Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Bombs in Their Back Yards

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Bombs in Their Back Yards

Article excerpt

Goodbye, feed lot. Hello, FBI.

The lead story planned for last Wednesday's Republican Eagle in Red Wing, Minn., concerned a dispute over a farmer's plans to expand his feed lot. But that was before the arrest of suspected mailbox bomber Lucas John Helder, who happens to hail from nearby Pine Island, Minn.

When word of Helder's arrest reached the 7,364-circulation paper late Tuesday, the feed-lot controversy took a backseat and Editor Jim Pumarlo put half his reporting staff -- of four -- on the story.

The Republican Eagle was one of dozens of small daily and weekly papers across the Midwest that suddenly confronted a national story simply by virtue of their location. The 18 mailbox bombs Helder is accused of planting across five states were placed in mostly rural, small-town areas, and the closest newspapers were often little ones with a handful of staff each. "We pretty much had all hands on deck," said Thomas Stevens, editor of The Journal-Standard, a 14,640- circulation daily in Freeport, Ill., about 30 miles from two bomb sites. "We had to bump the local high-school prom king and queen out of the paper and run them Sunday. …

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