Community journalism advocate, longtime Otter Tail County reporter dies at 74 – InForum

NEW YORK MILLS, Minn. — The day before Michael Parta died from complications related to a 9-year battle with cancer, he was still optimistic and considered promoting community journalism.

“He told me on Friday, the last time I spoke to him the day before he died, (…) that he was beginning to write reflections for a project on the history and development of community newspapers”, said Chris Parta, his son. .

For three generations, the Parta family ran the New York Mills Herald, now called The Dispatch. The company merged with the Perham Enterprise Bulletin, now the Perham Focus.

Parta and his wife also published the only Finnish-language newspaper in the United States, the Amerikan Uutiset.

Michael Parta focused on bringing the community together instead of selling headlines, his family said. From local essay contests to lobbying against unfair taxes before Congress in Washington, DC, Michael Parta lived and breathed community newspapers, and he was also a loving father and husband, they said.

“He thought community newspapers were the heart and soul of any community,” said his daughter, Abby Parta, adding that he always kept pace with ever-changing technology. She remembers that he bought a computer the size of a refrigerator for the newspaper.

Community, family and journalism came naturally to her, said another daughter, Jennifer Parta.

“Deep down in his soul, he was a community builder,” said Chuck Johnson, a longtime friend and former editor of the Perham Enterprise Bulletin.

“He was a small-town guy, but he took the platform he was given to not only grow his town, but to do things for community journalism in his state, even on a national level. “, said Jennifer Parta.

She has met three presidents and served in the White House because of her father’s passion for promoting community newspapers, she said.

“He had that kind of moxy,” she said.

“His glass was always half full, always half full no matter what happened to him,” Johnson said.

He saw the importance of newspapers even while undergoing cancer treatment, and he hoped to share a message about the journalistic and financial challenges facing newspapers at the Minnesota Newspaper Association convention. He died on January 29, the day after the 2022 convention, at age 74.

“He wanted to address the MP and talk about what he thought newspapers needed to do today to survive,” Johnson said. “He’s in Mayo, he’s having chemotherapy and he’s not even in the papers anymore, but he wants to deliver to the MP at their convention.”

Michael Parta as a child working at the New York Mills Herald in New York Mills, Minnesota.

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As a child, Michael Parta worked with his father at the New York Mills Herald. Later, he ran the newspaper for over 30 years with his wife, Jan. Her children also helped, said Abby Parta.

He believed in what he called “refrigeration journalism”.

“He said a small-town newspaper was about giving people things to tear off and hang on their fridges,” Melissa Swenson, editor of the Detroit Lakes Tribune, Perham Focus and Wadena Pioneer Journal, wrote in a E-mail. “I respected Mike and learned a lot from him. He loved being in New York Mills, his family, living on the lake and the newspapers.

As a community journalist, he served and led the community, said former journalist and editor Kevin Cederstrom.

Michael Parta also promoted his beliefs and fought for them at the state and national level. He served as president of the Minnesota Newspaper Association, the National Newspaper Association, and the National Newspaper Association Foundation. He also served on the board of the Newspaper Association of America as the only non-daily member.

“Mike was one of a dying breed of small town newspaper editors. He was totally invested in the idea that communities needed an engaged newspaper, and he and his wife Jan have proven that for over 50 years. He not only reported community news, but they were often deeply involved in the making of that news,” longtime friend and former editor Dennis Winskowski said in a post. “Mike will be missed by all who knew him.”

“Mike was one of those people…who did those things, got his hands dirty, got his wallet out, and got stuck in front of the parades,” Johnson said.

Tonda Rush, general counsel for the National Newspaper Association, worked with Michael Parta and remembered when major magazine companies lobbied Congress for additional postage taxes for newspaper distribution.

“He was furious and went to Washington, D.C. He was asked if the New York Mills Herald was more important than Better Homes & Gardens. And he said, ‘Of course it is. At New York Mills, it’s much more important,” Rush said. “And then he gave a 30-minute speech about the importance of community newspapers in small towns, and we ended up winning the case.”

Lisa Hills, executive director of the Minnesota Newspaper Association, said Michael Parta served as the organization’s president from 1985 to 1986 and later served on the National Newspaper Association’s board of directors.

“Community newspapers have played an important role in the community; they are the heart and soul of communities,” Hills said. “He was a pillar in the industry.”

Michael Parta’s passion for journalism has extended beyond the United States. “He worked in Estonia and Latvia after the fall of communism to create a free community press in these former Soviet nations,”

according to his obituary

.

“A lot of people do great things, but the really great people are the ones who do little things that impact a lot,” Abby Parta said, adding the quote was part of her New York Mills farewell speech. Highschool.

Jennifer Parta said her father was always positive, which helped her family’s spirits during his long illness.

“He wanted us to bring positivity to the world and showed us how we were making it better for everyone. He felt the same way about newspapers too,” she said.

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