The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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June 19, 2014

Kent: Mankato will be sorely missed

Observations upon a doleful departure

In 2008, I reached the height of my newspaper career.

After a particularly poorly received article about the Mankato East High School choir (in which I praised the ensemble, but in a tongue-in-cheek fashion that was not apparent to many), students in the choir started a Facebook group in my honor.

They named it "Tanner Kent needs to learn how to write."

For a few weeks, students carried on a robust discussion about freedom of the press, media obligations, satire and miscommunication. Eventually, the group fizzled — but not before my colleagues found the page and requested to be its administrators.

Thanks to them, that page has been preserved in the tar pits of the Internet. If you search the group name in Google, you can still pull up the proof. Though it is mostly buried from sight, it remains entrenched in the ethereal vapors of the World Wide Web. I'd like to think some newspaper archaeologist of the future will find the remains and conclude once and for all if I ever learned how to write.

On the cusp of my departure from The Free Press — having accepted a job as a proofreader for a college marketing company in Bloomington — this will likely be my last byline for the institution that I have held so dearly since I was hired as a part-time sports reporter while still in college at Minnesota State University in 2003. And, given the circumstances, I've been thinking a lot about what I've learned in more than a decade of working for this newspaper.

Some of the more colorful lessons might include:

The Free Press is (almost) haunted: During one particularly late night in the office, I noticed one of my co-workers from the printing department scanning his phone through the nooks and crannies of the newsroom. I asked what he was doing, and he replied rather nonchalantly that he was using a ghost-finding app to scout for paranormal activity. He scanned a few minutes more and, before he walked away, I asked reluctantly, "Well, what'd you find?" He said something to the effect of, "A reading of 50 indicates the presence of ghosts. I'm only getting readings of 49." ... Oh. Good news then.

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