The Free Press, Mankato, MN


June 22, 2014

Editor's Notes: Tough stories tax newsroom, community

Nelson, Kolstad, Hoffner, Waseca bomb plot stories drew national media to Mankato

Mankato has become a well-known dateline throughout the country in the last couple of months.

Three national news stories have kept The Free Press staff hustling during the day and checking our smartphones at night, sometimes into the wee hours.

That is the nature of the 24-hour news cycle put on steroids by the growing influence of social media and the Internet.

Competition from larger news organizations who can send two and three reporters to descend on a story makes keeping up challenging. So far, we’ve held up pretty well. We have the local knowledge and contacts so we start out a step ahead of carpetbagging TV news crews.

In April, the ruling came out on the long-running Todd Hoffner case, the Minnesota State University football coach wrongly accused of child pornography and it turns out wrongly fired from his job. He was reinstated by an arbitrator’s ruling and he took his old job back.

But another national story broke when his players refused to practice for him. Just about the time that blew over a Waseca teenager was almost by chance discovered to have a plan to explode six bombs at Waseca High School and shoot his classmates.

And just about when that story was settling into the less newsy process stages, the Philip Nelson/Isaac Kolstad story appeared early one Sunday morning in the form of a non-descript press release from the city of Mankato.

It started out as a story that sounded liked a typical downtown bar fight involving the well-known former Mankato West and University of Minnesota quarterback. The story was taken to a new level when it was determined the victim was not only severely injured and critical on life support, but it happened to be another popular football player in Kolstad, who had been a linebacker for the nationally ranked MSU team.

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