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500 stories and growing: KAXE news team looks back on 1st year

The KAXE news team smiles at the camera.
Maria Hileman
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KAXE
KAXE's newsroom includes Grand Rapids area reporter Megan Buffington, left, News Director Chelsey Perkins, center, and Bemidji area reporter Larissa Donovan, right.

We’ve published more than 500 stories about Northern Minnesota in the Local News section of kaxe.org, including 180+ episodes of our daily newscast, the Up North Report.

It’s been just over a year since I walked through the doors of KAXE for the first time — excited and motivated, but also pretty nervous.

As the new news director, I was tasked with building a newsroom focused on local stories across Northern Minnesota in a well-loved and long-lived community radio station.

My background as a newspaper reporter and editor provided a solid foundation, but radio? That was a new frontier. And it turns out, starting something new is a much bigger challenge than I anticipated.

KAXE News Director Chelsey Perkins records a piece about the UPM Blandin Paper Co. strike in July 2023 at the KAXE studios in Grand Rapids.
Lorie Shaull
/
Contributed
KAXE News Director Chelsey Perkins records a piece about the UPM Blandin Paper Co. strike in July 2023 at the KAXE studios in Grand Rapids.

A year — and the two impressive and talented additions of Larissa Donovan and Megan Buffington to the news team — later, we’re finding our stride. We’ve published more than 500 stories in the Local News section of kaxe.org, including 180+ episodes of our daily newscast, the Up North Report. (Subscribe on your favorite podcast app so you’ll never miss it!)

We’ve reported stories across Northern Minnesota on a great variety of topics. This map below shows just how many communities we’ve highlighted in our coverage, which is generously supported by the one-of-a-kind photography work of Lorie Shaull, a KAXE member and volunteer.

A graphical illustration shows the communities across Northern Minnesota where KAXE provided local news coverage in its first year. Breakout images by volunteer photographer Lorie Shaull, clockwise from upper left, include the opening of NativeCare cannabis dispensary in Red Lake
Graphic by Megan Buffington / Photos by Lorie Shaull
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KAXE
A graphical illustration shows the communities across Northern Minnesota where KAXE provided local news coverage in its first year. Breakout images by volunteer photographer Lorie Shaull, clockwise from upper left, include the opening of NativeCare cannabis dispensary in Red Lake in August 2023, the UPM Blandin Paper Co. strike in Grand Rapids in July 2023, the felony trial of a Line 3 protester in Aitkin County in August 2023, and the MMIW 218 ceremony in Bemidji in February 2024.

We've covered labor strikes, cannabis legalization, the 2023 election, natural resources, issues with rural mail delivery and severe drought conditions across the region. We've traveled across the region to witness court proceedings, attend local government meetings and see the unveiling of new facilities ourselves.

We also produced our first series of in-depth stories in collaboration with Energy News Network, a nonprofit news partner. The series covered the green energy transition in the mining industry on Minnesota's Iron Range and was republished by multiple outlets.

KAXE reporter Larissa Donovan conducts an interview during a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women's ceremony on Feb. 14, 2024, in Bemidji.
Lorie Shaull
/
Contributed
KAXE reporter Larissa Donovan conducts an interview during a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women's ceremony on Feb. 14, 2024, in Bemidji.
KAXE Reporter Megan Buffington, right, interviews Grand Rapids Mayor Tasha Connelly on the January 2024 night of her swearing-in at Grand Rapids City Hall.
Chelsey Perkins
/
KAXE
KAXE Reporter Megan Buffington, right, interviews Grand Rapids Mayor Tasha Connelly on the January 2024 night of her swearing-in at Grand Rapids City Hall.

Looking ahead to the year before us, we want to ensure the stories we produce are relevant and meaningful to the lives of our Northern Minnesota neighbors. This is especially true with the upcoming local and national elections. Working with our partners at America Amplified, we're committed to covering elections your way this year. Take control of the conversation by telling us what issues matter most to you.

You know, in the news business — no matter how good the work you do is — it’s common to hear negative and not-so-constructive feedback: what you’re doing wrong, what you failed to cover, what you never should have covered, that you’re a hack, or a shill, or far less charitable terms.

But the KAXE audience? You’ve gone out of your way to make our scrappy and dedicated team of strong female journalists feel welcomed and appreciated. You’ve provided essential news tips, corrected us when we needed it, and given us little boosts with kind messages on otherwise tough days.

During this spring membership drive for KAXE, we’re asking you to support us with your hard-earned dollars, too. Keep it local by keeping your news local. Donate now at $20/month to cover one episode of the Up North Report and get our brand-new coffee mug while you’re at it.

Some of KAXE's newest swag for the 2024 spring membership drive — a coffee mug featuring the "Up North Report" logo with the phrase, "Covering the communities we care about."
Maria Hileman
/
KAXE
Some of KAXE's newest swag for the 2024 spring membership drive — a coffee mug featuring the "Up North Report" logo with the phrase, "Covering the communities we care about."

We could not do this without you. As we celebrate our inaugural year in action, I think I speak on behalf of the news team when I say we couldn’t be more grateful for the great and truly heartwarming show of support for our efforts so far. The future is bright for our newsroom, thanks to readers, listeners and members like you.

Reach us at news@kaxe.org with story tips, comments, concerns and more. We’re covering the communities we care about. And we’re here to listen.

Chelsey Perkins spent the first 15 years of her journalism career as a print journalist, primarily as a newspaper reporter and editor. In February 2023, she accepted a role as News Director of KAXE in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where she's building a new local newsroom at the station.