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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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The Long Way Home

“A skeptic is a person who doubts or questions something.”

I wasn’t born a skeptic, but became one early in life. My parents grew up during the Depression and came of age during World War II.

They raised us in a modest house as they struggled to pay the bills. If we were middle class, it was on the lowest rung.

I saw my employers implode and shut down more than once, leaving my dad unmoored. Constant uncertainty about who or what to trust made me skeptical.

I learned early and often that an event eventually occurs that reveals a darker side of a prominent person or business. Those who benefit from that person or business gloss over the dark side. The skeptics’ BS indicator sees the phony playing wizard behind the curtain.

Knowing the darker sides exist from personal and often painful experiences, I’m not surprised when those revealing events happen. Often aligned social media sites offer a public service when real people post their own experiences about these people and events.

Comments are sometimes insensitive, even cruel. But they are what people said before the internet, in conversations at the local hardware store, cafe, or bar. Some events happening locally make my point. They fueled social media posters and exposed much deeper challenges for organizations in the breech.

Last fall, a beloved local doctor who worked for years in the hospital emergency room was summarily dismissed, abruptly ending his career. His friends, colleagues, and even casual observers took to social media sites (especially Facebook) to criticize hospital leadership.

Many online postings revealed more problems in the hospital organization than just the termination of one doctor. Those problems were not unknown, especially to us skeptics, but they hadn’t yet sparked much community outrage — no more. In a misguided attempt to mitigate damage to its image, the hospital chose to smother its critics.

More recently, a conflagration took down the historic Lutsen Lodge and brought other interesting news. Online, there was the usual speculation about the cause of the fire, which is stupid. Yet, the traditional and online media frenzy around the fire brought up issues that don’t reflect well on the resort’s operator.

The current operator has owned the resort since 2018, significantly changing its mission and identity. The resort’s owner, like the CEO and board of the hospital, feels online criticism and abuse are unfair and painful. But speculation about major fires is a time-honored tradition among the citizens of this country. It was pointed out on social media that the Minnesota DNR cited the resort for work that neg­atively impacted the Poplar River, which runs through the property.

Former guests chimed in to report why they no longer stayed at or visited the resort.

Owners of rental units managed by the re­sort have gone to small claims court to recover income earned but not paid according to the management contract.

Reports of the resort not paying local busi­nesses were on social and professional media.

The state suspended Lutsen Resort and its sister property, Superior Shores, from buying liquor due to failure to pay taxes.

I am skeptical about the happy talk people toss out to promote a person, business, or pub­lic organization. The more they argue back with journalists and online posters, the more skeptical I am.

These folks need to toughen up. Not every­one is “Minnesota nice” when expressing an opinion.

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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