My first day at Eden Prairie News was Nov. 7, 2018 − the day after the midterm elections. I walked into the office of reporters who had been up until 3 a.m. waiting for results and making sure the print edition went to press. Though they were exhausted, they warmly welcomed me into the fold.
A year later, I found myself in their shoes while covering the district's school board elections. It was my first election night newsroom pizza, a ritual held across the county. I'd had late nights before, covering City Council meetings and town halls, but it was the election night pizza that felt like a shared tradition, connecting me to countless bleary-eyed reporters across the world and through time.
It's the community that makes it worth it. Everywhere I went, the people of Eden Prairie welcomed me just as my colleagues did. Though I was a stranger − not even a Minnesotan − you greeted me with smiles, with answers to my questions, with invitations into your home for a cup of tea or a cookie.
Though Eden Prairie has 63,000 residents, what I heard from my colleagues and from the leaders I met in my first week of work is true: it does feel like a small town. As I became a regular face at summer concerts at Staring Lake, or Senior Center breakfasts, or a PeopleFest! festivity, your faces grew familiar to me, too.
One of the high points of my first year on the job was when I went to Eden Prairie Center to cover the Halloween celebration there. As I approached parents to ask if I could photograph their family's costumes, many of them lit up with recognition when I said my name and eagerly shared their thoughts on a recent article I'd written.
When I learned that Eden Prairie News would be closing, it was a double gut punch. It's scary to be laid off right now, and I know I'm not alone. I loved my work writing about Eden Prairie, and I'm sad to see it end.
But the larger loss is for the city itself. Eden Prairie is a standout among its neighbors in the southwest suburbs, and in the state. Its businesses draw people from all over the world to its doorstep. Its historic homes and remaining farmland connects us back to its roots as a pioneer's homestead.
In the broad span of history, Eden Prairie has grown and evolved in the blink of an eye. And Eden Prairie News has been there for over four decades to chart its progress, to hold a mirror up to its residents and show them who Eden Prairie was becoming.
This is the end for Eden Prairie News, but it doesn't have to be the end for local journalism. This city merits more than the occasional article in a statewide publication. As old newspapers close their doors, I hope that others − more agile, more resilient to changing funding models − will step in to provide the coverage that Eden Prairie deserves.