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New UMM paper carrying its weight

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Late-night college bull sessions can get interesting, fueled by caffeine, idealism and little sleep.

But when morning light and reality hit, the plausibility of the plans hatched the night before often fades to black.

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The idea to start a second student-run newspaper at the University of Minnesota, Morris wasn't new, but until now, initiative never successfully followed insight.

The Counterweight, with a fourth edition about to hit the news stands, might prove to be an exception.

Publisher Joe Basel, Editor -In-Chief Jessica Anderson and Managing Editor Kim Ukura are friends who decided the campus needed a publication with a conservative voice.

So far, they and their contributors are bringing that -- and more -- to their readers.

"This was just one crazy idea that Joe had because he comes up with ideas like that," Anderson said. "It was one of those late-night conversations that you're not sure will go anywhere. But this one kept coming up."

Basel and Anderson, UMM sophomores from the Mankato area, had known each other since competing in high school speech.

Once at UMM, Basel and Anderson became debate partners. Through debate, they met Ukura.

The three "founders," as they call themselves, began talking about a newspaper around Christmas 2004.

"We were throwing out ideas and getting all excited," Basel said. "The (newspaper) idea had been floated before, but no one had what it took to see it through."

Basel got a $500 start-up grant from the Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C., picked up $300 after a speech at the 7th District Republican Convention, and another $200 through student fees.

The Counterweight staff produced its first, 16-page issue in March.

They then published 20-page papers in both April and May, printing at the campus printing service.

Their first issue this school year also was the first published with a color cover and on newsprint.

"We have no office space yet and we're running our layout off Kim's laptop," Basel said. "We find some room and we all gather around Kim."

The founders said they have landed about $2,000 through student fees this year, and another $1,250 through the Collegiate Network, which funds more than 70 conservative student newspapers throughout the U.S.

The Counterweight hopes to raise funds for the remaining money needed for this year's eight issues through paid subscriptions and donations.

"There's a lot more to it than people realize when you start out," Anderson said. "Fortunately, we were able to find people who were excited to get involved and willing to put in the work that's involved."

The conservative viewpoint is at The Counterweight's base.

UMM mostly is a liberal campus that oftentimes isn't tolerant of conservatism, Ukura said.

The Counterweight provided UMM's conservatives an organ to confidently express their opinions to a wider audience than just those sharing their viewpoint, she said.

"It's just seeing another side of campus," Ukura said.

"I think," Basel said, "we're giving conservatism a chance on this campus."

The staff has been hearing from current students and alumni who have been waiting for such a publication to fully take shape, Basel said.

Anderson has heard similar comments.

"We want to show that there is a conservative presence on campus and that it's not just hiding in the shadows," she said. "There are people who are excited this is happening."

But The Counterweight's political and philosophical bent is just one aspect of the paper, Anderson said.

The Counterweight's first issue of the 2005-2006 school year takes a look at UMM enrollment and the orientation process.

The paper also publishes regular features such as profiles of UMM students, music news, and a section titled Perspectives.

"We're trying to focus on on-campus issues," Ukura said. "A lot of issues on campus are not politically biased."

The staff published 1,000 copies of this year's first edition, and Basel said 1,500 is the planned press run for the October edition. He stated that the paper's website -- www.thecounterweight.com -- is experiencing dozens of new hits daily.

The Counterweight staff also is taking pains to ensure that their fledgling flight doesn't end in a crash when the "founders" graduate, Basel said.

The three mainstays are already training in their successors, and trying to find space to print work from an overall collection of about 30 contributors, Basel said.

It all starts, he added, by ensuring that the paper can crank out all eight issues this year.

"I think we'll make it happen because we believe in it," Basel said. "We have so much talent, it would be a huge let-down if we weren't able to do it."

"It's kind of our baby and we're just now starting to see it grow," Anderson said. "But we're training people to put into positions now."

Making that transition seamless would also further validate the promise of those first late-night brainstorms, Anderson said.

"We want to prove it's not just a crazy idea the three of us had," she said. "We want it to be able to continue and be around."

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