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Pitch A Story – Community Voices Make A Difference!

By John Gaddo and John Torgrimson, September 26, 2023

If a picture can tell a thousand words, this is it! John Weiss captured the perfect picture to accompany his story about special needs fishing put on by the DNR. Pictured is Nancy Qual of Austin being assisted by Conservation Officer Annette Kyllo. (Photo by John Weiss)

Pitch A Story – Community Voices Make A Difference!


ROOT RIVER VALLEY—It’s been six months since Root River Current published its first round of stories. 

What you’re reading right now is brand-new…a local venture created by local people for local communities.” That was our opening salvo. And it’s working! 

A local venture created by local people? Absolutely!

To date, over two dozen reporters, photographers, writers and poets have contributed content for publication. Collectively, they’ve contributed nearly 60 articles, essays, poems, and featured photos published since March.

A local venture created for local communities? You bet!

Nearly 4,000 visitors from communities throughout the region have explored Root River Current’s content, racking up over 13,000 page views! And nearly 250 of you are subscribed to our eNewsletter with regular updates on the latest articles, newest community voices, postings of area photos, and more. And so many others of you follow us on Facebook or Instagram—thank you!

Humbled? Totally! And encouraged…rewarded…and still challenged, despite—or perhaps because of—the enthusiastic community response and welcome since our March ‘soft launch’. 

Our board brought lots of successful professional experiences to the table, including journalism and publishing, but not in the area of online publishing. Six months in, we have addressed many of the technical and editorial issues of a start-up e-publication; we are increasingly comfortable working in this evolving medium; and now we are ready for Root River Current to be even more!

Your Stories Make A Difference  

Root River Current’s success is marked as much by the depth of its content and range of topics as it is by the numbers. That’s where you come in.

From the beginning, we have been—and still are—committed to telling the stories of the people, culture, and history of rural southeast Minnesota. Root River Current calls attention to the richness of life, the positive stories, as well as the challenges, that make our communities what they are—stories that inform and energize.

Contributing your stories—through written word, photography, video, audio and other digital storytelling—can help do that…just as content submitted by our existing roster of contributors is doing.

Assembling a team of content contributors is no easy task. That’s why we need you to step up!

Root River Current is very fortunate to have this content team started. Its members come from different walks of life and different communities—but they have one significant thing in common: a desire to share stories that recognize the sense of community—the sense of place—that surrounds us.

Passing on the Farm, chronicles Harvey Benson’s plans to transition his farm to his Harmony-area neighbors. The article, published in March, generated a lot of attention from those working in farm transition, including nonprofit Renewing the Countryside, which featured Harvey’s story at the Minnesota State Fair. Pictured, left to right, are Bonita Underbakke, Harvey Benson, Aaron Bishop, and Amy Bishop. (Photo by Renee Bergstrom)


Who Contributes to Root River Current—and why?         

“I feel that certain stories or experiences are just too good or too important to keep to myself,” says Julie Little, a reporter, writer and photographer from Harmony. 

“Whether it’s the vision of a sustainable future (see Passing on the Farm) or poking a bit of fun at modern life (read her essay, The Art of Conversation), Root River Current contributors share local stories and experiences that aren’t easily covered by other news sources but beg to be shared.”

Contributor John Weiss agrees. His reporting for Root River Current includes stories from Houston, Winona, and Fillmore counties. 

A former 40+ year reporter/photographer for the Rochester Post Bulletin, Weiss says he learned quickly how important local media are to local communities. “We couldn’t do all the stories, big and small, that could or should have been done for the region—stories,” he says, “that make a community a community.”

“As weekly (newspapers) began to close, I could just feel how much it would hurt”, Weiss continues, “so when asked to write for Root River Current, I felt blessed that I could help fill that gap.

“I love rural areas and I’m in the Root River valley a lot anyhow when hunting, fishing, hiking, taking photos etc., so of course I said yes.” Weiss has written about area trout streams and goat prairies, water quality issues, and Houston County’s elusive Golden Eagles.

Like you, these contributors are also readers.

Root River Current is a shining light in my reading experience,” says Julie Little. “In its company I find inspiration to go and explore new and fascinating places nearby; I can “meet” people doing amazing things, learn about local history or find an interesting band to follow. 

“Featured photography captures the magic of this country and the unique character of its residents,” she continues. “My thoughts may be rejiggered or my eyes opened wider by an insightful essay, a well-researched story, or an artful poem.”

“Root River Current gives voice to the people and places of the region,” says writer and contributor Jim Ruen. “As such, it has the potential to strengthen the sense of community native to the area, introducing and reintroducing the elements that make the community distinctive.”

Ruen is an agricultural journalist who lives on a farm outside of La Crescent. His stories have called attention to farmers’ commitments to conservation strategies and local collaboration for climate-smart practices. “As a writer, I hope that what I write makes a difference to those I write about and to those who read what I have written. Root River Current makes that difference possible.”

The geographical area that the Root River Current hopes to write about, includes five counties in the Root River watershed, much of it in the Driftless Zone of southeast Minnesota. Our focus is on the people, culture and history of this area and trying to build community through storytelling. (Photo courtesy of Bob White – BobWhiteStudio.com)

Creative Writing   

Like the others, Sandy Webb, Lanesboro, is both a reader and contributor to Root River Current. “There’s an intimacy with it, such that when I read it, I feel like I’m home,” she says. “I feel close to the people and stories featured, even if I don’t know them.” 

Webb recognizes Root River Current as an outlet to share her poetry. Richard Wolfgramm, on the other hand, writes essays. The last time he wrote anything with any regularity, he says, was in college—years ago!  

“Back then all my writing was to satisfy classroom assignments. Writing was work, not fun,” Wolfgramm says. “Consequently, I quit writing after graduation.”

“I took up writing again in 2006 when I moved to Lanesboro. The people around here proved to be a treasure trove of inspiration.” Just to amuse himself, he says, he began to write short stories about his new neighborhood—several of which he shared as live community readings. “In the process, I realized that writing can be fun, not work.”  

Now, he contributes to Root River Current. “For me, it’s become an outlet for an amateur writer who writes for amusement and pleasure,” as seen in his essay about The Wave and his take on Mabel’s Steam Engine Days.

Share Your Story

Perhaps you can identify with one of our existing contributors, or maybe you’re intrigued by doing something totally new. 

Whatever the reason, you are invited—encouraged!—to contribute content to Root River Current. You’ll be in good company, reaching an appreciative audience.

We welcome all ideas and suggestions. Here’s how.

And thanks!



John Torgrimson is the editor and co-publisher of Root River Current.




John Gaddo is co-publisher of Root River Current.

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