Russ Zinke, a creative production artist with Forum Communications Company, has been working at the Park Rapids Enterprise since 1991.
Hired as a graphic designer fresh out of Northwest Technical College in Moorhead, he is still doing the same job 28 years later … or is he?
“I was initially hired to replace Sally Peterson,” he recalls. “That was back before computers. Actually, we had barely started using them, just to print out copy.”
Back then, the artists who designed ads and laid out pages for the newspaper did a lot of combing through big art books, resizing things on the photocopier, cutting and pasting elements together and taking a photo of the final design.
“I do not miss that time,” Zinke laughs. “It was a lot of work! Now, with computers, you can be much more creative.”
Originally from North Dakota, Zinke went to North Dakota State University to study art before “realizing they were teaching me stuff that I really didn’t need to know,” he says. “They were teaching different styles, but I have my own style. I know what I want.”
He calls switching to the tech school “the best thing I ever did. Two years, you’re in and out. They gave me a wide variety of things.”
One of those things was a look at newspaper careers. He recalls thinking, “I don’t want to do this. This seems too stressful!”
Sure enough, his first job offer was from the Park Rapids Enterprise, where his job slowly transitioned toward working on computers. His duties at different times included tech support, building security, maintenance, and once in a while, delivery driver.
“I’ve had a lot of hats here,” says Zinke. “But now, it’s all backed off here to just this one, which has been kind of nice because it’s a little more stressful when you have more than just one position.”
These days, Zinke isn’t involved in the Enterprise as such. He works out of the Enterprise office as an asset of the Forum design team.
“I grab ads off a queue from all over,” he says. “Wherever the Forum company thrives, I’m grabbing ads from them and designing.“
He met his wife, Kristin, in college while both were working at Perkins. After settling down in Park Rapids, they had a son and a daughter, both now grown up. They currently have one grandson.
“I like living in a small town,” says Zinke, though he recalls going through some culture shock at first. “Back then, they rolled up the streets at 5 p.m. That was a transition for us from Fargo, where everything is 24 hours … But it’s beautiful out here.”
Zinke notes that in his line of work, the trends are leading toward everything being online. So, a young person following a similar career path has “got to have the knowledge to grasp the online part of how things are designed. I think that’s where the future is going.”
Outside of work, his favorite activities are outdoors – having fires at night, hunting, fishing, gardening, taking care of his yard.
On the job, he says, he is happiest doing something creative. “It’s fun when you’re not pressured, and you actually get some time to sit and design something that you’re proud of,” says Zinke.