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Tuesday June 19th 2018

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Student Intern plus 18 years Jonathan Miller, embellished The Alley Newspaper, “retires” to focus on family and career

Jonathan, Betty, Amy, and Bobby Miller
COURTESY JONATHAN MILLER

By LEON OMAN

After nearly 18 years of dedicated service to The Alley Newspaper and its readers, our Co-Editor and Designer, Jonathan Miller, has “retired’ – he supported The Alley for almost half of its 42 year history! His most recent, but longtime role has been doing the Graphic Design and Layout for the monthly issues, along with managing The Alley’s webpage. Over the years, Jonathan experienced and contributed to the many facets of publishing a community-owned and operated media source. Jonathan was a joy to team with and his loyalty and hard work were marked by excellence and creativity – he will be sorely missed. Only 38 years old, Jonathan will now be able to focus more on his fulltime job with Center for Urban and Regional Affairs-CURA at the University of Minnesota and family responsibilities with Amy, his wife, and Betty and Bobby, their two young children.

It started Jonathan’s junior year at Carleton College, Northfield, MN. It was Summer 2000 when students in the liberal arts were feeling in some crisis about getting jobs – and colleges were responding by encouraging internships where students could gain practical learning, too. Jonathan flipped through a large book of internship opportunities. The one for The Alley Newspaper stood out. Wow, it involved working for a newspaper – Jonathan was an editor of “Carl” the arts and culture insert in the Carletonian weekly newspaper. And yes, it was in the city. He had lived in cities before, so this would allow him to experience diversity again, unlike the college town of Northfield. After meeting and talking with David Dix, Susan Gust, and Harvey Winje; Jonathan thought the position was a great fit, as did The Alley. He spent his internship time that summer primarily at Andersen School, in the Community Education program mentored by Leon Oman Andersen Community Education Coordinator and an Alley Board member. There, Jonathan laid the foundation for increased youth involvement in The Alley. He was introduced to the numerous youth-serving organizations in Phillips and taught newspaper writing to Andersen students. All of this led to the establishment of an Alley Youth Page, which Jonathan continued to work on during his final year in college.

After graduation, Jonathan was hired to take over general editing of The Alley Newspaper in August of 2001. The first issue was done from his Minneapolis apartment. With help from his friend and fellow college newspaper editor, Jonathan built a template for The Alley. Though tweaked over the years, its essence is still present with each issue of The Alley hard copy and online. As time went on, Jonathan did it all, especially the editing and layout. He also “beat the bushes” for stories from community writers, as well as doing a little writing himself. Photography was part of it, too. Jonathan even tried to sell ads, though he admits this was not in his natural skill set.

Jonathan served during a time when The Alley was required by a funder to have a physical, staffed office space – which resulted in being housed for a time at the Green Institute building. It was not in a real high-traffic location and eventually, The Alley realized it wasn’t necessary. This was largely because Jonathan was able to show that with technology, the job of The Alley could be done by tele-commuting, a more efficient model and less expensive way to operate. Jonathan’s passion for new ideas and innovation continued and led to his founding and managing The Alley’s Twitter and Facebook accounts – as well as building and maintaining The Alley’s website. They have become critical tools expanding the capacity of The Alley. Graphic design became a particular passion and Jonathan especially loved the monthly opportunities with The Alley’s cover page – his favorite, the post-election December 2016 issue (see below and online). Jonathan says, “The Alley was like a playground – to test out new things all the time – and invaluable for learning new skills.”

Throughout the years, when there was not enough fulltime work available with the newspaper, Jonathan still maintained his loyalty and dedication to The Alley, while picking up other jobs. These included Managing Editor for Pulse, a weekly publication, and later, Production Artist for The Sportsman’s Guide. Work on The Alley and additional positions prepared him well. Jonathan has solidified his leadership as a non-profit Communications Specialist, first, with the Minnesota State College Student Association and now, with CURA.

Jonathan has great memories of his years with The Alley. He enjoyed relationships with longtime writers like Sue Hunter Weir, Peter Molenaar, Howard McQuitter II and Mickey Dawkins. Working with other community members has been rewarding, too. He remembers Paul Weir fondly, even though he says Paul liked to push him into investigative journalism, which was not Jonathan’s favorite style of reporting. He loved connecting with Dave Moore who always appreciated Jonathan’s editing work on Dave’s cartoons. More recently, Jonathan has had great fun working with Susan Gust on the design of the Backyard Initiative news on the back page of The Alley. Most of all, Jonathan talks about his special relationship with Senior Editor of The Alley, Harvey Winje – who is undoubtedly most responsible for Jonathan’s longtime loyalty. Together, they extensively collaborated on every monthly issue. “We had a great symbiotic relationship,” says Jonathan. “Harvey would have an idea – it might have sometimes seemed a little crazy but then I’d work with it realistically, translate it and add my flourishes – and execute it. We always found a way to do things.”

There will always be a role for community voices in the news, stresses Jonathan, and The Alley provides this so well. “The Alley is like a dandelion, always pushing through a crack on the sidewalk – hey, it’s not ugly, it’s a flower – there’s an organic vibe to it.” Jonathan is optimistic, too, about the future of media, though it’s changing he notes the recent involvement of Parkland (Fla.) School students and their use of social media to galvanize young people and many others on an important issue. We know that Jonathan has a great future too. All the best, Jonathan! Thank you for all you’ve done for The Alley and the Phillips Community!

The culmination of Jonathan’s significant, monthly work on over 180 issues is not the total of his impact. One of The Alley Newspaper’s greatest assets is its archives that keep the news and views of the neighborhood available for decades to come as a touchstone to memories and as a neighborhood source of documentation of the past. Jonathan’s work, over 18 years, is available in bound, hard copy volumes at Hennepin County Libraries on Franklin Av. and Downtown. Complete archives are also available on The Alley website. It has been said that a person’s legacy is complete if “things got better when that person was there and continued to get better after that person departed. This is true for Jonathan. The Alley got better while he was here and will continue to get better because of what he put in place.

Postscript by Harvey Winje, Senior Editor (senior being 77 years of age)

The Board of Alley Communications, publisher of The Alley Newspaper, and Senior Editor, Harvey Winje also wants to wish Jonathan a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU for the years of dedication, perseverance and juggling of personal time to help see us over the hurdle each month. We are delighted you could grow your skills while you helped to grow The Alley. To Amy, a special thank you for making space for Jonathan to work on The Alley and the “dents” it undoubtedly made in family life from time to time. To Betty and Bobby, you can be very proud of your Daddy!

To any of our readers, if you would like to try your hand at having a role in The Alley to hone your skills and help us to be sustainable, we would appreciate hearing from you! Contact Board Member Cathy Strobel: cstrobel11@gmail.com.

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