In the ultimate about-face, a journalist who once declared Minnesota’s Red Lake County the worst place to live is packing up his family to move to the area this spring.
“I kind of fell in love with Red Lake County when I visited last year and we’ve always wanted to raise the boys in the country,” Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham said in a Saturday Facebook post announcing his move to northwestern Minnesota.
He, his wife and their 2-year-old twin sons are planning to stay for a year or two and “see how it goes,” Ingraham said on Facebook. He told the Grand Forks Herald that his invitation to Minnesota in the aftermath of his low ranking of the county “made an impression” on him.
How the tables have turned.
Rewind to August, when local headlines were splashed with outrage after Ingraham called out the county east of Grand Forks, writing it was “the absolute worst place to live in America.” His assertion came from a ranking of the federal government’s natural amenities index, USDA data that measured counties by climate, topography and water area more than 10 years ago.
Winning regions by that index had warm winters and balmy summers, low humidity, varied topography and access to a body of water.
California got high rankings. Landlocked Red Lake County and other areas in the Great Lakes region didn’t fare so well.
Minnesotan readers were so ticked off at their home state’s public shaming that the backlash flooded back to Ingraham. Instances included comments from U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who in turn called the Washington Post’s newsroom the least desirable place to live in the United States.
Amid the backlash came an invite to Red Lake County, which pulled out all the stops when the Post reporter did come through town in late August. The trip was packed with a kayak ride, a marching band greeting, hobnobs with local officials and a drop-in song performance at a tavern from U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson.
Ingraham’s conclusion: Red Lake County wasn’t ugly. It had hometown pride and stunning natural river scenery. It had Minnesota Nice.
“There’s perhaps something amiss in a ranking that places Red Lake County at the absolute bottom of the nation when it comes to scenery and climate,” Ingraham said in his September Washington Post blog item post-visit. “As I noted in my original story, the USDA’s index places a lot of emphasis on mild weather and a little less on true scenic beauty, which of course is harder to quantify. But there’s no doubt that the Red Lake County region is flat-out gorgeous.”
As for the impending cold and the snow coming with the Minnesota move, Ingraham said he isn’t worried; he and his wife grew up in upstate New York.
“It just kind of stuck in my mind,” he told the Herald. “The more my wife and I talked about the idea, the more it grew on us.”