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This quiz was NOT open-book.
This quiz was NOT open-book.

Job Ready Since ‘92

Aug 24, 2011

I started working at South Dakota Magazine in September 2007, but you could argue that I had been preparing for a job here since 1991. That was the year when, at age 12, I finished a 300-page book on my home state.

Now please don’t think I’m some sort of writing prodigy. That was my sixth grade year, and back then all sixth graders studied South Dakota history. The crowning achievement of that year was a South Dakota book, filled with everything learned after nine months of exploring the state.

I spent hundreds of hours working on the project, and I remember realizing that it was the most fun I’d ever had doing homework. I grabbed travel brochures everywhere I went. I clipped photos from newspapers and magazines (including South Dakota Magazine, which my parents have received for years). It was fascinating researching the people and places of the state.

By the spring of 1992 I had nearly 300 pages of reports, pictures and schoolwork, including three county seat quizzes that I aced. (One is shown above. And no, it was not open book). Somehow, those cities and their corresponding counties have, for the most part, stayed in my memory. How many 12-year-olds learn, and never forget, that Gann Valley is the seat of Buffalo County? I should have mentioned that at my job interview.

From that point I’ve never tired of learning about South Dakota. I studied journalism and history at South Dakota State University. After three years at the Brookings Register, I got a master’s degree in history at the University of South Dakota. I studied South Dakota as much as I could in graduate school, and wrote a thesis on Richard Kneip and South Dakota politics in the 1970s.

Today I’m the magazine’s Departments Editor, which means I write and edit copy for our many departments and pen a feature or two for each issue. I’ll also write a weekly column for our website on an aspect of South Dakota history. I’m always looking for ideas, so if you know an interesting character from our past, or an intriguing historical story or mystery, e-mail me at If you’re in Yankton, stop by our offices at 410 E. Third St. You can talk to me about your idea and we’ll show you around our headquarters, a series of three buildings constructed in the 1870s by territorial governor John Pennington. And if you’re wondering what the seat of Campbell County is, just ask.


12:21 pm - Wed, August 24 2011
Laura said:
John, that is adorable. I'm impressed, too -- the standards for 6th graders were much lower in 1986. I'm pretty sure we didn't learn all the counties, much less the county seats.
02:16 pm - Wed, August 24 2011
Heidi said:
This is awesome! Do you still have the 300-page report? I'd like to see it.
03:10 pm - Wed, August 24 2011
tigh lessman said:
Nice ... I'm glad you got Deuel right ... how come you didn't mention how much I influenced you at the Register?
06:50 am - Thu, August 25 2011
John Andrews said:
The book is on my desk right now. I'll let you see it, but you should wear a pair of white gloves. It's quite fragile.

Lessman, did we work together at the Register? Sorry, but I just don't recall...
07:03 am - Thu, August 25 2011
Andrea said:
I also did a South Dakota book in sixth grade. I don't remember having a county seat quiz, but I do remember having to know the state symbols and learning the state song.

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