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Kim Ukura: Jumping into a new community

Hello, readers. My name is Kim Ukura, and I am the new editor of the Farmington/Rosemount Independent Town Pages. By the time the print edition of the paper has arrived in your home, I'll have been in this position for a week — just long enough that the glow of a new job has worn off and the panic about everything I don't know has started to set in.

Truthfully, I've never liked writing editorial columns. My heart is in news writing, and I've always been more comfortable trying to tell other people's stories than I have been articulating my own. But I also think it's important for readers to get a sense of the people behind the newspaper and the stories that get placed on each page. So for this column, I thought I'd share a bit about how I came to this job.

Although I was editor of my high school newspaper, the path that led me to community journalism didn't begin until I started college at the University of Minnesota, Morris, a small public liberal arts college in west central Minnesota.

During my first week on campus I joined the college newspaper, The University Register, because it seemed like one of the only activities an introvert like me could handle. UMM doesn't have a journalism program, but the newspaper was staffed by a motivated group of students who did their best to put out a publication most weeks during the semester. Interest among freshmen must have been low, because the staff immediately welcomed me and put me to work. I had always loved writing, but working at the newspaper caused me to get bit by the news bug, hard, and I soon started to think about whether it was a career I could continue after college.

The location of the university was also an important factor for me. Not every person is built for living in a town like Morris. Boasting just over 5,000 people, Morris has one grocery store, two stoplights, and is 45 minutes from the nearest Target. While sometimes frustrating, that isolation also builds strong connections and a strong sense of place. Growing up in a suburb, I'd never really understood the sense of community and togetherness that small towns build, but I grew to love it.

After I graduated from college, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin to pursue a master's degree in journalism. This isn't a typical path for someone who wants to be a community newspaper editor, but I felt l had more to learn about the big picture of journalism and, in 2008, the recession made journalism jobs scarce. When I finished my degree two years later, the job market was marginally better, and I found work at a magazine in Wisconsin.

After about a year, I was feeling antsy and knew that I needed to get back to community journalism. I was so lucky that right about the time I started my job search, the position of editor of the Morris Sun Tribune opened up. I got the job and was able to move back to Morris where I've lived and worked for the last five years.

Working at a newspaper of that size is good practice for any journalist. In a given week, you can find yourself covering the school board, city council, or county commissioners, while also working on feature stories and profiles, attending the opening of a new business, or interviewing politicians as they work their way through their legislative district. It's a wide-ranging job that rewards curiosity, persistence, and a willingness to admit when you don't understand how something works.

Leaving Morris was a really difficult decision — between college and my newspaper job, I'd lived in the community for almost a decade. But I also felt a pull to get closer to my family, who still resides in the Twin Cities area, and to find a job where I would have the chance to learn from other journalists with more experience in the field.

This position, as editor of the Farmington/Rosemount Independent Town Pages, seemed like a good fit for me. While Farmington and Rosemount are suburban communities, it seems like both have a strong sense of identity and community connectedness that I hope to be part of as I settle into this role.

I have a lot to learn about the community, the role of the newspaper, the beats we're covering well and the areas we need to improve. I hope that those of you reading this column will reach out and share your thoughts in the coming weeks and months, as I hope to do here on the opinion page with some regularity.

You can reach me by email at kukura@rivertowns.net or in the office at 651-460-6606. I'm looking forwarding to getting to know Farmington and Rosemount better.