Local news is the heartbeat of journalism. The fingers on the pulse of its community. In the face of a global pandemic that fell on top of challenges already facing the news industry, it’s among the most difficult and most important pieces of the puzzle to survive.

Today we launch the inaugural issue of the Mesabi Tribune — a merger of your longtime Iron Range newspapers the Mesabi Daily News and Hibbing Daily Tribune — not as a symbol of survival, but as one that will thrive by reshaping the very way our business looks to the region.

It’s easy to say our ability to do this will depend on advertisers, circulation and big strategies of enhancement, metering and more. That all matters, yes, but a successful Mesabi Tribune can be summed up much simpler: Reporting that matters, delivered to your doorstep.

Reporting that is local, original, expert and on the ground, that is also independent, fair and accurate.

I think we as journalists sometimes fall into traps, whether it’s new technology, our own habits or failures to adapt to changes, that we lose sight of these basic goals: Reporting that matters.

That’s important now more than ever — not because there’s global pandemic that is challenging our health and economic system, a seismic election in four months and an ever-growing debate over new mining projects, among other issues — but because our No. 1 goal is that the Iron Range doesn’t lose its local news source.

I worried about that possibility a lot as newspapers across the state and nation closed or reduced their frequency as COVID-19 raged through its early stages. But our change to the Mesabi Tribune secured our future as a six-day newspaper that gave us more resources in the process and allowed us to keep independent carriers.

Reporting that matters, delivered to your doorstep.

Now that we’re here, I’m asking different questions. Why should readers continue making us a part of their daily lives and routines when so much more is out there?

As we restructured the newsroom, we asked a simple question: What is the Iron Range? The answer told us we needed to adapt how we covered our cities and schools with such a vast area to cover for one newspaper — focusing our sights on the issues and topics within those institutions that impact the lives of Rangers.

It told us we needed to launch our first dedicated health care beat, not just because of the coronavirus, but the razor-thin resources in mental health, an opioid and meth problem that lies on the surface, an aging population and policies that often leave rural hospitals and clinics disadvantaged to take care of our residents.

The answers to what and who we are also led us to rethink how we report: To be more inclusive, to put our reporters on the ground talking to people on the issues, to be more collaborative, to strive for more original storytelling and to rethink the former boundaries of covering the region as two separate newspapers.

Change inside and outside the local newspaper institution isn’t easy, though sometimes necessary. What isn’t changing today or in our future as the Mesabi Tribune is a dedication to local reporting, that is fair, balanced and focused on the communities on the Range.

I’ve been encouraged the last few weeks as we’ve announced the Mesabi Tribune to the public and the staff that this new combined paper will meet the goals we’ve set forth in the newsroom and in this column. That we can remain an essential part of the Iron Range’s daily routine.

Reporting that matters, delivered to your doorstep.

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