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Tribune and Focus newspapers announce newsroom leadership changes

The shared newsroom has been restructured, as of Jan. 1, to offer more responsibilities and promotions to existing staff, and a new, additional full-time reporter will be joining the team later this month.

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The new leadership team at the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus. (Contributed Photos / Tribune Graphic)
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The Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus editorial team is under newly restructured leadership.

The two newspapers are owned by Forum Communications Company, headquartered in Fargo.

As of Jan. 1, Marie Johnson, who was most recently a Tribune staff reporter and special sections editor (and interim editor of the Focus) is managing editor of both newspapers, working closely alongside news editor Nathan Bowe, who already held that title at the Tribune and is now serving in that role for the Focus, as well.

In addition, two Tribune staff reporters have taken on extra leadership roles for both papers: Michael Achterling is now multimedia lead, and Vicki Gerdes is community news lead.

The four have been working together at the Tribune office since Achterling came on board in August 2020; Bowe and Gerdes have both been with the Tribune for over two decades, while Johnson has a four-year history at the Tribune preceded by several years at the Focus.

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Restructuring the newsroom to offer more responsibilities and promotions in-house was an opportunity that presented itself after Jeff Beach, the former editor of the papers, moved into another position within the company this past fall.

Johnson, Bowe, Achterling and Gerdes all say they’re excited about their new roles. The collaborative structure allows them to work together to put out top-notch local print and online news products, while also giving each of them the chance to hone their own unique talents within their preferred niches of the newspaper world – be it overseeing news coverage, managing newspaper websites and social media accounts, keeping close tabs on community events and people, or managing staff and internal communications.

“I believe this new structure is ideal for this team, and good for these newspapers,” said Johnson. “We have someone in our office who loves to focus on digital media, and another who loves community news and events; Nate has a longtime passion for news, and I love being a part of the ‘bigger picture’ within this company and being a leader within my own team. The way our newsroom is modeled now, we each get to focus most on what we each love to do best, and then when we put all our talents together, it makes for a nice, well-rounded picture of a great newsroom. And a great newsroom makes for a great newspaper.”

The newsroom also includes reporter Elizabeth Vierkant, who writes for the Focus full-time, and reporter Rebecca Mitchell, who writes for the Focus part-time. A new, additional reporter, who will be writing for the Tribune full-time, is set to begin later this month.

Meet the new leadership team

Marie Johnson, Managing Editor

Johnson has been working at community newspapers for more than 20 years. She attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities and graduated with a bachelor of arts in journalism in 2002.

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She’s worked as a reporter, editor, page designer, website administrator, photographer and special sections coordinator at newspapers in New London, Wisconsin, as well as Grand Rapids, Perham and Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

“I like my work to have variety, be creative, and contribute to my community in a meaningful way,” she said.

A nature lover, some of Johnson’s favorite activities are birding, hiking, kayaking, flower gardening and simply sitting on the porch swing at her country home just outside of Detroit Lakes, especially when she’s surrounded by her family – husband Dan and their two young kids, Simon and Josephine, and their dogs, Snug the pug and Lou the Labrador.

Johnson is also a lifelong music, movie and all-around arts enthusiast; a trained singer, she used to perform in community musicals and also sang with a jazz trio and folk duo. Motherhood keeps her pretty busy these days, but she still likes to share her voice when the rare opportunity arises.

As managing editor, Johnson is the primary contact for internal company communications involving editorial staff, and she helps facilitate company-wide initiatives to the rest of the local editorial team. She also leads team meetings and oversees hiring and other personnel issues within the editorial department.

Email her at mtjohnson@dlnewspapers.com .

Nathan Bowe, News Editor

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Bowe has worked as reporter, editor and news editor of the Tribune since 2001. He has also worked at newspapers in Bemidji, Fargo, and Wahpeton, N.D. since graduating from North Dakota State University in 1989.

Bowe covers the Becker County Board and the court system for the Tribune, and handles the opinion pages for the Tribune and Focus. As news editor of both papers, he is the go-to contact person for readers and the general public: breaking or hard news tips, story ideas, questions and general feedback should be directed to him.

Originally from Fargo, Bowe has lived in Detroit Lakes since 1996. His family has had a cabin on Cotton Lake since the 1950s.

Bowe has been married to Teresa for 25 years and their son, Jonah, also lives in Detroit Lakes. Son Matthew and daughter Aimee are married, with children, and live in the Twin Cities. Daughter Jessica works in chemical dependency treatment in Thailand.

In his free time, Bowe enjoys long walks with his pug, Jeb, and bulldog-Lab mix, Margot. Not surprisingly, he follows the news avidly, likes to read, and enjoys watching the Twins and the Vikings.

Reach Bowe at nbowe@dlnewspapers.com .

Michael Achterling, Multimedia Lead

Achterling graduated in 2020 with a bachelor's degree in professional journalism from the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. During his time there, he covered the state legislature for the Minnesota Daily and also interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Achterling is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where he served from 2011 to 2015 as a Mass Communication Specialist in Boston, aboard the U.S.S. Constitution, and in Sasebo, Japan, assigned to the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).

He is originally from Apple Valley, Minnesota and is a proud graduate of the School of Environmental Studies and Eastview High School.

When not in the newsroom, he enjoys spending time with his dog, Pepper. He is also an avid video gamer, baseball purist, entertainment sponge, and dabbles in table-top games.

As multimedia lead, Achterling oversees digital content for the Tribune and Focus. Reach out to him at machterling@dlnewspapers.com with questions or comments related to the dl-online.com or perhamfocus.com websites, related social media accounts, or videos or other digital media.

Vicki Gerdes, Community News Lead

Gerdes has been a reporter for the Tribune since October 2000.

A native of Madelia, Minnesota, Gerdes graduated from Hamline University in 1988 with a degree in English literature (writing emphasis). During her time at Hamline, she experienced several study abroad and internship opportunities, including travel to Hawaii, the United Kingdom, and New York City.

After beginning her journalism career in 1989, Gerdes worked for newspapers in Fairmont, Redwood Falls and St. James, Minnesota, prior to accepting the position in Detroit Lakes. She has also worked as a freelance writer in Belize, and has worked part-time at a local bookstore and the Becker County Museum.

In addition to her duties with the Tribune, Gerdes is in the process of writing a book for the museum, tentatively titled, "The People of Becker County.” When not writing, her hobbies include exploring the lakes area, reading, playing computer/video games, going to the movies, and taking advantage of as many travel opportunities as possible.

Readers should reach out to Gerdes for all community and church-related news stories, local happenings/calendar items and community event-related coverage, story ideas and questions. As community news lead, that’s her specialty.

Gerdes may be reached at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com .

General contact information

The Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus leadership team and reporters all work together to determine news coverage and write and edit stories. Any and all editorial staff members are available by calling the Tribune and Focus general office lines or using the general newsroom email addresses: For the Tribune office, call 218-847-3151 or email dltribune@dlnewspapers.com ; for the Focus office, call 218-346-5900, or email editor@perhamfocus.com .

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