Miles Trump ’11 had been on the job at the Waseca County News only a few weeks when a phone call came that no reporter wants to get.
Five teenagers had been on a Saturday morning duck hunt on Lake Elysian in southern Minnesota. Their boat had capsized, and one was missing. Trump, the paper’s sports editor, sports reporter, sports photographer, sports columnist and sports-page designer, soon found himself in the middle of a heart-wrenching story about an athlete dying young.
Brady Hruska, 17, was a wide receiver for the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown High School football team that was to face Medford that night in the state playoffs.
“I was the one who found out that he died that morning,” Trump said. “Then I was the first one to go out to the scene, and authorities were still looking for his body in the lake.”
Trump posted reports of Hruska’s death on the paper’s website, with pictures of the search effort. After the playoff game that evening, he wrote about the community’s tribute to one of its children. His story, including a photo slide show, was a tribute as well to the small towns he serves around Waseca and to the art of community journalism.
In the next two days, he added a news story about the accident – full of the details and quotes that are the hallmark of good reporting – and a touching column about how proud he was to be part of the Waseca County community. A close reading of those stories shows why Trump deserved to be honored in January by the Minnesota Newspaper Association as New Journalist of the Year for a weekly paper.
Trump is the third TommieMedia veteran in three years to win the award. Jordan Osterman won in 2011 when he was at the Waseca County News, and Shane Kitzman was honored in 2010 when he was the Northfield News sports editor – the job Osterman now holds. They all worked together at TommieMedia in various leadership roles, and in the small world of Minnesota journalism, their lives remain intertwined.
That October Saturday, Trump did not write his usual “gamer” about WEM’s playoff victory.
“What they wanted me to do was write a community reaction story for the football game,” Trump said, “and then they needed someone to actually cover the game, because it was a playoff game. So Jordan came down.”
The Northfield News and the Waseca County News are owned by the same company, Huckle Media, and often share resources.
“You kind of have to, because for sports, especially, it’s only one guy per place,” Osterman said.
But Osterman’s stake in the story was personal, too.
“I’d covered that kid and that team the whole year before, so I knew him pretty well,” Osterman said.
As the story broke, Kitzman was working a shift as Web producer for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. One of his practices was to monitor Twitter for breaking news.
“We only found out because I was reading (Miles’) tweets that were retweeted by Owatonna,” Kitzman said. “When I saw that come down, I thought, ‘Oh boy, oh boy.’”
WCCO sent a satellite truck and reporter Reg Chapman to cover the story.
Trump grew up in Mankato, 30 miles from Waseca. Kitzman is from Northfield, and Osterman is from St. Paul. With their ties to the area and their experience at TommieMedia, the three are well-suited for the do-everything duties of community journalism. For Trump, those tasks have their own special rewards.
In a column he wrote shortly after Hruska died, Trump told about an incident at a Waseca High School volleyball game. A chant started in the student section:
“WE LOVE MILES, CLAP-CLAP, CLAP-CLAP CLAP.”
“That, I can honestly say, was one of the higher points in my life,” Trump wrote, adding that he wasn’t telling the story to brag.
“I feel blessed to have a job that’s appreciated in the community,” he wrote.
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