News to Me

Adventures of an Accidental Journalist


Laurie Hertzel

The story of a journalist’s coming of age in Duluth during the boom days of print

News to Me is the adventurous story of Laurie Hertzel’s journey into the bustling world of journalism in the mid-1970s. It is the chronicle of a small-city newspaper on the cusp of transformation, an affectionate portrait of Duluth and its people, and the account of a talented, persistent journalist who witnessed it all and was changing right along with it.

Laurie is a top notch storyteller and this book is an intimate and entertaining look at a wonderful career in journalism.

Cathy Wurzer

Laurie Hertzel wasn’t yet a teenager in Duluth, Minnesota, when she started her first newspaper, which she appropriately christened Newspaper. Complete with the most sensational headlines of the day—MARGO FLUEGEL HAS ANOTHER BIRTHDAY!—and with healthy competition from her little brothers and their rival publication, Magapaper (a magazine and a newspaper), this venture would become Hertzel’s first step toward realizing what her heart was already set on: journalism as her future.

News to Me is the adventurous story of Hertzel’s journey into the bustling world of print journalism in the mid-1970s, a time when copy was still banged out on typewriters by chain-smoking men in fedoras and everybody read the paper. A coming-of-age tale in more ways than one, Hertzel’s eighteen-year career at the Duluth News Tribune began when journalism was a predominantly male profession. And while the newspaper trade was booming, Duluth had fallen on difficult times as factories closed and more and more people moved away. Hertzel describes her climb up the ranks of the paper against the backdrop of a Midwestern city during a time of extraordinary change. She was there during major events like the Congdon murders, the establishment of the BWCA, and the rise of Indian treaty rights, and eventually follows the biggest story of her life to Soviet Russia—and completely blows her deadline.

Written with the insight and humor of someone who makes a living telling stories, News to Me is the chronicle of a small-city newspaper on the cusp of transformation, an affectionate portrait of Duluth and its people, and the account of a talented, persistent journalist who witnessed it all and was changing right along with it—whether she wanted to or not.

(Oh, Newspaper doggedly outlasted the full-color Magapaper.)


Minnesota Book Award winner - Readers’ Choice Award

Laurie Hertzel grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, and spent nearly twenty years at the Duluth News Tribune as a newsroom clerk, librarian, copy editor, beat reporter, feature writer, news editor, and columnist. Her journalistic work has won numerous national awards, and her short fiction was honored with the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize. Currently books editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Hertzel is coauthor of They Took My Father: Finnish Americans in Stalin’s Russia, also available from the University of Minnesota Press.

Laurie is a top notch storyteller and this book is an intimate and entertaining look at a wonderful career in journalism.

Cathy Wurzer

This affectionate and insightful memoir may recount Laurie Hertzel's days at the Duluth News Tribune but it will resonate with anyone who has loved newspapers and newspaper reporting.

Louise Kiernan

Salty characters abound in this charming, picaresque tale of the shy girl growing up mentored by the smoky, boozy, old-style reporters that populated the newsrooms of the ‘70s. Her loving portraits of these denizens never fail to charm.

The most poignant chapters in this compelling memoir relate how Hertzel chanced upon the story of her career: in 1986 she accompanied to the USSR a group of Duluthians wanting to establish a Soviet sister city relationship. While there, she discovered a community of American expats, taken as children to Russia in the 1930s by their communist parents, some of whom were later executed. Her 2004 book, They Took My Father: Finnish Americans in Stalin’s Russia made an accidental journalist an accidental author, but her storytelling abilities are no accident.

Publishers Weekly

I thought journalists’ lives—aside from the stories we write about others—were ho-hum affairs. That was before I read Laurie Hertzel’s honest, engaging and witty memoir about working at her hometown newspaper in Duluth.

Lake Superior Magazine

After reading Hertzel's account of her lifelong affair with words, I found myself jonesing for newsprint. She may deem her career "accidental," but how can anyone who coined the term "Magapaper" for a childhood publication have been destined for anything else? Delightful.

Bethanne Patrick, The Book Studio

Whatever her focus, Hertzel is a powerful storyteller, with an eye for the radiant details that conjure an entire way of life. As she journeys from journalist to award-winning fiction writer, she shows us that these accidental particulars, if we care for them properly, are the stuff of real romance.

Charlotte Observer

News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist is a wonderful (and often funny) memoir of a woman at work in a world where the next story is always breaking now!

Melissa Westemeier, Green Girl in Wisconsin

It’s a 224 page love letter to her hometown.

Duluth Superior Magazine

Hertzel’s a naturally gifted storyteller with an eye for telling detail and a way with words.

Nancy Pate, On a Clear Day I Can Read Forever

In this equable memoir, Laurie Hertzel looks back to her youth as a neophyte newspaperwoman at the Duluth News-Tribune on frigid Lake Superior in Minnesota. Still a teenager, she started in 1976 as a clerk, then moved on to the copy desk, and ultimately became a full-fledged regional reporter. She makes it all sound wide-eyed and inadvertent, and her personal rise is winningly told.

Columbia Journalism Review

Call it coming-of-age, call it confessions of an ink-stained wretch; whatever you call it, you will root for her. And wait to see what she does next.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

News to Me is a thoroughly entertaining look at not just journalism, but life. Anyone who reads the book will be happy that Hertzel took [them] along on the journey.

Cook County News-Herald

[Hertzel’s] contemporaries will enjoy the trip down memory lane and young, aspiring journalists will learn a lot from her journey.

Media Report to Women

Hertzel tells the story of her career with a voice that is both humorous and provocative. Historically relevant and extremely readable.

Superior Telegram

This is a great book for those who love writing, are interested in newspaper history/evolution,the Northern Midwest U.S., or the emigration of Finns during the Great Depression.

Girl Detective

News to Me could be the story of anyone who enters the workforce at a young age and gets a load of on-the-job training in how to deal with office politics, people, and the disappointments that come with the daily grind.

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication


A Storyteller Is Born
Not Making Coffee
Eyewitness to Change
On the Night Desk
An Accidental Reporter
Up the Shore
Reporting from Russia
Enter Mayme
A Month in the South
Back to Russia
The Long Goodbye







Part One: When I Was ... quite young, an avid reader, and an aspiring librarian.

When I was growing up, my parents gave us books for every birthday and every Christmas. I was only seven when I got my first Laura Ingalls Wilder book, Little Town on the Prairie--yes, they gave me the series out of order--and I was deep into reading it one afternoon when Ace Levang stopped by.

Part Two: When I Was ... 19.
When I was 19, I started working as the newsroom clerk at the Duluth News-Tribune. My job was to answer the city desk phone, write obituaries, call down to the harbor twice a day to get the marine traffic, and walk across the street to the county courthouse to collect information from marriage license applications, divorces, building permits, and bankruptcies. All of this suited the snoop in me very nicely, and I loved it.

Part Three: When I Was ... starting out as a reporter.
In those early years, when I was first a reporter, the newsroom was a vibrant and busy place. The old guard was retiring, and most of the new reporters were fresh out of college and eager to make their mark. There were way more reporters than editors, and so we had a lot of freedom. Editors would assign a story in rather vague terms (“I hear there’s a guy up the Shore who wants a traditional Viking funeral. Go talk to him.”) and we’d grab a set of car keys from the little wooden box that hung on the wall by the police scanner, and off we’d go, up the highway, out of town, into the great vast piney Northland.

Part Four: When I Was ... 30 and stumbled upon the biggest story of my life.
The year I turned 30 I stumbled across the story of a lifetime. The newspaper sent me to the Soviet Union for two weeks to cover the expedition of a group of 33 Duluthians who wanted to establish a sister-city friendship with the Russian city of Petrozavodsk.

Part Five: When I Was ... 38 and embarking upon a new career adventure.
When I was 38, I moved away from Duluth, and Toby saved my life.
We only made it as far as Beloit, Wisconsin, the first day. My dog, Toby, and I were headed to Columbus, Ohio, for three months, to live in the James Thurber House. I had been awarded a fellowship as journalist-in-residence, and we would be living in the attic of Thurber’s childhood home—the rest of the house was a museum, furnished much as it had been when Thurber himself lived there.

Part Six: While journalism has come a long way since my Duluth years, the fundamentals have—and will—stick around.
Since my book has come out, I have heard from a lot of people. I talked with a guy who worked at the paper in the early 1960s; he remembers hot type and the composing room like a foundry, as they melted down the printing plates each day from the night before. I got an email from a guy who was a reporter a few years before I was; he remembers a city editor who kept a pistol in his desk.