Get to Know Some of the People Behind Northfield.org

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With Northfield.org’s highly anticipated 20th Birthday Bash right around the corner, I talked to a few members of the superstar team that brings the news from the community to your computer screen. These three work hard day in and day out to deliver timely, event-packed stories on a hyper local level. Meet tech genius Adam Gurno, editorial whiz kid Rob Hardy, and dedicated board member extraordinaire Jane McWilliams. And read on for an astonishing insight regarding frozen dairy treats.

What are your duties like at Northfield.org?

Rob: What I do is a couple times a day I check the queue, which is basically the list of stories that have been submitted to Northfield.org, and I basically just go through and make sure that they’re formatted correctly and do minimal editing and then publishing.

Adam: I don’t really have a title. My duties are essentially all the tech work: the database, the website, any tech hookups we need to work with other organizations. It’s a lot of tinkering, not heavy lifting.

Jane: I’m an at-large board member. I don’t have assigned duties. However, at least once a day I check the queue for unpublished material and publish it. We meet monthly and I contribute my thoughts to the discussions.

How and why did you first get involved with Northfield.org?

Rob: It was, I believe, in 2008 that I joined the board. Adam Gurno, who was on the board then, would look through all of the blog posts for that week that appeared on the side and he would pick out the highlights for this feature called “this week in Northfield blogosphere.” A couple times he picked out things that I had written. I think it was because of my blogging that somebody called me up again and asked me if I wanted to be on the board.

Adam: I moved to town in 2000, and started looking online to see if I could connect with people. Northfield.org existed, but only as forums. As it started to become more of a thing, I started getting more involved. I was the president of Northfield.org from 2005-2007 and then I moved away for about a year. When I came back I stayed involved, but only on the tech side.

Jane: I first got involved back in the 1990s as a member of the early forums – for example, the one on the campaign for the Northfield Community Resource Center in the 1990s. I have contributed stories, events and photos, occasionally. I was recruited by board member David Gonnerman to serve on the board (about 3 years ago, I believe). As a senior citizen, I am rather an anomaly in that group.

What is your favorite part of working with Northfield.org?

Rob: It’s a good way for shy, writer types to be involved in the community.

Adam: Number one is meeting a lot of people in town. Having my name attached to a lot of things means that a lot of people recognize me when I don’t recognize them. Number two: Doing all of these tech things on my own keeps my tech skills up to date. If you don’t use it you lose it. Number three: the other half of what I do - my nine to five - is a telecommuting job. I work for Nielsen, the TV ratings people, out of my basement. It’s a great job but I don’t see anybody. Northfield.org provides a good outlet for socialization that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

Jane: Working with my young colleagues on the board and learning more about how a web site is designed and managed.

What role do you think the site performs in the community?

Rob: Well, I think for one thing it’s a really good electronic bulletin board. You’ve got the Northfield News and Patch and Locally Grown, and Northfield.org is just the most neutral in some ways – it’s not posting anything really controversial or opinionated.

Adam: We’re a positive source for Northfield news. We were always sort of first to respond on big events that have an effect on the whole community. When the hailstorm and the flood came through we did all of the coordination. We were a free central resource that people could depend on. We’ve also had people come through and say that we serve as a sort of introductory platform to Northfield. People were able to find their niche in the community by coming to us first.

Jane: It fills a unique niche in that it is accessible to anyone who wants to contribute. The editorial policy is flexible – but the content is primarily event-related. There is a group of organizations which consistently post their events on the calendar, and often in readable narrative form on the front page. Fortunately, we have collaborated with the colleges to engage interns like yourself who have contributed solid and interesting content.

Can you give me one crazy or exciting story that you remember from Northfield.org’s history?

Rob: One of the most popular or crazy things was a video of a guy who jumped over the dam in a water-ski. That got a lot of views because it was just such a crazy thing to do. He just came up to the dam and went over it and kind of barely missed the central pier of the bridge.

The other thing that’s fun is there are always popular crazy stories on April Fools Day. I remember one about St. Olaf putting up a huge dorm and installing an eye of Mordor at the top. 

Adam: When the hailstorm came through, we had everybody send in their pictures. People lifted a lot of those pictures and posted them all over the place. People were publishing books and we would have to direct them to the original photographer for the rights.

Jane: The remarkable coverage of the 2010 flood and the volunteer headquarters role Northfield.org volunteers (Adam Gurno, Nate White, Rob Hardy and others) provided and maintained.  This was an invaluable resource for the community and shows what can be done with a citizen journalism vehicle if people have thetime and interest.

Where is your favorite place to go in Northfield?

Rob: The arb. Either walking or ski-ing around the arb, which I do usually everyday. Although I couldn’t do it today because it’s too cold.

Jane: Somewhere outdoors.

Adam: The Rueb 'n' Stein. Because I telecommute, I can get a bad case of cabin fever. I’ll spend a day working there just chewing up a booth and sucking down pop.

Finish this sentence: Northfield.org would not be so awesome if it weren’t for ___________.

Adam: From my perspective everything we can do is due to the Drupal software. Moving to that platform has allowed us to be kind of limitless when it comes to the kind of things we can do. We can host as many pages as we want, have as many users as we want, have as many incoming feeds. It’s a very well known and very robust piece of software.

Jane: If it weren’t for the timely work Griff Wigley did to launch Northfield into the cyber age, and for the support and creativity of folks who joined him in creating the site and without the cadre of volunteers who have nurtured it, plus a community presence which has evolved and which draws voluntary content.

Rob: Northfield, because then it would just be “.org”

Finish this sentence: If Northfield.org were an ice cream flavor, it would be ___________

Rob: I think it would probably be like a really good quality vanilla, actually, because it’s something that almost anybody likes. But it’s a really quality vanilla like Breyers or something with little specks of vanilla bean in it.

Adam: It would be vanilla. We’re sort a base for people to build off of. A lot of people come here first and then migrate off to other places. I think that’s the reason why the city came to us (to organize efforts after the flood): as a base flavor kind of thing nobody would really object to that. Everyone likes vanilla. Some people don’t like strawberry/chocolate.

Jane: Vanilla.

There you have it: Northfield.org - sweet, delicious, and loved by all. With live music by Matt Arthur and the Bratlanders, a trivia challenge (with prizes), good food, and a cash bar rumor has it that the 20th Birthday Bash will be the best party of the year. Nay, the century. Friday, January 20th, 8:00 p.m. at the Grand. Don’t miss out. 


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