Forum staff reports, Published January 02 2014
Forum reporters recall their favorite stories of 2013FARGO – The end of each year brings a rundown of the biggest news stories of the past 12 months, a time to reflect on all that’s happened in the course of the year.
But those big events aren’t always the stories that stick with the reporters who cover them. So, each Forum news reporter was asked to pick which of the many stories they wrote in 2013 was their favorite – and to explain why.
Our Thanksgiving Day story on hunger in the Fargo-Moorhead area was far and away my favorite story of the year.
In the midst of so much success and growth here, we looked at how and why hunger has continued to grow in the metro.
In talking to operators of food shelves and those in our community who rely on them, it opened my eyes to the struggles some people still face.
One story I will likely never forget was done on the one-year anniversary of a fatal accident that killed four North Dakota State University students in January 2012.
I reported on the accident the night it happened and in the wake of the accident, but no one had ever spoken with the roommate of three of the girls. It took some detective work to track her down, but I thought many would be wondering how she was doing after such a traumatic event.
It’s rare that I can devote a long period of time to interviews, but I was glad I was able to do that with this story. Speaking to the families and friends of the girls, and hearing their memories, mostly happy but some filled with regret and what ifs, touched me in a deeply personal way. I hoped that by telling their stories, it would help everyone remember the women, who clearly had a great impact on those they met, and how fragile life is and how quickly it can change.
Some of the best stories arrive unexpectedly through serendipity. That was the case for a story I wrote that ran on Valentine’s Day under the headline, “Love letters lost and found.”
I’d interviewed Kerry Conlin for a health care story, and she mentioned what she thought would be a good news story. She and her husband, Paul, had found a trove of love letters and old family photo albums in the closet of an old house they bought in Kathryn, N.D. They included passionate love letters from a man to a woman, an epistolary record of a courtship from the 1940s.
The woman and her beau were struggling actors. She rode circus elephants and had a role in “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Who were these people? Did they ever get married? It was both a detective story and love story. Opal Spofford from Lake Park, Minn., whose screen name was Vickie Bakken, never did marry Preston Hanson, originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Both died by the time their romance turned up in a nondescript box. But their families were thrilled to learn of the letters and photos.
Reader’s Digest used to have a feature each month called “My Most Unforgettable Character.” Well, one of my most unforgettable characters was Ed Fortin, my junior high gym teacher and track coach.
When Mr. Fortin died earlier this year, I was hesitant at first to write about it. Most journalists, I think, tend to shy away from subjects with which they have personal connections.
However, I felt it was important to remember someone whose single-minded commitment to honesty and hard work left indelible impressions on many of those he taught and coached, something that was confirmed by the comments I received after the column appeared.
My favorite story of 2013 was “Mothers to many,” the cover story of the Mother’s Day edition. I really enjoyed the openness and humor displayed by all of the mothers and their husbands.
For example, there was Karla Wiegrefe of Fargo, who has nine children with her husband, Jeff. “If my 18-year-old self had seen I’d have this many kids, I’d have run screaming in the other direction,” Wiegrefe said.
And there were Kevin and Jennifer Wolsky of Carrington, N.D. After they had five children, his thought was, “Next time my wife gets baby fever, I’ll get her a dog.”
Lots of humor. And lots of love.
Hands down, my favorite story this year was the creation of Fargo-Moorhead’s Gay Men’s Chorus.
The choral director hails from the Bay Area, and listening to him talk about his experiences marching in the gay pride demonstrations in 1970s in San Francisco was so moving – especially given that his father, a California Highway Patrol officer, didn’t support him.
I’ve often wondered, if I had been alive for any of the civil rights fights of that era, would I have had the guts to stand up for what I believe in? Meeting someone who did – and does – is incredibly inspiring.
My favorite story of 2013 was covering the first same-sex marriage ceremony in Clay County this summer. The county announced it would host a special midnight marriage ceremony at the courthouse the day Minnesota’s law legalizing same-sex marriage went into effect, and 18 couples signed up to be wed.
Even though I was an intern, I joined dozens of other journalists throughout the state who were covering the law’s impact in communities large and small. It was a huge opportunity for me as a young journalist, a joyous time for many couples who shared their stories with me and a historic moment for Clay County and the state.
The midnight ceremony made it challenging with The Forum’s print deadlines, so I actually wrote three versions of the story and worked until 3 a.m. Bringing in wedding details made it such a fun story to write. (I made a last-minute change to add “processional” to the first sentence.) Knowing that 18 couples would have this article to commemorate their wedding, I wanted to give them my best, and I’m truly proud of how it turned out.
I’ve only been at The Forum a month, so I don’t have many stories under my belt. But if I were to choose one, it would be a story I wrote about a police officer who helped save the life of a college student.
North Dakota State University Police Officer Chris Potter came to the aid of Adriana Norberg after her heart stopped during a dance class at the Avalon Events Center in downtown Fargo. Potter performed CPR on the teen, and she eventually regained a pulse. For Potter, a 20-year veteran of law enforcement, it was the first time he saved a life with CPR.
Norberg, 19, has overcome her health challenges to the point that she’ll likely head back to class at NDSU in the fall. The story stood out for me because of the exceptionally happy ending.
My favorite story of 2013 was a profile published Aug. 11 about Dean Solum, the only guy in the tri-state area who sprays for mosquitoes.
The idea behind the story was to get to know the man behind the yellow plane that everyone sees zipping overhead during the sweltering summer months. Dean, I found out, is one of those guys you can sit down and chat with for hours, as I did before writing the story. There were so many facets of his life that I found intriguing that I had trouble juggling them all in the story. For instance, he lives in a home that is attached to his hangar, so he’s never too far from his planes. Or his connection to God and his faith, which his friends and colleagues told me made Dean a steadier, calmer pilot than most.
Far more people in Fargo-Moorhead (and beyond) would recognize Dean by his yellow Piper Chieftain airplane than by his face, which is what made him such an interesting person to profile. His story wasn’t being told, and I got to tell a little piece of it.