About Us

North Dakota News Cooperative is a 501(C)3 nonprofit that operates on revenues from grants and tax deductible donations. The members of the board of directors come from various media, business and higher education backgrounds, but share a common commitment to the importance of journalism in building and maintaining strong and vital communities.

Michael Standaert was hired as the organization's first Enterprise Journalist. He started July 15, 2022 and NDNC is already cosidered a trusted journalism hub.

The organization's IRS tax form 990 is here.

For more information or to get involved, email co-chairs Steve Andrist at stevea@crosbynd.com, or Jill Denning Gackle at jilldg@restel.net.

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Steve Andrist


A third generation newspaper owner, Steve retired in 2020 from seven years as executive director of the North Dakota Newspaper Association. He was the owner of The Journal at Crosby and the Tioga Tribune. Steve held many volunteer positions with NDNA, including as a member of the board of directors and serving as president of both the NDNA Board and the NDNA Education Foundation Board. He was inducted into the NDNA Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2021.

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Jill Denning Gackle


The former publisher of BHG Inc., Jill and her husband published as many as 11 weekly newspapers and two shoppers from Garrison before retiring in March 2022. Prior to joining BHG, Jill was the executive director of the North Dakota Newspaper Association for 9 years. Jill is president of the North Dakota Newspaper Association Education Foundation and remains passionate about the future of newspapers.


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Mary Jo Hotzler

Vice Chairman

Mary Jo is the editor of On the Minds of Moms magazine and chief content officer at Forum Communications Company. Working for a family-owned media and technology company that has been bringing trustworthy, quality journalism and business solutions to the upper Midwest since 1978, she understands the importance of journalism in our lives. 

Board of Directors

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Tom Gerhardt


After 23 years in television broadcasting in Bismarck, Minot and Grand Forks, Tom joined North Dakota United as the director of public affairs. He is in charge of lobbying, communications, media relations, and recently, the Cutting Ed podcast. As someone who spent his entire career in communications, he sees the potential for improvements in the field of journalism and the importance of reliable, trusted news sources. 

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Hal Gershman


Some might know Hal best as the owner of a successful bottle shop business and a high end supper club. In 1968, Gershman founded Happy’s Pizza Chain in Mexico City and in 1972 he opened the first pizza delivery business in Cambridge, Mass.  In 1976, he returned home to Grand Forks where he became president of Happy Harry’s Bottle Shop. Hal is deeply committed to the principals of journalism and the importance of an engaged society.

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Eric Hardmeyer


As the former president of the Bank of North Dakota, Eric is viewed as a politically astute leader who was a catalyst in building North Dakota's strong economy. He retired in 2021 after 21 years at the helm. Under Hardmeyer’s leadership, BND’s assets grew to almost $8 billion and the state-owned bank had 16 consecutive years of record profits. Eric knows that strong communities and a strong state need a foundation of good journalism. 

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Beth Helfrich


Beth has served as the executive director of the North Dakota Broadcasters Association for 25 years. Prior to NDBA, she was the marketing director at Dakota Square Mall in MInot for eight years. Beth currently serves as an honorary commander of the North Dakota Army National Guard, striving to create lasting partnerships between civic and military leadership. 

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Mike Jacobs


As the former editor and publisher of the Grand Forks Herald, Mike spent a lifetime immersed in journalism. After the 1997 Grand Forks Flood, the Herald won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and he was named editor of the year by the National Press Foundation. He continues to write a weekly column in North Dakota newspapers and published three books about North Dakota. 

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Robbie Lauf


Robbie Lauf is Director of Programming & Partnerships at the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. A graduate of North Dakota State University and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Robbie’s career included serving as a senior advisor to Governor Doug Burgum, completing a fellowship in the Federal Reserve Board's office and working as a management consultant. As Director of Programming & Partnerships, 


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Cecile Wehrman


Cecile Wehrman is the executive director of the North Dakota Newspaper Association and president of Journal Publishing, Inc., which publishes The Journal in Crosby and the Tioga Tribune. A journalist for nearly four decades, she worked in radio, television and newspapers since 1985. Wehrman is also the project leader of Kid Scoop ND, a literacy project delivering a kid-oriented monthly newspaper to elementary students in the state.


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Michael Standaert


Michael Standaert worked as a journalist and writer for 24 years, first from the Midwest, and later from California, Europe and Asia. From early 2007 to mid-2023 he was based in China, first Beijing, then Shenzhen, where he served as a correspondent accredited with Bloomberg Industry Group from 2009 onward.
From China he also freelanced for a wide range of outlets incluiding The Washington Post, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, MIT Technology Revice, YaleEnvironment 360 and others throughout China and into Southeast Asia. He has an MA in journalism from Cardiff University, UK and published one book of nonfiction as well as a novel.
Originally from Northwest Illinois, Michael said he looks forward to gaining a deep understanding of North Dakota, its issues and people, as well as raising his young family here.