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Donna Middleton: The small side of journalism, or my career living large

Donna Middleton, news assistant at the West Central Tribune, is closing the book on a nearly 50-year career in journalism in west central Minnesota.

Donna Middleton.jpg
Donna Middleton
Contributed / Rand Middleton

My job is in the background.

Mostly, the stuff printed in little type, the small type, has been my answer to the question: β€œWhat do you do at the Tribune?”

Donna Middleton.jpg
Donna Middleton
Contributed Rand Middleton

The little type has dominated my years in the Tribune newsroom.

I started in 1975 answering the telephone on Friday nights from coaches reporting their high school football game. (Side note: After graduating from Kerkhoven in 1972, I envisioned being a librarian. But I met a boy from Michigan, we got married and I began helping him answer the Tribune phones on Fourth Street downtown.)

And now, as the winter sports season has finished, I am stepping down from the little type business.

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Over the years, I typed box scores directly into the computer system, compiled the area high school sports schedule and formatted the major league standings for the sports department. All were published in agate, the little type.

It was an evening job, which allowed me to be home with our children during the day. We had many devoted babysitters tending until midnight when we arrived back home. But children grow up, and there is no day care for teenagers.

I was lucky; the daytime news assistant wanted to work mornings for a year before retiring completely. So I worked afternoons in the news department and on the busy nights β€” Tuesday, Thursday and Friday β€” for sports, until she retired and I went full time.

As the news assistant, I moved through all the advances in technology. I started typing things like the advice columns and horoscopes that came in the mail and eventually was able to download them, all the while formatting them for the paper.

I took obituaries over the phone, typed up engagements and wedding announcements and other news briefs. Now, almost everything comes in by email. Since COVID I have worked most days from my home office on a laptop and two monitors.

But all the while, the little type was my mainstay. No scoops, but the names of people and organizations that make a community.

The Good Neighbors calendar reflected the generous people of our area, with news about benefits for individuals, nonprofit fundraisers and charities.

Around Our Region contains things to do β€” annual town celebrations, events at the community center and library, hours at the swimming pool, ice rinks and the civic center.

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I did the health calendar, church calendar, clubs and organizations, farmers markets and other food events, which are just what they are called.

And, of course, the Showcase section which has between six and nine calendars depending on the season: arts, museums, classes, college events and the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council.

I called them my calendars, and they are all printed in little type.

And, I guess, because of my long tenure and availability near the receptionist, I was funneled calls from the public asking for help, say, an article written about Uncle Garth or Aunt Thelma, β€œfrom the 1950s.” (I also took complaints regarding sports coverage because the sports guys didn’t come in until late afternoon.)

I chose spring to retire because I would have something to do β€” working outside in my garden. Mother Nature for now has a different idea, but eventually the crocuses and tulips will be blooming in my front yard.

So I will start each morning with a cup of tea and reading the West Central Tribune e-edition.

Donna Middleton started working at the West Central Tribune in 1975 and has been the news assistant since 1992. She compiles the arts, health, farm and community page calendars, as well as rewrites and works on the special sections.
She can be contacted at dmiddleton@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4341.
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