Story ideas come from the oddest places.
A few years back, we at the Post Bulletin would do these stories where we'd write features on people who had recently died. You see, we'd read our own obituary pages, and if someone's obituary seemed interesting – and the obit made it sound like there was more to the story – we'd start tracking down family and friends of the deceased and write a more complete story about these folks lives.
Well, one day while writing one of these, one of my editors said it was a shame we hadn't written a story about this particular person before they'd died.
Get 'em while they're living
A couple of months later, the editor brain trust decided to move forward with the idea and asked us all to find interesting people who weren't necessarily newsmakers, but were folks with interesting lives, and write about them before, well, you know.
And we sort of did that for a bit. But it was kind of hit-and-miss. Then we were sold to a new media company, and we moved to a new building, and COVID-19 and George Floyd , and suddenly none of us were doing this feature anymore.
Which is sad, really, because Southeast Minnesota is full of interesting people, many of whom never see their names in the newspaper.
Resurrecting the plan
A couple of months ago, the bosses brought the idea back to the front burner. The reporters would take turns, write the story in a Q&A style, and we'd find people who weren't the regular newsmakers: no mayors, board and council members, or the usual cast of movers and shakers. Instead, we'd find regular folks who were interesting to us.
Last week it was my turn at Asked & Answered, and I had been fed a lead from a tipster who'd recommended a young man who'd lost his job due to COVID-19 then changed careers. Sounds interesting, right?
I thought so, too. Unfortunately, this person didn't return my phone calls, so I had to find another person to interview.
From Tim to Mike
My boss, Randi, and I talked about some possibilities, and eventually we settled on Tim Ruzek, who is in charge of outreach for the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District. Tim sends us a lot of news tips and news releases, so I'm familiar with Tim. I sent him an email, set up time for an interview and even a photograph, and my plan was in place.
However, during the interview Tim kept mentioning how he was influenced by his uncle, Mike Ruzek.
Tim kept saying things like, "Well, I got involved because my Uncle Mike had been a member," and, "I had to put in my best effort, because Uncle Mike had done this before me."
After one of these statements, Tim said, "You know, you should probably do a story on my Uncle Mike instead of me."
Well, Tim, no offense, but, yeah. Uncle Mike is a much better story. So that's the one we told in Tuesday's Post Bulletin.
Now, folks, if you know anyone as cool as Uncle Mike in Southeast Minnesota, let us know. We want to tell their story before, well, you know.
Regional Reporter Brian Todd covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties along with some cities in Olmsted County. In the After Deadline column every Thursday, he shares behind-the-scenes tales from the newsroom.