Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Reporting on Senator Papa John

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Reporting on Senator Papa John

Article excerpt

Son buys weekly newspaper from his father, who then goes into politics; now dad's a frequent news item for the paper

WHEN STEVE ANDRIST bought the Crosby (N.D.) Journal, there were some unusual and delicate complications in connection with the sale.

The seller was his father, John Andrist, who had published the weekly for 35 years after inheriting it from his father. A father-son turnover by itself is not unheard of but, instead of hanging it all up, John, 61, decided to go into politics. He recently ran for the state Senate and won.

Now he is a frequent news item for the Journal, circulation 3,000, which initially gave his offspring some ethical concerns. Moreover, dad continued to write his highly opinionated column that has been a staple of the paper for many years.

In his own column a few weeks ago -- headed "Reporting on Senator Papa John means taking some extra precautions" -- Steve described their relationship this way after his dad went to the Legislature: "Before long, Sen. John Andrist's name started making frequent appearances in the newspaper .... Before much longer, the new publisher, the senator's son, started fending off some sheepish feelings that he was beginning to look instead like the senator's secretary."

The press releases from John's office are not much of a problem because it is "standard operating procedure" for North Dakota's weekly newspapers to use them from all legislators, "although we take a sharp knife to canned copy," Steve continued.

However, the son noted that in the past month, he had written three front-page news stories about the elder Andrist's involvement in Senate bills.

"Coupled with the column and news releases, these news stories may begin to look like a bit of paternal overkill," observed Steve, who took up weekly publishing after a career on dailies as a reporter on the Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune and city editor of the Rochester (Minn.) Post-Bulletin.

The new publisher went on to defend his decisions, saying the paper was simply trying to cover legislative issues affecting its readers, his father's role notwithstanding.

Steve, 38, further pointed out that John is also getting a fair amount of exposure in other state newspapers and that TV news programs have filmed and interviewed him.

"So maybe the Journal is just going with the flow," he commented.

Interviewed by E&P, Steve said the dual columns provide an extra zip to the Journal because he and papa don't always agree on political matters.

"I've talked to him about choreographing our differences so we can have a point-counterpoint in the paper," Steve remarked jokingly.

There is, he noted, one issue on which they strongly agree: the "survival" of Crosby, a community of 1,300 people with a steady population decline. …

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