BCR 158: Mike Jacobs, Former Publisher, Grand Forks Herald


Mike Jacobs, a former Publisher and Editor of the Grand Forks Herald. He was born at Stanley and grew up in Mountrail County, prime pothole country. The family’s 200-acre farm had multiple wetlands and lots of ducks. Most years, tundra swans took advantage of these wetlands to break their migration across the continent, and one year in the mid-50s, three whooping cranes stopped, too. There were fewer than 50 whooping cranes on earth in those days, and Mike’s father took the kids out of school so they could see the cranes. Jacobs began watching birds seriously that spring, and his interest in waterfowl has grown every year. Since 1981, he’s written a column about the region’s birdlife illustrated with his own drawings. He also writes a weekly column about politics in North Dakota. After the Red River Flood of 1997, the Herald won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and Jacobs was named editor of the year by the National Press Foundation. He has published three books about North Dakota. Jacobs and his life partner, Suezette Bieri, live on Campbell Beach at the western rim of the Red River Valley.

Illustration by ©Mike Jacobs

Illustration by ©Mike Jacobs

Show Notes: 

  • You are columnist for the paper to this day, musing on birds from the northern Great Plains and the Red River Valley. It is this connection that brings you to BirdCallsRadio™. Is it appropriate to call you a birder or are you a journalist interested birds?
  • Your career as a newspaper journalist was launched at the Dickinson Press, and you also did stints at newspapers in Fargo, Mandan, St. Louis, and Seattle before joining the Herald. You held many roles at the Herald before becoming Publisher. In 1997 the Red River flooded Grand Forks, North Dakota. The Herald somehow never stopped printing, and helped to lead the community through the harrowing months. The paper won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its coverage of the Flood. Tell us about this event in detail from the beginning to the end.
  • What was the impact of the flood on the local birds and natural history?
  • How long did it take for the bird life to return to normal after the flood?
  • How did the column “Always in Season” start?
  • What do you look for when getting inspiration for the next column?
  • You also do the illustrations for the column, when did you discover that were an illustrator as well as a journalist?
  • We’d like to learn more about the birds of the Red River Valley, start by walking us through the expected birds throughout the year and highlights of each season.
  • Are there bird species whose status concerns local birders, such as the Sage Grouse or prairie species where populations have fallen or habitat is being lost?
  • What birds and natural features interest out of state birders and draw them to the area?
  • What is the best season to visit and why?
  • Where do local birders go for a day trip or weekend getaway?
  • Are there active local and or regional birding organizations?
  • Are there local Audubon Christmas bird counts, does the paper report the results?
  • What can you tell us about what’s next for the Journalist/author/artist Mike Jacobs, another book?
Illustration by ©Mike Jacobs 2019

Illustration by ©Mike Jacobs 2019

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