Michael Maidenberg was born in Marion, Indiana, in 1942. He majored in history and philosophy at the University of Michigan, and graduated in 1964. He spent the next two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in India, after which he earned a master’s degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1967.
Maidenberg began a position as a reporter at the Detroit Free Press in 1968. His entire career was spent working with newspapers in the Knight-Ridder corporation. He also worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News before being appointed publisher of the Grand Forks Herald in 1982.
One of his first tasks at the Herald was to improve the newspaper’s reporting of agricultural news. This was marked by the creation of a special agricultural magazine, Agweek, in 1985. This publication grew to such a point that it was sold in several states. He was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from Columbia University in 1988. He followed this by winning Knight-Ridder’s highest honor, the John S. Knight Gold Medal, in 1991. He took a fourteen month leave of absence beginning in May 1994 to work at Knight-Ridder’s corporate headquarters in Miami.
The pinnacle of Maidenberg’s career at the Herald occurred during the disastrous 1997 Red River Valley Flood. On the morning of Saturday, April 19, the Herald’s offices became overrun by flood water. Production on the paper moved to a computer lab at the University of North Dakota’s Memorial Union. The paper for that day, as well as the next 71, was printed at the offices of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and then flown to Grand Forks. The Herald was forced to leave UND the next day, after which the Manvel Public School became the Herald’s makeshift home. All in all, not an issue was missed. The Grand Forks Herald was awarded a Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal in 1998 for Meritorious Public Service.
Following the flood, Maidenberg became active in economic development for Grand Forks. He chaired the “Re-Imaging Downtown” committee, as well as the Downtown Development Commission, charged with the responsibility of rebuilding downtown. He also served on the Commission’s successor, the Downtown Leadership Group. In addition, he helped form the Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Region. The Foundation sought to improve the quality of life in the Greater Grand Forks region. In honor of his contributions to the community, Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown proclaimed December 12, 2003, to be Mike Maidenberg Day.
Maidenberg was named Vice President and Chief Program Officer of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on April 19, 2004. The Knight Foundation seeks to improve journalism worldwide, while also investing in the vitality of the 26 communities which are home to a Knight-Ridder newspaper. Maidenberg had previously served as a Knight Trustee from December 1998 to March 2004.
The Michael Maidenberg Papers, 1975-2003, consist of materials related to his interest in the economic development of Grand Forks, especially following the 1997 Red River Valley Flood. Most of the material originates from the Downtown Development Commission (DDC), formed in December 1997 to “accommodate, encourage, and assist in the economic, physical, and cultural development” of downtown Grand Forks. The DDC held its final meeting on July 26, 2000, after which it was succeeded by the Downtown Leadership Group. Material related to the DDC includes executive documents, meeting minutes, correspondence, grant and financial information, and subject files.
Miscellaneous materials related to the Re-Imagining Downtown committee, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Grand Forks Greenway are also included.