Thank you for selecting me as the Best Newspaper Columnist of the Red River Valley. I am thrilled, touched, honored and humbled. It’s a real privilege to have a regular column in The Forum.

Writing this column has been an evolution. When I started, I was not used to giving my thoughts. My lengthy experience was in straight news reporting. I gathered information, interviewed people, and then wrote the news stories. I kept my opinions out of the stories. My thoughts were irrelevant. It took a while before I felt comfortable giving strong opinions on the many issues that I am passionate about.

Another thing I was unprepared for was the feedback. I receive more comments in a month now, than I received in 34 years of straight news reporting and television news management. I don’t mind if readers disagree with my opinions. That goes with the territory. I do mind when readers accuse me of being untruthful or providing “fake news.” I don’t make stuff up. My columns are thoroughly researched.

I look for provocative topics that nobody has written about. Otherwise, I look for a new angle on an issue that has been covered. I won’t write columns that repeat what someone else has already written. I’ve had ideas for columns, only to see a brilliant column written a couple of days later by Mike McFeely or Tony Bender. I quickly realize I can’t write it any better than Mike or Tony.

The topics that come from my heart and fire me up deal with equality, justice, fairness, health care and public safety. I have little tolerance for racists, homophobes, hypocrites or people who are more loyal to a political party than the country.

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I try to find people who have experienced what I am writing about, and can make a much more powerful case for change than I can. They include a West Fargo woman whose baby son was badly beaten and the abuser received a lame sentence, a Minnesota woman whose diabetic son died because he couldn’t afford his insulin, a Black woman from Fargo who is constantly told to “go back to Africa,” a North Dakota man who severely suffered from gay conversion “therapy,” a Fargo South High student who is terrified of a school shooting, and a Jamestown, N.D. woman in severe pain who can’t find a doctor to certify her for medical marijuana.

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My favorite columns to write are on people I admire. They include former WDAY-TV News Anchor Marv Bossart, former Fargo School Superintendent Vern Bennett, Fargo-Moorhead Acro Team founder Jim Simle, former NDSU professor and Japanese American internment camp survivor Jim Sugihara, former Federal Judge Myron Bright, and North Dakota child abuse victims advocate Amy Kempfer.

I sincerely thank my wife, Jackie, for her encouragement, former Forum Opinion Page Editor Jack Zaleski and Forum Publisher Bill Marcil Jr. for their confidence in me, and you the readers, for your trust and support.