Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | October 4, 2017

Back in the news biz

Strib ID badge

My last name has been misspelled on pretty much every ID badge I’ve ever had. This is a new one.

After almost exactly six years away, I’m a newspaperman again. Just as it did more than 26 years ago, the Minneapolis Star Tribune has seen fit to pluck me off the street. I’m exceedingly grateful — again —to share a newsroom with a collection of smart, conscientious, driven and interesting colleagues in a place that feels a lot like a second home.

My first day at the Star Tribune was Oct. 1, 1991. That was almost four months exactly since my previous employer, The National Sports Daily, had gone out of business, sending my little family and me into a forced adventure.

Back then, Melody, Jenna and I were living in a sweet Upper West Side high-rise in New York City (complete with doorman, swimming pool and famous neighbors like Paul Schaeffer, Claudia Schiffer and, apparently at some point, the family of Macaulay Caulkin). But when The National folded after a spectacular and star-crossed 16-month adventure, we knew we’d be flat broke in a matter of months, if not weeks, if we didn’t flee. And so, we fled.

If you are old enough to remember the TV show “Green Acres,” that was us. We didn’t move to “Hooterville,” of course, but Brantwood, Wis., wasn’t far off.

A quick aside: My mom grew up in northern Wisconsin (Up North), but she moved to Milwaukee to be near relatives and attend school, and she eventually married my dad, a tough Milwaukee kid who was eventually tamed (though he might still dispute that) by this fierce farm girl. They raised their three boys in the city, but we made frequent visits to my grandmother’s old farmhouse Up North. It was a playground for us. Snakes, rock piles, walks in the woods and, eventually, our family hunting grounds.

We traveled there so often it felt like a home away from home. So with that old house vacant and the middle son and his family soon to be homeless, my mom took mercy on us. We were grateful. The place had charm. Crooked floors, crooked doors, a wood-burning kitchen stove that had to be stoked in the middle of cold nights and open floor grates upstairs so that rising heat could warm those two small bedrooms. But it had a roof. Beds and blankets and sheets (and flies. Lots of flies). We had a telephone (that for a long time was on a party line). Heck, we even had an indoor toilet. But, yeah, no shower. No bathtub. My mom, you see, is Finnish and Up North Finns didn’t worry about such things in the “old days.” It was more important to have a sauna. And that’s how we bathed. Most nights, we’d build a fire. Then we’d warm the sauna and heat up the water. We’d fill steel buckets with water (including a big one that Jenna could use as a bathtub). The we’d get naked. Sweat. Wash. And then, eventually, drink a coffee (or a beer). Or both.

Those few months were heavenly in so many ways. Jenna, then just turning 2, was free in a way she never was in New York. We lost the big playgrounds and the sensory assault of Manhattan, but we gained mud puddles to splatter, butterflies to chase, stars and fluffy clouds to contemplate – and Friday fish fries to devour.

But as summer turned to fall, anxiety turned to fear. I was 30 years old. Unemployed. Living on a farmstead, but I was no farmer — and had no desire to become one. We were kind of broke, but not penniless. So where would my next opportunity come from?

The Star Tribune, it turned out.


Basically, what Minnesota looks like to Minnesotans. (Our old house.)

We arrived in time for the Great Halloween Snowstorm of 1991 and we weathered (pun intended) another 20 years of cold winters, beautiful autumns and rainy, flood-basement-filled summers. When we left in 2011 for our four-year adventure in Bulgaria, where we taught at the American University in Bulgaria, I never thought we’d be back. Even in 2015, when I was ready to move back to the U.S. to enjoy craft beers, bottomless cups of crappy diner coffee and random conversations in my native language, we chose Chicago (and even bought a condo there) because, well, it was something new and interesting.

Chicago sunrise, jpeg

Sunrise from the balcony of our condo in Chicago.

But Chicago, as much as we enjoyed it, just didn’t feel like home. And even though neither Melody nor I are native Minnesotans, it eventually became clear that Minnesota is home to us. Great friends, a familiar and lively culture, smart people and, yeah, professional connections.

We’re not quite old enough to retire, though we acted like it from time to time. So finding work became more important than ever. Before we moved back to Minnesota, I made contact with the editor of the Star Tribune and floated the idea of a return. He was receptive, though didn’t promise anything. Good enough. We moved back. And to make a long story short, on Tuesday (yesterday), after spending nearly four months working as a part-time copy editor on the night news desk at the Star Tribune (while also doing a bunch of freelance stuff), I was offered (and accepted) a full-time job.

I’ll be back to my newspaper roots in a way, working nights (and lots of weekends, most likely). I’ll edit stories, I’ll work wires, I’ll work the slot (the final read before stories are published), I’ll hopefully pick up some layout shifts and relearn our web publishing protocol. But instead of sports, where I spend the bulk of my 28 years in newspapering, I’ll be in news and working alongside some of the smartest, most professional and most interesting people I know. It’s great. I couldn’t be happier.

Better still, my dad and my daughter, couldn’t be happier.













    Sent from my iPad


  2. I promise I didn’t skip to the end. Congrats and good luck working the slot. Does that mean typos kick back to you? I’ll be reading diligently!


  3. Mazel tov and great way to start a new year!

  4. Yay!!! Congrats! It’s been a long ride. I’m so happy for you. I’ll make something delicious to celebrate on Friday.

    On Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 12:43 PM, Mark Wollemann: On the move wrote:

    > Mark Wollemann: On the move posted: ” After almost exactly six years away, > I’m a newspaperman again. Just as it did more than 26 years ago, the > Minneapolis Star Tribune has seen fit to pluck me off the street. I’m > exceedingly grateful — again —to share a newsroom with a collection of > smart,” >

  5. Your dad and I are very happy. You are closer than Bulgaria [and Chicago] so we’ll see both of you more often. Glad you don’t have to move into our basement! Although we do have a shower now. And a sauna.

  6. Mark, You are a heck of a writer. I enjoyed the read and back story of your life. Sorry to hear they can’t get your badge right; just get the paycheck right. Cheers!

    David Reitan


  7. […] my last post, I announced with great enthusiasm my return to daily […]

  8. Congratulations !

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