West Central Tribune’s ‘picture man’ retires this week

Ron Adams photographed three-sport athlete Tara Rudie, one of Willmar High School’s senior academic leaders, at Hodapp Field on May 15. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

By Anne Polta


WILLMAR — His work as one of the West Central Tribune’s news photographers made Ron Adams a familiar sight at local parades, school events and more.

His pictures — and, more recently, videos — appeared almost daily in the newspaper’s print edition and online.

This week Adams, 61, is trading in his camera for retirement and a full-time career as a painter.

His last day is Saturday. A farewell open house will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Willmar Public Library.

Adams said he will miss his role as a window between readers and the community. “When you’re a photographer for a newspaper, you’re the face of the community,” he said.

He will also miss his co-workers in the newsroom.

“All of the reporters are like my best friends because I see them more than I see anybody else,” he said. “That’s going to be the hardest thing about leaving the fold. It is just like a family.”

“It has been my privilege to work with Ron with more than 12 years,” said Editor Kelly Boldan. “He has worked with dedication and consistency. His photography has played a major role in recording history in Willmar and the region for nearly two decades. He has left his mark.”

Adams has been with the Tribune for just a few months short of 20 years.
Art is his first love, going all the way back to high school when he began painting, but he learned early to appreciate the imagery of photography.

From small canvases to large murals, his paintings have always used photographs as the starting point. Wanting to use his own photos instead of someone else’s, he decided to pick up a camera and learn how to use it well. “It’s very important to have good images to work from,” he said.

He started working at the Tribune in 1994 as a part-time photographer. His tall, lanky figure soon became a fixture at local news events, especially on weekends. Schoolchildren referred to him as “the picture man.”

“A lot of people know me on sight,” he said.

Kids and animals were two of his favorite photography subjects. One assignment that stands out in his memory was when a moose wandered into town and he was sent to take pictures. He also remembers being there to capture the moment when a pair of circus elephants at the fairgrounds was taken into Foot Lake for a dip.
“What stands out in my mind is when something really different occurs, like a swimming elephant,” he said.

More recently he branched out into video, earning a statewide third-place award from the Minnesota Newspaper Association last year for his video of a reconciliation ceremony on the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War.
In between photo assignments that often took him on the road to area communities,

Adams is diligent about walking his dachshund, Jimi, and continuing with his painting. His latest one-man show, an exhibit at North American State Bank, is open through Saturday.
Adams said he’s looking forward to concentrating full time on his art and becoming more active in the local arts community, especially now that he will no longer have to juggle studio time with a news photographer’s schedule.

He already has his first major retirement project lined up: a historic mural he has been commissioned to paint at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building. The project is being funded through a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council and will probably take a year to complete.
“This has been a dream of mine for 20 years now,” he said.

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. 

Scoop steals the show on a Tribune tour

This morning, we had around 50 kids here from the Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA who took a tour of the Tribune and saw how the newspaper comes together every day.

When they first walked in the building, all of the children were greeted by Scoop, the Tribune mascot. They just loved him!

Scoop stole the show a bit, but that’s okay.

There were hugs and high-fives all around!

Thanks for visiting!

Everyone had a great time this morning on the tour. Thanks for visiting, everyone!

If you or your group would be interested in a tour of the Tribune, please call 320-235-1150.

Our social media roadmap

Earlier today, I gave a presentation to the Willmar Kiwanis Club about social media and how we’re using it at the Tribune to engage with our readers.

While social media isn’t the only part of my job, it is an important part. Social media is redefining how and where people read their news. Here are a few stats that I use in my presentations on social media:

  • Over 50% of people have learned of breaking news through social media
  • 1/3 of adults under 30 get news on social media every day
  • Among all people using social networks, 36% get news there

That’s a huge potential audience we could be reaching, and one that we know we can’t ignore. That’s why I’m so passionate (and many others at the Tribune are, too) about trying new things on social media to see what works and what doesn’t. After all, you won’t know until you try.

Here’s a copy of a presentation I gave at the Willmar Social Media Breakfast last month (the one I gave at Kiwanis today was a slightly shortened version of this). If you’re interested in learning more about social media and would like me to speak to your business, organization or group, please let me know! I’d be happy to share what I know with you, too.

–Ashley White, Community Content Coordinator

Did you see us on The Weather Channel?

This week, the West Central Tribune was featured on The Weather Channel for Wednesday’s front page, with the headline “Oh, say it ain’t snow.” The front page also took a look back over the miserable never ending long winter we’ve had so far.

The front page was designed by Dan Burdett, and the weather story was developed by Carolyn Lange and Susan Lunneborg. Congrats to everyone involved. We’re famous now! :-)

Join us at the next Social Media Breakfast

On Thursday morning, our advertising director, Kevin Smith, and I will be speaking at the Willmar Lakes Area Social Media Breakfast. We’d love for you to join us and hear all about what we’re doing on social media at the Tribune!

The event is free (and we’re giving you guys free breakfast, too!), but you do need to register ahead of time. You can do that here.

These breakfasts started last September, and I’ve been to every one so far. I always learn something from the businesses that present, and I hope we can be helpful as well. At the Tribune, we’ve experimented with everything from Facebook to live tweeting and blogging. We also have plans to add a few more social media networks in the future, so stay tuned…

Here’s an overview of what we’ll be talking about Thursday. If you have any questions for us beforehand, leave a comment here or shoot me an email.

In today’s ever-changing digital landscape, it’s become more important than ever for media organizations to connect with news readers on many different platforms. The West Central Tribune has used social media to interact with its readers and involve them in the news process, making them a part of the news, rather than a passive consumer of news. The Tribune’s advertising director, Kevin Smith, and community content coordinator, Ashley White, will share how they are using social media to share content and engage with readers, as well as how they measure the ROI of social media. They will cover how the Tribune uses many different social networks, ranging from Facebook and Twitter to live blogs and Storify. They will also share case studies and best practices that have worked for their social media strategy.

Hope to see you on Thursday! If you can’t make it, you can always follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #SMBWillmarArea.

This year, I’m keeping my New Year’s resolutions

Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions. I always make at least a few, but I can’t remember a year when I ever actually followed through on any of them (past February, anyway).

Maybe I set too many goals, or too ambitious goals, or maybe I just lack the willpower to see them through. But this year, I thought I’d try something different: Instead of setting goals for my personal life,* I’m going to make a set of professional resolutions – goals I’d like to accomplish in my career in the coming year.

It was difficult to narrow down my list of resolutions, because journalism changes every day. The tools I choose to learn this week may not be applicable at this time next year. Still, there are some things that I know I need to be learning or doing better that will help me in both the short- and long-term.

Here are my 2013 journalism resolutions:

1) Learn to code. This is my number one resolution for 2013, and I’ve already started on it with the help of tools like this online class from edX (it’s free!), and Codecademy. I don’t expect to learn how to build in-depth, fancy websites, but I’d like to learn enough to have a basic understanding. Knowing how to code will be an essential skill as media, including the Tribune, continue to focus on digital efforts. At the Tribune, I hope to use this skill to encourage more interaction and engagement with the community on our website.

2) Build on my video skills. I know enough about video to shoot something quick on my iPhone and edit it easily enough (at the Tribune, we use Windows Live Movie Maker), but I’d really like to improve my skills. I know I could be using better angles and thinking more about lighting when I shoot. I’d also like to learn one or two additional video editing programs (probably iMovie and Adobe Premiere Elements, which was actually a Christmas gift from my awesome parents). Like coding, it’s become almost essential for every journalist to have a basic (if not more-than-basic) understanding of video.

3) Start a blog. This is a resolution I really should have completed in 2012, but in honor of the New Year, I’m going to forgive myself and look forward. A big part of my job involves working with other people to start their blogs and giving them tips to make the most use of it. It’s time to take my own advice and start blogging. I’m excited and have a ton of ideas, but I also know that it will be a lot of work. I don’t want to start a blog and then have it disappear after a month or two. I’ve made it a resolution, but I’m going to hold off on it for at least a few months into 2013 so that when I start, I have a clear direction of where I want to go with it.

4) Think about the bigger picture. At a daily newspaper, it’s sometimes difficult to see past your 5 p.m. deadline. Though I don’t write stories for the paper every day, I do have plenty of “daily” responsibilities (updating Twitter, responding to Areavoices questions from bloggers, finding new bloggers to recruit, updating the Live it! social media accounts, etc.) that too often keep me from thinking about the future. In 2013, I’d like to devote some time every week to “big picture” issues: How can we be using social media most effectively? How can our bloggers better help contribute to our overall coverage? What new digital tools should we be using to create community engagement and interaction?

Unlike my personal resolutions, I have high hopes that I will see these ones through to 2014 (mostly because unlike “losing weight” or “organizing my apartment,” I have an actual passion for my work). Still, I know it won’t be easy. I guess that’s why they call them “resolutions.”

Happy New Year, everyone! See you in 2013!

What are your New Year’s resolutions this year? How many resolutions do you usually make? Do you ever manage to keep them past February?

*Okay, I confess: Yes, I did still set personal resolutions this year. Those are to 1) drink more water (I make this one every year), 2) read at least two books a month and 3) save more money. Wish me luck!

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

A recap of my first election night

Well, Election Day has come and gone. And I survived.

As I wrote in my last post, this election was the first one I’ve worked in a newsroom. Throughout the night, I was in charge of monitoring and posting content to our live blog, tweeting from our Tribune account and posting updates on our Facebook page.

It was an exciting – albeit exhausting – night that went much smoother than I had expected. Most of the races had been called by the time we had to go to print, which was a nice surprise. (Also, in case you were wondering, most of us left the office about 2:30 a.m. Yeah, it was a loooong night.)

Here’s me on election night, working hard! In this picture I have TweetDeck up and my phone and coffee nearby, so this is pretty much what I looked like all night. Thanks to my editor Kelly Boldan for taking this picture.

Now that I’ve had a few days to reflect on our election coverage, I’d like to share some things that I think went really well and some things that could have gone a little better. I’m going to focus on my part in the process, since I can’t speak for anyone else.

First, let’s start with the positives:

  1. Our live blog seemed to go over well with our online readers. We posted the blog on our website about 6:30 p.m., and throughout the night we kept gaining readers. By the end of the night, we had 1,048 clicks and 5,061 views on the blog. To feed the blog, I watched some of the key local and statewide races closely on the Secretary of State website and posted updates. We also established the hashtag #wct2012 on Twitter and added that to our blog so that anyone – our reporters or our readers – tweeting with that hashtag could contribute. Finally, we also used AP content to post updates on national results, including the presidential race. People reading our blog could interact with us by answering some of our poll questions and posting their own comments for us to publish.
  2. As I mentioned, we established the hashtag #wct2012 on Twitter to tweet updates throughout the night. We encouraged our followers on Twitter to also use the hashtag when posting Election Day pictures and updates. We actually had some readers use the hashtag, which is a huge victory for us. Twitter is something that we’ve really been pushing at the Tribune, and it’s nice to see more and more people interact with us there all the time.
  3. We also saw lots of interaction on our Facebook page. I posted fewer updates there (it’s better to use Facebook more sparingly so you don’t overwhelm your followers) and concentrated mostly on larger, closer races: the president, Senate District 17, Willmar City Council and the Willmar School Board. We saw an above-average number of likes and comments on all of our posts, especially when we posted that President Obama had won re-election. We now have 36 likes and 16 comments on that post.
  4. On both our Twitter and Facebook accounts, we gained followers throughout the day. We gained 7 followers on Facebook from the start of Tuesday and close to 20 followers on Twitter. It’s exciting to see readers looking to the Tribune’s social media accounts for updates on major stories.

Now, for some things I learned on election night:

  1. I should have put some more planning into our live blog. From the time we launched the blog to the time results started coming in for Minnesota at 8 p.m., we didn’t have as much content to post to the blog as I would have liked. We concentrated mainly on East Coast results for the presidential election, but it would have been nice to post more local coverage – for example, state and local races to watch, interesting tidbits about some of the candidates, etc.
  2. I also wish I had organized my Twitter stream more effectively. There were so many people tweeting on election night that it was hard to separate national from state from local. Since I use Twitter heavily to stay on top of what’s happening, I should have made more Twitter lists to segment my feed. It would have made my job much easier and saved me some frustration.
  3. Even though we had a good amount of reader interaction on our live blog and with our Twitter hashtag, I think if we had promoted those more heavily in the days leading up to the election, we could have seen even more interaction. Next time, we should start promoting our digital coverage and social media feeds earlier – in the paper, on our website and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. If more people had known about our live blog/social media presence in the days leading up to the election, they might have used those even more.

And some general observances from my first election night in a newsroom:

  1. As I suspected, food plays a major part in keeping everyone happy throughout the night. At the Tribune, we had everything from pizza and chips to sushi and apples. Something for everyone, I guess. (On a side note, I did try sushi for the first time. Risky, I know. But it wasn’t nearly as disgusting as I expected raw fish to be.)
  2. The Secretary of State’s website, on election night, is pretty much the worst thing ever. Probably 50 percent of my night consisted of refreshing web pages to try and get results (and even then to no avail. It was extremely frustrating.)
  3. I feel so, so lucky to be working at a newspaper that tries new things and takes risks in our digital coverage. At smaller, more rural newspapers, it can be easy to focus entirely on the print product and let digital coverage slide, but at the Tribune, we’re all committed to our digital efforts as well. It’s a good feeling to know that we’re working with our future in mind and taking digital innovation seriously.

So that’s about it. What did you think of the election? Was there a particular race outcome that surprised you? What did you think about our election coverage?

My first election in the newsroom

After weeks of debates, campaign mailers and new polls being released practically every day, Election Day is finally here. I’m incredibly excited, because it will be the first time I’ve worked in a newsroom for a general election.

And it’s going to be a big one. I don’t need to tell you that the presidential race appears to be in a dead heat, and either candidate could be declared the winner by the end of tonight (or tomorrow, or the next day…although hopefully not!). But in Minnesota, we also have two controversial amendments that could go either way (voter ID and gay marriage), and in the Willmar area, several key legislative races could also be close.

I’ll be following all of these races and more tonight as I run the social media accounts for the West Central Tribune. We had a staff meeting yesterday to go over last-minute details, and I’ll be in charge of updating our live blog (which we’ll be launching later this afternoon), tweeting from the Tribune account and posting updates and interacting with readers on Facebook. I’m also hoping to create a Storify about local people voting in the region. (Storify, by the way, is one of my new favorite social media tools. I’m hoping we can continue to use this more at the Tribune.)

Since the last presidential election in 2008, social media – particularly Twitter – has skyrocketed, not only in users but also in user interaction. It’s become a daily, integral part of many people’s lives. It’s an incredibly important tool that we’ll be using at the Tribune to keep our readers informed and as up-to-date throughout the night as possible.

Our social media effort is a team one: many of our reporters and editors will be tweeting from their own accounts throughout the night (you can find a list of everyone in the newsroom on Twitter here). In case you were wondering, the Tribune doesn’t have an official social media policy, but it’s our general policy not to show bias toward any specific candidate or issue on any level: local, state or national.  We’re all careful to exercise that same neutrality on our own social media accounts.

It’s going to be a loooong night. I fully expect to be here well into the early hours of the morning. And even then, we may not will probably not have full results to print in the paper! But I’m also anticipating an adrenaline rush of energy – possibly fueled by obscene amounts of coffee and Red Bull – and an evening full of nail biters, intense deadlines and, of course, lots and lots of food. But then, that’s pretty much why any of us go into journalism in the first place.

PS – I know I also don’t need to tell you this, but please make sure you vote today. Many, many people before us fought incredibly hard to make sure we have this right. And if you are out voting today, make sure you tweet or Instagram a picture with the hashtag #wct2012.

I’ll be back in the next day or so with a full recap of our election coverage from behind the scenes. In the meantime, do you have any questions about the Tribune’s election coverage? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!

–Ashley White, community content coordinator