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Matt Von Pinnon, Published December 31 2011

Von Pinnon: How we chose the 2011 Area Person of the Year

On a day every December for the past six years, about a dozen editors sit down to determine who will be The Forum’s Area Person of the Year.

Before that day comes, we always solicit nominations from our readers. Editors also bring their own nominations.

The criteria for the selection? Simply, who had the most impact on our area this past year?

The meeting in which the selection is narrowed and ultimately chosen can get pretty heated. The final vote is always somewhat divided.

This year, however, the group unanimously chose our Person of the Year.

That designation goes to David Berg, president and CEO of American Crystal Sugar Co.

Today marks the start of the company’s sixth month of locking out its 1,300 union employees in a bitter contract dispute that’s divided cities and families in the Red River Valley.

Berg was an easy choice for us when compared to all other nominees.

He’s the broker between the area’s powerful sugar beet growers and the union workers and union bosses. Berg was (and continues to be) at the center of the valley’s biggest ongoing labor dispute and one of the biggest stories in our area this past year.

Berg was also chosen because the themes in the local dispute mirror themes seen throughout the country and world this past year: unions and their workers fighting to retain bargaining power and low- and middle-class workers rising up to challenge what they see as a growing disparity between the rich and the poor.

Much like Time magazine’s annual Person of the Year, The Forum’s selection is not intended to glorify or demonize anyone or any position. It is simply marking a moment in time by designating a person who most exemplifies that period or its happenings.

Citing the year of global protests – including the Occupy Wall Street movement, Arab Spring, the tea party and protests throughout Russia, Greece and India – Time magazine’s 2011 Person of the Year was “The Protester.”

A new nameplate

Astute readers of our print newspaper will notice that the new year has brought a slightly new look to our front page.

The nameplate, or flag, as it’s called in newspaper circles, is the very top of the front page that tells readers what paper they’re reading.

The new version of “The Forum” continues to use the same font as our former version but puts “The” in front of “Forum” instead of on top of it. There are a few other minor changes to the flag as well.

The new nameplate actually takes us back about 15 years, when it last looked so similar. Over the years, a newspaper’s flag tends to change looks, sometimes in bold new strokes, other times reverting to its past.

Today’s nameplate change coincides with our desire to update our wardrobe in the new year.

Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum. Reach him at (701) 241-5579.