On February 5, 1978, a little northern Minnesota newspaper called the Mesabi Daily News broke a story that had somehow managed to go unreported for more than half a year. The previous summer, the city council of Kinney, Minnesota, had sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance declaring that the village was seceding from the Union. The tiny Iron Range community had tried without success to secure federal funds for an upgrade to its failing municipal water system. With nothing left to lose, the city council had voted to secede and “become a foreign country.” The story quickly went viral (or at least as viral as a story could go in those pre-Internet days) after it appeared in the Mesabi Daily News. The NBC Nightly News aired a report two days later. Other major news outlets then followed suit. The resulting publicity helped the “Republic of Kinney” land two government grants worth more than $250,000 for its water system upgrade.
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