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Editorial: Best of community journalism distinguishes Andrist's legacy

John Andrist was never reluctant to state his mind, whether in the columns of his weekly newspaper in Crosby, N.D., or on the floor of the North Dakota Senate, where he served with distinction for 22 years. Andrist, who had moved from Crosby to Fargo in 2014, died Wednesday, Jan. 17, in a Fargo hospital after suffering a major stroke. He was 86.

Adrist's commitment to small-town and rural North Dakota motivated his journalism, his philanthropy and his public service. He was the embodiment of community journalism, a necessary mix of civic pride, good reporting and commentary, and support for the community that in turn supported his newspaper. In that spirit, Andrist's generosity for the betterment of Crosby is legendary. His philosophy of "giving back" made his northwest North Dakota hometown a better place.

But Andrist's vision for both newspapering and North Dakota was wider.

In his many roles with the North Dakota Newspaper Association, he developed a deep appreciation and respect for the women and men who practiced journalism in the state's weekly and daily newspapers. He was particularly focused on strengthening journalism education, and with fellow publishers such as the late Don Gackle of Garrison, N.D., raised significant sums for the NDNA's education foundation's scholarship and journalism education programs. He was an ambassador for the state, being the only North Dakotan to serve as president of the National Newspaper Association.

In the state Senate, Andrist was proud of his conservative Republican foundation, but welcomed competing arguments. Never one to characterize political opponents as enemies, Andrist was always ready to listen, persuade, and even change his mind. He was respected for his measured and intelligent civility during more than two decades in the Legislature. He was a fierce advocate for rural and western North Dakota, routinely tilting toward policies and legislation that would help those communities.

In his later years, after his family had sold The Journal in Crosby, he moved into assisted living in Fargo, but hardly slowed down. He was active in the city, enjoying its many amenities, and he continued to write his weekly column, "John-a-Dreams," which was syndicated in four weekly papers. As was his practice in 68 years as a publisher/editor/columnist, he would write letters to editors of newspapers when he disagreed with an editorial or column. He was involved and active until the last few weeks of his life.

It was life well lived. John Andrist, the consummate community journalist, was also the consummate North Dakotan. His wit, wisdom and service will be missed.

We join his family, friends and colleagues in celebrating his life.

Editorials represent the opinion Forum management and the Editorial Board.