A very different type of summer blockbuster made its premiere in Fargo, N.D. in front of an eager crowd of 175 people this past June.
For the stars of “Inside Stories,” walking a red carpet and gracing the big screen at the Fargo Theatre, marked a significant departure from what they know best—print newspapers.
The documentary, which was produced for the North Dakota Newspaper Association’s Education Foundation, chronicles the history of the state’s newspapers and the key people behind them.
Teri Finneman, assistant professor of journalism at South Dakota State University, conducted extensive oral history interviews with each subject. The film was then put together by documentary students at the University of Missouri, where she received her master’s degree and doctorate in journalism.
“I wanted people to actually hear these stories and not let them just sit in a dusty archive,” Finneman said. “It ended up being a coincidence that the film came out at a time when our industry is under attack. I think something like this really humanizes journalists and helps educate the public about what our job really entails.”
The eight newspaper people featured in the film include Jane Brandt, publisher of the Hebron Herald; Bill Marcil Sr., former publisher of The Forum; Marilyn Hagerty, Grand Forks Herald columnist; and John Andrist, retired publisher of The Journal in Crosby.
Since the premiere in June, “Inside Stories” has been shown a number of times in various towns across North Dakota. Finneman said she also plans on submitting the film to the Fargo Film Festival.
A large portion of the interviews were conducted at the Forum office in Fargo, where Finneman previously worked as a reporter. Ryan Babb, multimedia developer for Forum Communications Co., oversaw the filming of the project.
In some instances, the pair traveled directly to the journalists unable to leave their newsrooms. Such was the case for Jane Brandt, who not only serves as publisher of the Hebron Herald, but also writes, edits and sells ads for the weekly paper.
“It was an interesting experience, and I learned quite a bit by watching the film at the premiere,” Brandt said. “We showed it several times right here in Hebron, and the people all told me they thoroughly enjoyed it as well.”
Student director Lea Konczal said the most challenging aspect of creating the documentary was determining how to organize all the raw material into a cohesive structure.
“I drew a diagram of how all the subjects related to one another in an attempt to figure out a way we could weave their stories into a bigger narrative,” Konczal said. “My favorite part of the film is the credits, because it’s such a great feeling to see the names of everyone who came together to make it possible.”