Board of Directors

North Dakota News Cooperative’s 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 considered a trusted journalism hub.

For more information or to get involved, email co-chairs Steve Andrist at or Jill Denning Gackle at


Steve Andrist, Co-chair, is 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.

Jill Denning Gackle, Co-chair, is 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 nine years. Jill is active in the North Dakota Newspaper Association Education Foundation and remains passionate about the future of newspapers.

Mary Jo Hotzler, Vice Chairman, 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

Tom Gerhardt, Director, marketing director of ND Assistive, worked for 23 years in television broadcasting in Bismarck, Minot and Grand Forks. He worked in lobbying, marketing, communications, media relations and created podcasts. 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.

Hal Gershman, Director, might be best known 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, Massachusetts. In 1976, he returned home to Grand Forks where he became president of Happy Harry’s Bottle Shop. Hal is deeply committed to the principles of journalism and the importance of an engaged society.

Beth Helfrich, Director, 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. 

Mike Jacobs, Director, spent a lifetime immersed in journalism as the former editor and publisher of the Grand Forks Herald. 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.

Robbie Lauf, Director, is Director of Programming and 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 Gov. Doug Burgum, completing a fellowship in the Federal Reserve Board's office and working as a management consultant.

Cally (Musland) Peterson, is editor of North Dakota Living, the state’s largest-circulated publication and statewide electric cooperative magazine. She has a background on a top-rated radio talk show and worked for The Arc of Bismark, advocating for North Dakotans with disabilities. She knows local journalism has never been more important in rural America. Callie she feels a tremendous responsibility to tell the stories of rural people and rural progress.