CROSBY -- More than a century ago a weekly newspaper in Crosby was born with a mission of gathering community news in this small mining town in central Minnesota.
The Crosby-Ironton Courier began in 1911 as the Crosby Crucible weekly newspaper. In 1951, the name of the newspaper changed to the Crosby-Ironton Courier after it purchased the Deerwood Enterprise and the Ironton Ranger, using the tag line "Since 1911...Continuing the Crosby Courier, Crosby Crucible, Ironton Ranger, and Deerwood Enterprise” under the logo of the paper on its front page every week.
The weekly newspaper is circulated every Wednesday to 3,500 paying customers, who receive the printed newspaper or its digital product featuring human interest stories, hard news stories, correspondence and advertising. Its website was in the process of being redesigned this past summer.
The Courier’s coverage area is the Crosby-Ironton School District. However, it has customers outside the C-I school district and the state.
The Courier is situated along East Main Street in Crosby and the office is old-fashioned, but serves its purpose as employees don’t spend a lot of their time in the office. Most of the time, employees are out selling advertisements or are gathering news and photographs of a community or sporting event or covering a city council meeting.
Employees work when the events are happening and when Monday rolls around it is production day, meaning their work must be done as their deadline has come and it’s time to lay out all news and advertising copy onto the pages of the newspaper. Once it is printed and distributed they are back in the community to do it all over again for the next edition.
History of C-I Courier
Lori LaBorde, who serves as publisher, along with her father, Tom Swensen, who semi-retired in 2018, provided the Dispatch with the history of the weekly newspaper.
The C-I Courier was born in 1911 and was built on Second Avenue Northwest in Crosby. Elmer L. Anderson of Crosby was the first owner/publisher of the newspaper and he sold it to Paul L. Sheets. On May 1, 1959, Earl J. Hunter became co-publisher of the Courier, with Sheets.
The night of Jan. 14, 1965, a fire was reported at the C-I Courier. The fire destroyed the Courier plant, along with its entire stock of newsprint and large amounts of paper used in commercial printing.
In 1974, Sheets and Hunter purchased property and built a one-story building to house the needs of the newspaper at 12 E. Main St. in Crosby, where the newspaper still operates today. During this same year on Aug. 1, Sheets sold his half of the business to his employee, Swensen of Ironton. Sheets was associated with the Crosby-Ironton Courier for more than 44 years.
A new partnership between Hunter and Swensen was formed. At the same time -- the newspaper’s first full color photo of the new Courier building marked another milestone in the Courier’s publishing history, LaBorde stated. It is the first full color picture to ever appear on Courier pages. The new building was the first business building ever owned by Courier management.
In 1979, Hunter sold his half of the newspaper to Swensen, making Swensen the sole proprietor.
In September of 2005, Swensen sold a portion of the business to LaBorde.
Swensen was featured in the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune in the Picture Magazine dated Oct. 11, 1959. It reads:
"At the age of 18 he took over operation of the Swanville News (circulation of about 600) and became the youngest editor of a weekly newspaper in Minnesota, maybe the nation. He graduated from Swanville High School last spring and is purchasing the weekly from R. A. McRae on a year’s trial basis (actually he’s leasing the paper and rental will apply on the purchase price if Swensen decides to stay in business).”
Sweet moved to Crosby in the fall of 1960 and was hired as a linotype operator for the Courier. He has grown and adapted to the changes in the industry such as off-set printing to pagination. He was the sports writer for a number of years and wrote “The Scoop on sports" column weekly.
“Wonder where the nickname ‘Scoop’ originated,” LaBorde writes. “Some blame belongs to Jim Harker, but it was ex-basketball coach Clayton Kermeen who exploded with, ‘Well, finally, here comes old “Scoop!”’ as Swensen was a trifle late to accept a ride to a game. Needless to say, the players ... took it from there. It’s a combination of Bill Selisker, Kermeen’s successor, and football coach John Davies who kept the fires going.”
Swensen became a member of the Half Century Club in 2004 through the Minnesota Newspaper Association, after being nominated by former publisher Terry McCollough of the Brainerd Dispatch, recognizing his “50 years of faithful service to the newspaper profession.” Tom “Scoop” Swensen also was inducted in the Crosby-Ironton Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
Swensen, 78, is semi-retired from the business but still enjoys stopping by the office to check on things and help when needed.
Swensen has lived and breathed the newspaper business for so many decades and enjoys that two of his four children, LaBorde and son Bill Swensen, are still part of the business. LaBorde works at the newspaper full-time as publisher and Swensen as a contributing sports copywriter.
LaBorde began working at the newspaper during her senior year in high school in 1983. She helped sell advertising, ran advertising proofs to area businesses and did miscellaneous printing jobs, such as letterheads, envelopes, raffle tickets and auction bills.
“I started working here and I haven’t left,” LaBorde said 36 years later during a July 24 interview with the Brainerd Dispatch. Over the decades, she has covered every position in the newspaper industry and currently works with advertising sales, bookkeeping, page layout, writing and other duties.
“Every week is a new challenge,” LaBorde said as to why she hasn’t left the business she loves. “It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle. You collect all these pieces, which are your ads, news, classified or whatever and you put that puzzle together before the deadline of getting it to print. Some weeks the pages flow together easily and other weeks you are redoing it because it is not working.”
LaBorde has seen many changes in the industry since she started, with the biggest being technology. Technology has helped the newspaper business flow much more smoothly in many ways. For instance, a majority of the news releases the newspaper receives are sent digitally, mainly through email, so a staff member may copy and paste the release into a document and then it’d be ready to be laid out on a page. Before the technology advancements, LaBorde said, it was much more time consuming as a person had to type the release on a typewriter, then send it to a copy-graphic person to type, then send it to a proofreader and then it was printed out again. Then, if there was a correction, there were more steps a person had to take.
Technology also vastly improved the way the newspaper is laid out. Newspaper staff use Quark, a graphic design and layout software, and Adobe, a multimedia and creativity software product, to do pagination of page layouts. Once the pages are laid out digitally they are sent to the Brainerd Dispatch, which prints the Courier’s newspapers as a commercial job. The Dispatch has printed the C-I Courier since 1974, its longest running commercial job.
Before these digital advances, newspaper staff had to print their stories from the computer and actually cut the story with a scissors or razor and paste it with a wax substance onto the page, which was very time-consuming.
Another big change in doing business was photography, which went from using film to going digital, allowing newspaper staff to take more photographs for its print and online products. It saved a lot of staff time from going into the dark room to process the film to just downloading the images directly into the computer.
When it comes to which news stories to cover for the weekly newspaper each week, LaBorde said they cover the Crosby-Ironton School Board and the Crosby, Ironton, Emily and Deerwood city council meetings for hard news as these are entities affecting taxpayer dollars. The other big focus is covering community events, such as high school sporting events, parades, fundraisers and entertainment events, such as concerts and plays.
One of the biggest stories the Courier covered was the closing of Scorpion, a manufacturer of Trail-A-Sleds, LaBorde recalled. In 1979, Arctic Cat shut down the Crosby facility, and moved the production to its Thief River Falls facility, until Arctic Cat went bankrupt in 1982, ending the Scorpion production forever, as stated on a story written on the Stern Rubber Co. website on the falling of the company.
“Many families lost their job and had to leave the area,” LaBorde said. “It was a real hardship for our community.”
LaBorde said the newspaper had opportunities to write about professional athletes.
Alan Scott LeDoux was born in Crosby in 1949. LeDoux, known as the Fighting Frenchman, a contender for the heavyweight title in the mid-1970s and early ’80s, died in 2011 at his home in Coon Rapids, according to The New York Times. He was 62.
Anthony “The Bullet” Bonsante was born in Crosby in 1970. Bonsante’s boxing career started in Crosby and ended at one of the world’s most famous arenas, Madison Square Garden. This past July, Bonsante learned he will be inducted into the class of 2019 Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame, with the ceremony this October in Prior Lake.
Professional wrestler Hayden Zillmer was born in 1992 in Crosby. According to a Brainerd Dispatch story, Zillmer is the No. 2-ranked USA wrestler at 98 kilograms in Greco-Roman and the No. 3 freestyler at 97 kilograms. He wrestled for the club team Minnesota Storm. The former North Dakota State University Bison and Crosby-Ironton Ranger has his sights set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“It was fun to write about them and we had other well known people in our area,” LaBorde said. “Features are always fun and you get to learn about so many people.”
LaBorde said they try to publish one feature a week. On upcoming community events, they try to publish them two weeks before the event is scheduled to let people know, as long as space allows.
“There is always something going on,” LaBorde said. “A lot of times people will come in with posters of their event and we run them.
“We don’t do a lot of investigative reporting, we kind of look at it like a letter from home in our paper. We write about things going on in our community and what is affecting your taxes, your pocket books.”
LaBorde said they don’t have the space to report on national events, but always have space if people want to place an advertisement.
“Without them we wouldn’t be a newspaper,” she said.
LaBorde is appreciative of the community’s support of the newspaper. She said without them the newspaper wouldn’t be where it is today. The economy is growing and the city of Crosby has been doing a lot of revitalization downtown, which is refreshing, she said.
LaBorde recalls back in the day when the retailers in Crosby had crazy day sales and dressed up in costumes. One year they dressed up like a Blue Bunny ice cream and handed out plastic eggs that contained coupons for the sales.
“It was a fun marketing theme that year,” LaBorde said with a smile.
Outside of the newspaper, LaBorde is a member of Cuyuna Lakes Chamber of Commerce and the Outing Area Chamber of Commerce; and volunteers on many committees including the Heritage Days Committee, Downtown Retail Promotions Committee, Ironton Miner Days Committee and she sells raffle tickets for various organizations throughout the Cuyuna Range.
LaBorde received the Aquatennial Ambassador Organization’s Commodore’s Award naming her the Honorary Commodore in 2010. She also was presented a special award from the Myrin-James American Legion Auxiliary Unit No. 443 of Ironton for outstanding and dedicated service.
For Your Info
Business: Crosby-Ironton Courier.
Staff: Two full-time employees, Lori LaBorde, owner and co-publisher, and Krista Wynn, advertising; one semi-retired co-publisher, Thomas Swensen; and seven part-time/contributing employees: Linda Peeples, news editor; Barbara Linn, proofreading; Brenda Booth, front office and photography; Bill Swensen, contributing sports writer; and Lisa Hamilton, Darla Swanson and Peggy Stebbins, contributing writers.
Cost: $40 per year for online or mailed copies in Minnesota. A customer who receives the mailed copy may add online access for an additional $10.
Did you know? The Thomas Swensen family has been involved with the weekly newspaper for 45 years.