The Timberjay takes on the nation’s most heated mining battle – by Stephanie Pearson (Columbia Journalism Review – July 25, 2018)

“MINNESOTA AS TRUMP COUNTRY? DON’T BET ON IT,” Marshall Helmberger, publisher of The Timberjay, headlined his June 27 editorial, which ran a week after President Trump held a rally in the nearby city of Duluth. Like most of Helmberger’s editorials, the piece was expansive, gutsy, thoroughly researched, and left of center.

It was also written from the heart of the Iron Range, a taconite and iron-ore mining stronghold President Trump has zeroed-in on. There’s a hotly contested US House seat up for grabs in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District, where Trump stumped for Republican candidate Pete Stauber.

And the Trump administration is quietly dismantling environmental regulations to pave the way for Twin Metals, a subsidiary owned by Chilean conglomerate Antofagasta, to build a controversial sulfide-ore copper-nickel mine near the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Headquartered in Tower, a one-time mining and logging boom town on the edge of Lake Vermilion with a population of 492, The Timberjay has four full-time editors, a readership of 8,000, and a coverage area the size of Connecticut. (St. Louis County, which includes Tower, is the largest county east of the Mississippi River; in addition to its Tower edition, which also covers Soudan, Minnesota, The Timberjay publishes versions of its paper for Ely as well as Cook and Orr cities.)

Helmberger and his wife, Jodi Summit, the paper’s general manager and Tower editor, work out of a cedar-sided office overlooking the town’s American-flag-draped main street.

Inside, a few dozen awards cover the wall, including Minnesota Newspapers Association accolades for General Excellence, Best Social Issues Feature Story, Best Investigative Reporting, and Best Columnist; and three Premack Awards, a now-defunct prestigious honor bestowed by the University of Minnesota Journalism Center.

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