Faribault newspaper editor calls out her city

You have to have thick skin and some real guts to be a newspaper editor in a smaller community. Jaci Smith, the managing editor of the Faribault Daily News, has both.

Smith, who took on the task in 2009, called out her community in a column today, citing a negativity toward it she hasn’t seen anywhere else.

And that includes, she said, a job in New Jersey. “The armpit of America,” she noted.

But it’s not just comments on the paper’s website that lead me to this conclusion. I hear it in conversation out in the community, too. A few weeks ago, members of the Main Street program in the city were talking about the lack of community pride as well.

But it’s interesting to me that if you strike up a conversation with someone who is visiting Faribault, you get a completely different impression of the community. Without exception, they love it. They love the history, the diversity and the recreational opportunities.

And I wonder: Why do some in our community have such a low opinion of Faribault? Where does it come from? When did it start? What needs to be done to change it?

Because I have to tell you, I’ve lived in a lot of different places, and Faribault is a nice little town. It has its challenges, sure, but nothing extraordinary and certainly nothing that merits the negativity I’ve seen and heard.

I’m interested in delving into this a little more. I’d like to do some sort of newspaper project that looks not only at why we have such a dearth of community pride, but what can be done to change that.

She can start with Audrey Kletscher Helbling, who writes one of the finest blogs in Minnesota — Minnesota Prairie Roots.

“We need to appreciate the place we call home as much as we sometimes criticize or yearn for whatever we think is better,” she wrote of her town a few months ago. “The grass is always greener. Or so we think. Often it’s not.”

She’s lived in Faribault for more than 30 years,and has a gift for seeing things that others ignore. She makes you want to move to Faribault.

But she doesn’t sugar coat the undercurrent of negativity over change in the community.

“If your skin is any color other than white, you are open to possible disdain and contempt,” she wrote in March.

For awhile, complaints ran rampant about Somali men hanging out on Central Avenue street corners. People said they were afraid to go downtown. These men live downtown above businesses, some of which are Somali-owned. Sidewalks are their front porches, their place to gather and converse. This is part of their culture, to meet and talk.

I wish those who continually criticize our newest immigrants could have seen the Somali man sweeping a downtown sidewalk. His efforts show respect for and pride in community.

A 60-something white woman throwing money at a Somali teen simply doing her job shows lack of respect.

No matter our ethnicity/skin color, we really need to just respect each other as human beings.

What’s wrong with Faribault? The same thing that’s wrong with many Minnesota communities. There aren’t enough Audreys and Jacis.

  • DU1152

    I think Faribault is a very nice town and a very giving community with a ton of History! I work at St. Vincent dePaul in Faribault. We have clients of every nationality. They are all great people, just need a little help. Most will not take more than they need. Our funding is all from donations, we take no government assistance. I will tell you that Faribault has a lot of wealthy families, and they donate a lot of money, I know, I deposit it! These folks have a lot of pride in Faribault. Jobs are starting to come back, and the unemployment rate is very low. While Jaci Smith wrote this article back in 2009, that was during a time when every town in America was starting to hurt, but not the norm. She maybe should of done her research. 2009 was when Faribaults St. Vincent dePaul was started by Bill Lewis. Bill seen that people were starting to fall. He took pride in his community and rolled up his sleeves and went to work. While it is a Catholic faith based organization, Bill went to all the churches in town. No one gets paid, and we have around 100 volunteers. Religion is never brought up. We have a sheet with all the churches in Faribault, and recommend to our clients to attend one. It would be nice to see her come down for a tour, and find out what community pride really is…..

    • KTFoley

      Detail: Jaci Smith became the paper’s managing editor in 2009. She published the editorial yesterday (Friday May 8).

  • Anna

    Minnesotans have the highest volunteer rate in the country but our race relations need much improvement.

    Immigrants to this country are some of the hardest working people around. They have strong work ethics and strong family values. Their cultures are vibrant and alive.

    Perhaps if we did a better job of welcoming them into our communities they would not be tempted to join terrorist organizations.

    Everyone in America comes from immigrant stock. Everyone.

    i agree. Why can’t we all just get along?