Achterling: Moving on is never easy

Leaving the family-style newsroom at the Detroit Lakes Tribune has been difficult, more difficult than I thought it would be. And, I think I am beginning to understand why.

Michael Achterling, right, interviews Carly Kohout, member of the Detroit Lakes Jaycees, during their annual Stagette fundraiser at the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes.
Contributed / Kyle Meacham

As I begin my last week at the Detroit Lakes Tribune, I have come to realize that leaving this small family of my fellow reporters was never supposed to be easy.

For the last two and a half years, our Tribune team has reported on this not-so-little lakeside city together.

We covered government meetings, business openings and closings, our sports teams, community spotlight features and all the breaking news in the lakes area. It's a lot of news and it never stops, which is why our team became one of the best tightknit, award-winning journalistic organizations in the state. It also created a shared workload, shared goals and a unique camaraderie only afforded to the closest of staffs.

Michael Achterling.jpg
Michael Achterling, Multimedia Lead at the Detroit Lakes Tribune

And, it's that family-style buy-in that makes me feel guilty about leaving my friends to further my own career. However, I also know, like with any family, sometimes the best possible action a person can take is to leave and try to be better. And that is exactly what I am going to be doing.

I've learned so much from this talented newsroom about how to be a professional non-fiction storyteller. And it's the things that can never be taught in a classroom. How to manage a daily drive for content in an age where information is only a few thumb wiggles and a post button away from being late? How do we provide value in our articles with links, other content and videos to keep the reader engaged and more deeply informed? How do you summarize some of the worst crimes imaginable from a criminal complaint and relay that to a PG-rated audience?


I was able to get a better handle on journalism as a whole because I had a front-row seat to decades of experience in the Tribune newsroom. These reporters not only were my career instructors, they became my family. And I think the news we produced together made a positive impact for this area, even if the news wasn't always great.

The Tribune routinely overtakes the website traffic of larger greater Minnesota twice-weeklies in engaged minutes, page views and unique IP addresses; even though, they usually have double the subscription base. And, we were able to do this because of our dedicated and loyal readership in Detroit Lakes and the surrounding area. We have kept the community-focused news that is expected and the readers reward us every day with their time on our stories.

This lakes area has really made me a believer in the importance of locally focused news. Residents need information about current events in the place they live and, when it's brought to them in a neat, informative and objective package, they will read it. That's value. And the reporters, editors, advertising sales associates, and circulation manager all understand that telling this community's story in the most important of responsibilities.

That makes leaving these public servants all the more difficult.

And even though I am sad, one thing that eases my mind is that I will always be able to take the last few years with me in my memories. This time at the Tribune has prepared me for my next step into broadcasting, which will bring a whole new series of challenges, successes and skills to learn.

One thing is certain, I will continue to try and tell the best stories about the people, places and things of the lakes area, no matter the medium. And I know my former Tribune family will do the same.

Thank you for making the first years of my journalistic career unforgettable.

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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