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The Long Way Home

In December, Joe Friedrichs asked me to join him in producing a podcast focused on local issues. Our guests would have information on those issues to share with the community.

Joe was the news director at radio station WTIP in Grand Marais, and the buzz was that he left there to “pursue other interests.” Before agreeing, I had two questions.

What’s a podcast?

Podcasts began as so-called “audio blogs” in the 1980s. In 2003, the RSS feed was created, and within a year, podcasting began to catch on. Now, podcasts are everywhere (Thank you, Apple) and cover almost every topic. Like talk radio, without the bad word police.

What are these “other interests”?

If you know Joe, you know that he came to our neck of the woods because of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

He married his love of the BWCAW with his calling to journalism and has started a media company called Paddle and Portage. It offers “a unique perspective on the intersection of news, adventure, and storytelling from and about the Boundary Waters.”

Paddle and Portage has a monthly online magazine with high-quality photos and content for subscribers, a free monthly podcast focused on the people and places of the BWCAW and Quetico, and a beautiful website available to all.

Drawn to entrepreneurs as I am, I said yes to the chance to work with this one. He suggested the name “The Shore Thing,” and we were off and running.

In my younger days, after learning I’d never want to stay in the corporate world with middle aged guys and gals biding their time to retirement, I thought I’d like to get into radio broadcasting. I explored schooling opportunities at Brown Institute in Minneapolis. I imagined a career on the airwaves, leading to owning my own station. President Lyndon Johnson made a fortune from his broadcasting properties, so why couldn’t I?

One of my coworkers at the corporate job I was stuck in at the time, Alan, was a trained radio guy. After hearing the reality of his experience in broadcasting and knowing his job selling soda fountain equipment paid much better, I decided to keep my focus on the freight business. Moving everything from microwave ovens and tires to liquor and chemicals from where they were to where they needed to be was the challenge I needed. My dream of owning a business and not cow-towing to people who daily proved the Peter principle meant my decision to stay with freight was the right move.

Still, I’m intrigued by broadcasting.

During my semi-retired days in Sin City, I got on the radio. Not a paid gig, or even reg­ularly scheduled, but because I wrote a politi­cal column for a monthly newspaper directed to seniors (there’s a bunch of them in the Las Vegas Valley), the publisher of that paper had me on his radio show from time to time to talk politics.

My friend Steve Wark, a Republican political consultant and struggling golfer like me, had a daily talk show on a local AM station. When he needed a punching bag for his right-wing diatribes, he’d invite me over to sit on the hot seat in his studio.

We have five or six podcasts out there now, and we think they’re pretty good. Like talk ra­dio without the bad word police. You may find The Shore Thing podcast at Boreal.org.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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