The first time I remember being inspired by a newspaper columnist was when I was dating my first girlfriend, Kathleen “Kurse” Stockhaus, a first-year nurse at Abbott-Northwestern whose natural caretaking gifts were recognized by one of her patients, Jim Klobuchar.
The longtime metro columnist for the Minneapolis Tribune penned a poetic column about this spunky angel, and when I read it — in the locker room at Mount Sinai hospital, where I was working as a dietary aide and kosher cook — it was the first time I realized that a newspaper could leap the inverted pyramid and stir a personal connection.
I had been hooked on newspapers since third grade, when my father told me that my ignorance about current events could be helped by reading “the newspaper, not even the whole thing,” he said; “just the headlines and the first few sentences.” So I did, clipping out stories and photos and filling a few scrapbooks as I went. Over the years, I gravitated toward the columnists, and to this day whenever I travel I always pick up the local paper and look for the columnists to give me a taste of their lives, homes, souls.
I’ve been writing in this space for three years now. (I have also delivered the Southwest Journal with my wife and kids and from you I’m still waiting for my holiday tip). Prior to that I had been a copy aide/clerk at the Star Tribune, an editor at the Minnesota Daily, an editor and columnist at City Pages, and the pop music columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Seems to me that the Southwest Journal’s birthday is a good time to say yet again how blessed I feel to be part of what’s happening in this town, in so many ways.
I often feel as if the Twin Cities’ music, art, food and journalism scenes intersected during the Obama campaign via Facebook, and all these virtual and visceral connections detonated a hydrogen bomb-turned-eternal flame of optimism and hope. Part of that connection is the one that you and I forge every other week here in the free neighborhood newspaper that hits your tree fort or bird cage.
Thank you: In the course of the same hour recently, a woman told me she reads my column to her husband in bed; another woman pulled out a column that she carries with her in her purse and a burly guy asked me, “Are you John Walsh?” I said no, that my name is Jim. He said he never reads anything at all but that his wife always shows him what I write and he likes it.
In moments like that, South Minneapolis can feel like a turn-of-the century fishing village teaming with songs and stories and scandals, and I feel lucky to bear witness to it all. Community newspapers like the Southwest Journal are thriving all over the country amidst the new media chaos, very simply because since the beginning of time people have wanted to hear stories and yarns about their friends and neighbors.
Whether or not the new world will continue to value writers, journalists and columnists remains to be seen, but I’ll be here as long as they’ll have me, and let’s write the ending to this one together.
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in