Column from the Publisher: How it was, how it is, and how it may one day be

At Detroit Lakes Newspapers, we’ve come a long way, baby!

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Melissa Swenson, Publisher
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I started my career with Detroit Lakes Newspapers in October of 1999. For young people, that is a lifetime ago. For me, it can seem like eons ago and also just like yesterday, all at the same time.

That’s the funny thing about getting older. You can sit in your office while you are busy with your daily tasks while bombs of multiple unplanned challenges are being tossed your direction and you feel like you are getting nowhere. And then you take a few minutes to step back and look at the big picture and are blown away at how far you’ve come.

At Detroit Lakes Newspapers, we’ve come a long way, baby!

When I first started my career here, Bob Jensen was still pasting up the paper in the production area. Some of the publications were done electronically, but Bob knew how to do things most efficiently – and sometimes that meant going back to the tried-and-true way of manually pasting items onto “pages” that would be taken over to the printing plant in a big box. He was the king of figuring out a good deal and he had no qualms about telling you that change wasn’t always a good thing – while reminding you that you may not be the smartest person in the room.

I might also add that Bob became very efficient on the computer, and he realized he had to learn new programs to make the process better. He also knew that finding good people would produce good results. He found a good one when he hired Sara Leitheiser. The two of them, along with stellar artists like Luanna Lake, made that production department one of the best in the state. Their demand for perfection was not always an easy atmosphere to operate in, but the results were impressive. Detroit Lakes Newspapers would be a consistent winner at the Minnesota Newspaper Awards, with hundreds of first place wins for advertising campaigns, single advertisements, and page design.


In those days, there were around nine or 10 production people working on ads and designing pages in-house. The Detroit Lakes Tribune was published on Sunday, the Becker County Record was published on Wednesday, and the Lake Area Press shopper was published on Saturdays. was a thing… but it wasn’t a big thing.

The Tribune is 150 years old, and we're celebrating with a special section! View historic front pages, check out vintage photos, take a look back at some of the beloved people who are part of the Tribune's history and more!

Our bread and butter was advertising sales revenue from a department that consisted of an Advertising Manager, Special Sections Manager, Marketing Director, and Advertising Assistant, five or six outside salespeople and two inside salespeople.

On the editorial side, there was an editor, sports editor, photographer, business reporter, agricultural reporter, and two to three other reporters.

There was also a business department that housed a Business Manager, Assistant Business Manager, and three other business office employees.

And finally, we had a circulation department of one, plus multiple outside contractors who delivered our papers. That circulation department was and still is Viola Anderson. Vi has been here for 25 years and has been a loyal employee who has lived this change and learned to roll with the punches.

We now have a total staff of 11, with all of us pitching in to work and share duties with the other two papers I manage in Perham and Wadena. Due to the wonder of technology, we are doing far more, with far fewer bodies.

While I can’t say I don’t long for the days when we had all those cool people in-house, I do understand the need for efficiency. Our business model has changed, but our goals have not. We continue to provide award-winning journalism to Detroit Lakes and the surrounding area.

At 150 years old, I’d say we look pretty good. Another 150 years from now, the publisher may be looking back for old material to refer to and find this column. I can only imagine what the changes might be over the next 150 years, but I know that Detroit Lakes Newspapers will still be here in some way, shape or form, covering the good, the bad, and the sometimes ugly in and around Detroit Lakes.


If you are a member, advertiser, guest contributor, subject of an article, coach who has helped provide scores and information on games, someone who has submitted photos or called in with story ideas – we couldn’t do it without you. Thank you!

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