Aaron Brown

Aaron Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an author, community college instructor and radio producer from Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range.


Different in a small town

By: - November 22, 2023

Just before midnight one Saturday, my friend and I climbed three flights of stairs to the top floor of what was once the grandest department store in Hibbing, Minnesota. Pulsing bass shook the steps. A medieval suit of knight’s armor rattled in its metallic boots on one of the landings. I ascended with trepidation. This […]


Cannabis project shows Iron Range addiction to big promises

By: - October 31, 2023

Nothing haunts a small town like an empty factory. It’s a ticking clock, the tell-tale heart of everything wrong with the world. In Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the former Ainsworth wood products plant sprawls across an industrial lot on the west side of town. It closed in 2008. Several attempts to fill it with new industry […]


Minnesota in the age of smoke and fire

By: - August 28, 2023

In hot, dry conditions with high winds and ample fuel, wildfire moves faster than you can run or drive. It envelops you like a dragon swallowing an unlucky knight or maiden. You keep running until the oxygen is sucked from your lungs, unable to scream at what comes next. The Cloquet-Moose Lake fires of 1918 […]

Analysis: Cliffs offer to buy U.S. Steel holds huge implications for Iron Range

By: - August 14, 2023

After two years of super-heated iron ore and steel prices, two big American steelmakers ooze like molten metal toward a historic potential merger. The move would have huge implications for Minnesota’s Iron Range and Rust Belt cities across the United States. On Aug. 13, U.S. Steel announced that it had received several buyout offers for […]


Rural broadband isn’t closing gaps; it’s widening them

By: - July 28, 2023

For many of us, internet is like water. It’s a big percentage of what we consume. It provides most of our news, opinions and culture. When internet becomes scarce we get antsy, wondering if we can survive.  The internet can be good or bad, just like water. A glass of water when you’re thirsty is […]

Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky presenting battle flag

Lessons on freedom from the Russian opposition

By: - June 21, 2023

Americans enjoy many freedoms. We may criticize the government or large corporations without legal consequence. This broad freedom, relatively rare in human history, allows us to treat political arguments like sports talk or squabbles over whether pineapple belongs on pizza. Comfort allows us to treat our rights like trifling trinkets.  But freedom is hard-won and […]


The northland has its own housing crisis

By: - May 25, 2023

A successful marriage requires many ingredients, several of which I had to locate after the fact. But for my wife and me, a mutual desire to live on a lake in northern Minnesota sure helped. I distinctly recall the phone conversation after our first date when we stumbled on this shared goal.  Seven years later […]


Democracy checks power; that’s why it’s in danger

By: - April 13, 2023

These are darkening days for global democracy. Notions that all the world’s people would engage in egalitarian self-governance seem like grains of sand slipping through our fingers.  Russia stabs at Ukraine with its full force while suppressing dissent among its own people. China’s government entrenches autocracy as its population and economy both stagnate. Mexico clamps […]


Um, like, the humans are speaking

By: - March 27, 2023

In almost 20 years of teaching public speaking at a community college, I’ve seen it all. A guy who could solve a Rubik’s Cube in under 20 seconds. A dead owl passed around the class as a misguided visual aid. More than once I’ve seen a terrified person deliver a profoundly moving speech.  Public speaking […]


Bog is dead: The waning defense of Minnesota wetlands

By: - February 21, 2023

Early one Sunday morning my son’s Boy Scout troop toured a small research facility in the middle of the Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota. As the presentation began, someone handed me a chunk of wood.  Researchers sawed this simple round from a tree pulled out of a nearby bog. It was perfectly preserved, even […]


Hope for the Iron Range economy, but we must put the past behind us

By: - January 9, 2023

At the hunting shack this year, my grandfather Ward Brown, Jr., told how a high school friend saved him from getting beat up by a Chisholm gang back around 1952. Not long after, this friend lay dead in the wreck of his restored ’32 Chevy on the road between Side Lake and Hibbing. No “Leave […]


Iron Range, seething at the Twin Cities, continues right turn

By: - November 11, 2022

Iron Range Republicans have been waiting for an election like Tuesday’s their whole lives. No, really. There hasn’t been one this good for the local GOP since Hoover.  Republican Rob Farnsworth won the open State Senate seat in the central Mesabi Range by a solid seven-point margin. This is the beating heart of the Iron […]