we lose conservation lands and our population grows.
- Tom Cherveny

Let’s Go Fishing answering a bigger need than anyone imagined

Sean Willms of Willmar caught this 20-inch smallmouth while fishing with his grampa, Let’s Go Fishing founder Joe Holm.

WILLMAR — Let’s Go Fishing founder Joe Holm could not have put a bigger exclamation point on the summer fishing season than he did on Tuesday, when he led his seven-year-old grandson Sean Willms out on the water. Willms boated two large smallmouth bass, measuring 20-inches and 19.5 inches, along with two walleyes. The picture tells the story.
This has been one of the best summers ever for Let’s Go Fishing, which has grown from its start in 2002 to include 30 chapters across the state. Holm was on his way Thursday to Alexandria, where the Douglas County chapter is celebrating a record-breaking summer. It hosted over 2,000 people on the water this year, the first time a chapter has crested this high water mark.
Statewide, Let’s Go Fishing volunteers hosted over 20,000 guests this year. That brings the total since the start to over 90,000 people. “I view it as 90,000 stories,’’ said Holm.
The stories are heart-warming, and needed more than anyone would ever have believed possible, Holm included. Holm launched Let’s Go Fishing to give back to seniors, well aware that many aren’t able to enjoy their golden years as they deserve.
What he could not imagine or know- but is learning now- is just how many seniors are living their final years in isolation and often, depression. Let’s Go Fishing is bringing a smile to their lives that is only matched by the one worn by his grandson.
- Tom Cherveny

LeRoy Dahlke saying goodbye to a career made just for him in Willmar area

LeRoy Dahlke

NEW LONDON — LeRoy Dahlke developed a passion for the outdoors while growing up on a Sibley County farm.
When a high school guidance counselor told him there was such a thing as a career as a wildlife manager, he could hardly believe anything so good could be true.
He is retiring September 22, after a little over 39 years with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. He’s well known for his role since 1984 as the wildlife manager for the DNR office serving Kandiyohi, Chippewa and Meeker counties. Through all of these years, Dahlke still feels the same way about the career that has defined so much of his life.
He’s made his mark here by working hard to develop wildlife management areas, build and maintain strong partnerships with area sports and conservation groups, and keeping the public involved and informed. If being a wildlife manager was the perfect fit for him, so too was his transfer to the Willmar wildlife office that is now located in Sibley State Park. He’s found that there are many people in the three counties who share his passion for protecting our natural resources.
Dahlke will be honored for his service with a retirement party from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 6 at the Kandi Entertainment Center in Willmar.
RSVP Linda Ostermann at 507-359-6032 by September 22 if you wish to reserve a $13 ticket for the buffet meal to be served.
Dahlke won’t be pushing paperwork anymore, but he still will be found on the public lands he worked so hard to maintain. His retirement plans focus on hunting, fishing and getting some of his oft-delayed home improvement projects completed. He said he plans to pace his transition into retirement by only fishing and hunting every other day.
– Tom Cherveny

Taking know how from the farm to control Eurasian watermilfoil in the waters of Green Lake

Bob Schemel lifts his hands to show that the pontoon boat is being guided entirely by the John Deere system that otherwise can steer his tractor or combine. Brian Stenquist and Ann Pierce, both with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, are watching.

SPICER — There are a lot of thoughts that go through a farmer’s mind in the cab of the tractor or combine, but there’s one that Bob Schemel mulled over long and hard.
For a few years, he and Roger Sowder have volunteered their time as part of the Green Lake Property Owners Association to apply herbicide on the patches of Eurasian watermilfoil located about the lake.
The invasive aquatic plant was first discovered in the lake in 2000, and the GLPOA has invested roughly $100,000 to date to control it. At the start, volunteers hung over the sides of boats and cranked away at hand-held spreaders like you use on your lawn to disperse the herbicide.

Bob Schemel

Schemel and Sowder have elevated the art to science ever since Schemel had a Eurkea moment in the cab.
He asked himself: Why not use the technology of precision farming to control Eurasian milfoil in Green Lake? One of his first steps was to enlist the help of Kyle Sietsema at Haug Implement in Willmar.
Today, a green and yellow, John Deere globe normally found atop combines is a fixture on Schemel’s pontoon. Just as is the case when he is in the field, the system uses signals from satellites and a fixed tower to precisely fix the pontoon boat’s location on the lake. The system can actually steer the pontoon boat to the patches of Eurasian milfoil scattered all over the nearly 6,000 acre body of water. The coordinates for each patch are recorded in the system’s computer.

Roger Sowder watches as the herbicide is dispersed directly over a patch of Eurasian watermilfoil in Green Lake.

The system assures that herbicide is applied precisely where it is needed, and no more. It’s all about good stewardship, according to Schemel. There is less collateral damage from herbicide that might otherwise miss the intended target.
The hope is that the science behind precision farming will make the control efforts more effective.
It is not possible to eradicate the invasive plant at this point, but the benefits of control are real. The total acreage of Eurasian watermilfoil had grown to 15 acres after its initial discovery, but now has been knocked down to six or seven acres.
Protecting water quality in Green Lake is a multi-faceted matter. It requires responsibility on everyone’s part to prevent the spread of invasive species to the waters. It also takes on-going work to keep excess nutrients and sediment from the water.
All of the above are being done on Green Lake, and no doubt much of the credit belongs to the GLPOA. There are few lakes in the state that can match the commitment shown here, or the ingenuity.

— Tom Cherveny