Listen Now
Pledge Now


Community Conversations

  • 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursday 7-8pm

On the first Thursday of every month from 7-8 p.m. WTIP hosts a live interactive conversation on an issue of community importance. Guests are invited into the studio and listeners are invited to call in or email with questions, comments, and concerns. This participatory program is designed to give everyone a voice in the discussion of public affairs issues that shape our community. To participate in the conversation call 218-387-1070 or email us at


What's On:
Vacation rentals are common on the North Shore. Photo by Joe Friedrichs

A lack of long-term rentals in Cook County - A Community Conversation

It can be a challenge to find a long-term rental option to house residents of Grand Marais and Cook County. It’s an issue that impacts local families and individuals, employers and people who would like to call this beautiful part of the North Shore their home.

There are many reasons why this challenge exists in Cook County, and during this Community Conversations program that aired lived June 7, WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs speaks with a panel of local residents, an elected official and property owners in Cook County about various issues on the local level regarding a lack of long-term rentals.  
Included on the panel were:

• Cook County Assessor Todd Smith

• Cook County Commissioner and a member of the county’s Vacation Rental Committee, Heidi Doo-Kirk

• Sophie Wyatt, who is a new resident of Cook County and, along with her husband Kyle, recently went through the process of trying to find a long-term rental in the community

• Steve Surbaugh from Cascade Vacation Rentals, a property management company in Cook County that specializes in short-term, or vacation rentals



Six months later: Diversity in Cook County Schools

In September 2017, during a meeting of the School District 166 school board, the topic of racism in the local school system was brought forward. A number of public comments were shared during the meeting regarding the issue, and the board discussed the topic as well.

In the six months that have followed, the topic of racism in the community as a whole has been brought to the forefront for a variety of public discussions and conferences at the local school district.
Join host Rhonda Silence for a look back at where we were and about what's ahead.  We will hear from school officials, local elected officials, civil rights activists, and controversial writer Katherine Kersten as we discuss the topic of racism and the work the local school district has done since last September to address this topic.



Community conversations: A decline in youth hunters and anglers in Minnesota

A decline in the number of young hunters and anglers in Minnesota has some concerned about the future of public lands in the Midwest and throughout the country. Participation in hunting and fishing activities in Minnesota is a key economic driver when it comes to outdoor recreation in the state. A continued decline in these fields could impact many North Shore businesses and those near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

In this Community Conversation, WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs speaks with Minnesota Conservationist John Arms, Mark Norquist from the Modern Carnivore and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, as well as local DNR Conservation Officer Darin Fagerman. 



Community conversations: mushers ready for Beargrease

Starting on Jan. 28, one of the North Shore’s signature and most iconic events will take place during the John Beagrease Sled Dog Marathon.

The race celebrates the work John Beargrease did in the Northland, as he delivered mail for many years by sled dog to numerous remote regions.

The audio below is a special Community Conversation hosted by WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs. In this program you will hear from two mushers who are competing in this year’s Beagrease.

In the first part of the program Friedrichs speaks with Blair Braverman, a nationally recognized author and musher who is based in Mountain, Wisconsin. Braverman is competing in her first full marathon during this year’s Beagrease.

In part two, we hear from Ely based Peter McClelland, a veteran of the Minnesota mushing scene and founder of White Wilderness Sled Dog Adventures.

We’ll hear why got these two individuals became interested in the sport, the challenges associated with the mushing lifestyle and what the John Beargrease means to them personally.

The trail conditions for the 2018 Beargrease look favorable and there are more than 50 racers signed up between the marathon and mid-distance events. For information on the 2018 race, click here. 



Community conversations: The 2017 Cook County tax survey

This past September a property tax survey was compiled and distributed by a group of local residents formed under the name 'Concerned Citizens for an Affordable Cook County.' The purpose of the survey was to gauge the level of confidence Cook County property taxpayers have in decisions being made by local government officials.

Since its distribution, there have been varying opinions with regard to the survey. Some are publicly supporting the findings and mission of the Concerned Citizens group, while others have questioned the intent of the survey or were unclear as to who was behind its distribution.

In this WTIP Community Conversation, Host Joe Friedrichs speaks with Garry Gamble and Tom Bradovich, both of whom were instrumental in creating the local property tax survey



Community conversations: Communication between county officials and the public

In recent months there have been concerns and frustrations expressed that the Cook County Board of Commissioners and county administrator do not respond directly to questions during public meetings. Though the commissioners and administrator often address topics from the public comment period at the end of meetings, a lack of direct communication between the county board, administrator and the public continues to be a recurring theme brought up in commissioner meetings.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, WTIP offered the opportunity to open the lines of direct communication.

In this program, WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs talks with the Board Chair of the Cook County Commissioners Jan Sivertson and County Administrator Jeff Cadwell about the county’s 2018 budget, a proposed levy of 17.46 percent and the flow of communication between elected officials, county staff and the public.  


Boundary Waters portage up the Gunflint Trail. Photo by Amber Kramer

Community conversations: Stories of travel and wilderness

In this Community Conversations program, WTIP’s Jay Andersen speaks with Joan Farnam, a local artist and blogger, about turning her world travels into art.

To view video footage of Farnam’s stories of travel, click here. 

Also in this program, WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs speaks with Evan Larson, a tree-ring scientist and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Larson has been studying the history of fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for several years. His research has expanded his ideas of what the term ‘wilderness’ means with regard to human influence. 



Photo by Molly Rider, Grand Marais Art Colony

Writing about charged topics

As part of the Grand Marais Art Colony's North Shore Readers & Writers Festival, WTIP’s Jay Andersen moderated a panel discussion on writing about charged topics, live from the Grand Marais Public Library on November 2.

The panel included:

Julie Landsman, author of Basic Needs: A Year With Street Kids in a City School and A White Teacher Talks About Race.

William Green, author of A Peculiar Imbalance, The Fall and Rise of Racial Equality in Minnesota, 1837–1869 and Degrees of Freedom: The Origins of Civil Rights in Minnesota, 1865–1912.

Kao Kalia Yang, author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, and The Song Poet.


A rally in Harbor Park was among the many settings where racism was discussed in Cook County. Photo by Ann Possis

Racism in Cook County: A community conversation

In recent weeks, the local school district in Grand Marais has become the focus of numerous media reports about racist bullying. A television station in Duluth made two trips to Grand Marais specifically to report on this topic of racism at ISD 166 and the community. There were special meetings held by concerned citizens, and a rally was held in Harbor Park to raise awareness about racial harassment and hate speech in the schools and community. The topic of racism appeared in meetings of the local school board and Cook County Board of Commissioners. And, it appears, a local family of four are moving away as a direct result of racism they faced in the community.

“Racism in Cook County” was this month’s first Thursday community conversation. The program aired live on WTIP on Oct. 5.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with the following guests during the program:

--Rogier Gregoire, a human rights commissioner and a board member of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Foundation in Duluth.

--Grand Marais City Councilman Anton Moody.

--Grand Marais resident Dave Nonnemacher. Dave is the father of two adopted daughters who are from Liberia, West Africa.

--Professor Anton Treuer, a professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University and author of 14 books. Professor Treuer is also a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

The audio below is the entire community conversation on racism in Cook County. 



A special WTIP Thursday Community Conversation on setting the county budget and levy

Late last year the Cook County Commissioners' room was packed with taxpayers as the county board prepared to finalize the 2017 budget and levy. Now it’s time to do it again.

Jay Andersen and Joe Friedrichs discussed the 2018 budget and levy with a panel of officials who make the decisions that will affect all Cook County residents. With them in the studio were county commissioners Ginny Storlie and Heidi Doo-Kirk, Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and County Administrator Jeff Cadwell.

The county needs to set a preliminary levy by September 19 and a final levy by the end of December. In between time, the numbers can be lowered, but cannot increase.