Even after taking two melatonin tabs, I had a hard time falling asleep Monday night.
Earlier in the evening, I hit the road and headed to Thompson to watch the Tommies take on the New Rockford Rockets in a high school girls volleyball game.
I serve on the North Dakota Newspaper Association board of directors with the owner of the New Rockford Transcript and knew she’d be in Thompson for the game.
I figured I could buzz up there, say hi to Amy and spend time honing my volleyball photo skills – because they’re still a work in progress – and make it back to Hillsboro by 10.
But I put the car in park after checking the Banner’s email on my phone before heading home.
Somewhere around 9 p.m. Monday, we received an email from Karl Benson, who alerted us to the video that’s the subject of our top story on Page 1 in today’s paper.
My heart sank.
Look, I’ve been around. Worked at weekly papers. Twice weeklies. Our state’s biggest daily.
I spent the better part of a decade in my youth at The Forum in Fargo, where I had a variety of beats ranging from cops and courts to city and county government to K-12 and higher education.
I’ve covered grisly murders, airplane crashes and secret government meetings.
If it’s controversial, I’ve probably touched on the topic in one form or fashion over the years.
But I got out of the daily newspaper game, which can be soul-crushing.
I bought a weekly newspaper in 2012 and started covering events like Traill County 4-H Achievement Days and the fourth-grade Hillsboro kid who wrote to every governor in the nation and got a cookie recipe back from one of their grandmas.
I giggle like a kid as I type up the letters to Santa Claus that the Banner prints from first-graders in Hillsboro and Central Valley.
And yes, I cover serious, hard news on a weekly basis, too.
The COVID-19 vaccines that divided our country also divide our county.
We have city leaders who don’t always agree on budgets.
Or the city’s spending priorities. Or sometimes what color the sky is.
Sometimes we have stories that we cover because we have to cover them – not because we want to.
And that’s what kept me up late Monday night. And Tuesday night. And Wednesday night.
Today’s Page 1 story is news – important news that needs to be covered.
But no one here was anxious to grab today’s paper off the printing press and share it with the world.
The content that appears in the video should make everyone in our community uncomfortable, given the history and connotations of the language used in it.
I firmly believe that the fine people of Hillsboro want this city to be a friendly place, a welcoming community that accepts and appreciates our neighbors, no matter the color of their skin or where they’re from.
Interviewing a Hillsboro girl’s father, who says he worries about the safety of his daughter because of her race, makes me sad. It should make you sad, too.
We all make mistakes, especially in our youth.
Perhaps that’s what has happened here.
But the future is still unwritten and things can change. People can change.
And we can use the events of this week to help promote that change.
Maybe it’s time the Banner sinks its teeth into a little investigative journalism and takes an honest, clear-cut look at what it’s like to be a minority in Hillsboro.
Maybe we can learn a little about our differences and get a better understanding of how we’re similar.
Perhaps today’s story will be a teaching moment for everyone in our community and lead to a dialogue that brings our community together.
That’s something that would help me sleep easier at night.
And after this week, I could sure use it.