Supporter Spotlight - Mark Olson
Mark Olson is a Regional Editor for Southwest News Media - publishing the Chaska Herald and Chanhassen Villager. The Chaska Herald and its predecessors are crucial resources for the Chaska Historical Society. Our Herald archives date back to 1862, and are fundamental to many of the History Center exhibits, genealogy research, and personal explorations of family and community history. Mark has continued the donation of a Herald subscription to the History Center, publishes articles and features that highlight our Historical Society, contributed the beautiful seasonal gazebo photographs for our products, and is a valued friend and supporter within our community.
Here are Mark’s thoughts in response to our questions:
1. In what ways is the Chaska Historical Society connected to the Chaska Herald?
The Chaska Historical Society serves as the repository for over 150 years of Herald volumes. It also maintains about 30 years of our photography archives. However, far more importantly, the historical society and its volunteers interpret the content in the Herald and transform it into easily accessible material for residents, whether it’s through inclusion in museum exhibits or the weekly “Herald Reports.” The old Herald volumes are just stacks of paper until volunteers bring the material to life, or a genealogist or historian uses it to add context to the past.
2. Are other SW News Media publications connected with other historical societies?Other local historical societies provide content and are a valuable resource for the six newspapers in our news group. However, I think the relationship the Herald has with the Chaska Historical Society is pretty special. (I’ve been working with the Chaska Historical Society for quite a few years, so I’m a bit biased.)
3. Why do you think local publications are important to preserving histories of our communities?
It’s a play-by-play of life. You can look at the volumes and get an overall sense of what the community deemed important at a certain moment in time. We’re not the end-all when it comes to what happened, of course. It would be impossible to take minutes on everything going on in town. That’s why it’s always great to see the newspaper used together with other historical sources -- diaries, oral histories, census materials, artifacts, etc.
4. Are issues of the Chaska Herald available and searchable electronically through Newspapers.com or other methods?
Unfortunately there isn’t an easy way to search every volume going back to 1862. Our website has stories going back a couple decades. That’s why the Chaska and Carver County historical societies are important in tracking down articles. The CCHS newspaper database has been a very important tool for my own research.
5. Could you describe any historical or genealogy research you’ve done for your own interests?
Most of my historical research has been for the Herald. Those stories often line up with my own interests -- whether it’s the history of migrant labor that worked in area sugar beet fields, or the purported James Gang visit to town. The most rewarding research has involved local veterans. Of the 28 soldiers of Carver County’s Company H captured in the Civil War at Brice Crossroads on June 10, 1864, only 11 are known to have survived Confederate prison camps. That story has stuck with me ever since I wrote it five years ago.
7. Have you received feedback from readers about your feature “Herald Reports” that recount headlines and news articles from the past 150+ years?
Yes! If Herald Reports is left out of the newspaper (which has accidentally happened a few times), I’ll usually get a phone call from a reader who is looking for it. I’ve learned a lot of interesting history from the Herald Reports submissions.
8. Will the historical value of the Chaska Herald diminish as electronic publishing reduces the reliance on printed media?
I think that curators of the future are going to have their work cut out for them. Electronic publishing, rather than the print editions, is making it tougher to catalogue and preserve news stories or information.
9. Do you think newspaper journalism has changed in the past 50 years?
In the time I’ve been at the Herald, there has been nothing but change. The newspaper went online in 2000. Before the internet, if breaking news happened, it would appear in the next week’s newspaper -- and it may have been eight days old by the time it appeared in print. Now, we work online as a 24/7 newspaper. How we tackle photos, video, advertising … everything has evolved, and continues to evolve. However, our work to provide important, interesting, objective news to the community has remained steadfast.
10. Has the readership demographic for local newspapers changed with the growth of social media, blogs and webcasts?
I don’t have a demographic breakdown. However, I know the audience we continue to reach is vested in the community. We couldn’t do it without the community support of our readers and advertisers. And the Chaska Historical Society plays an important role in the work we do, so thank you!
Also, if anyone ever has story ideas or feedback (positive or negative), give me a call at 952-345-6574 or firstname.lastname@example.org.