2015 Midwest Journalism Conference


The Midwest Journalism Conference is fast approaching, and the conference planning group has been hard at work planning a great conference for 2015.  Click here to preview the conference schedule and information. Registration information, forms and much, much more can be found on the conference site: www.midwestjournalism.com.  

A  block of rooms has been reserved at the Crowne Plaza MSP Airport Mall of America for conference attendees.  Rooms are only $105.  To ensure that you get the promotional conference rate, please click on the link below and reserve your room by March 17.  Attendees staying at the hotel will enjoy a conference registration discount.

Click HERE to reserve your guestroom by Tuesday, March 17, 2015!

Do you know any students who should be applying for the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association’s Shelley Scholarship? The deadline is next Friday, March 6.  The application can be found at:  http://midwestjournalists.org/shelley-scholarship-applications-open/

Remembering David Carr


Minnesota’s journalism community mourns the loss of media columnist David Carr. Before his brilliant career at The New York Times, the Minnesota native’s talent was already evident in his helming of the Twin Cities Reader. Even after his career took him to new heights, he never hesitated at the chance to support journalism back in his native state. “We perform miracles on a daily basis,” Carr energetically told a crowd of 100 Minnesota journalists at Minnesota SPJ’s annual Page One Awards banquet in 2007. We will miss his great wit, his insights into modern media, and his tireless advocacy of journalism.

MN SPJ invites newsrooms and student journalists to participate in Sunshine Week 2015

swlogoSunshine Week 2015 is coming up and journalists around the nation will participate the week of March 15 through March 21. An annual event, Sunshine Week calls on journalists to shed light on issues of open government and have conversations with their readers about the importance of open and transparent government, whether that government body is a municipality or a large federal agency.

This year, the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, in collaboration with the Minnesota Newspaper Association, is reaching out to newsrooms and student journalists across the state to cover and look into the increasing amount of public work that is being done by private organizations. Private charter schools, surveying firms, even private police forces are being used more and more to conduct business that was once the purview of public officials. College campuses are not immune to this phenomenon either, increasingly relying on private foundations to raise revenue and communicate on behalf of the university or partnering with private companies to handle student services like policing, dining or financial aid.

To contribute to this year’s Sunshine Week event, which we are dubbing #SunshineMN, we are asking professional and student newsrooms around the state to produce at least one story that raises awareness in your community about public work that is being done by private organizations. Our aim is to shed a light on transparency and accountability issues that may arise as a result of these public-private partnerships.

Conducting a “transparency audit” is simple.  We are asking journalists across the state to obtain documents related to public-private partnerships. Such documents could include: contracts, audits, bids, budgets, any reports required by law, etc. – any documents that help shed light on work being done in service of the public by private organizations.

The final step is to report on what you’ve discovered. Again the aim of sunshine week is to tell the public about importance of open and transparent government. Was it easy to obtain information? Were there roadblocks? What did the information you found say about the public-private partnership? How transparent or accountable to the public is the agency/program it is serving? Your reporters can also go even further, especially if they make some interesting discoveries during their search.

We will highlight the stories that professional and student newsrooms publish as part of Sunshine Week on this website, our Facebook page and on Twitter using the #SunshineMN hashtag. We will also publish a list of participating newsrooms. To add yourself to the list email minnesota.spj@gmail.com. Also let us know if you have questions, comments or concerns.

Check back to this page, and mnspj.org for #SunshineMN updates . This page will continue to be updated with useful information including contact information for freedom of information experts, resources on open government law and making information requests, and story ideas for your newsroom.

Good luck with your information requests!

Resources for Reporters:

SPJ’s freedom of information how-to guide for students
SPJ’s freedom of information how-to guide for professionals
Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press Open Government Guide for Minnesota
RCFP Federal Open Government Guide
IFOIA.org help with making state and federal information requests (project of RCFP)
The Student Press Law Center, a national first amendment and open government organization for student journalists
Student Press Law Center public records request letter generator

Sunshine Week Experts and Contacts:

MN SPJ Project Lead:

Nathan Hansen
La Crosse Tribune Education Reporter

Local experts:

Mark Anfinson
Media law attorney representing the Minnesota Newspaper Association.

Jane Kirtley
Director, Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law
School of Journalism and Mass Communication,University of Minnesota

Tips for Successful Information Requests:

Ask for your information early. Organizations can balk at requests for information on a tight deadline. Give them some time to get the information you want and allow for follow-ups, appeals and interviews about the documents you wish to report on.

Be specific. Being overly broad in your request can cause hassles for both sides. Consider the organization’s view if your request is too generic or confusing. If your request doesn’t make sense, they can’t get the information you need. If you only need one document like a contract or email but ask for a broad assortment, it can lengthen the time of request and the agency can require more in fees for the time searching and copying. Ask for narrowly defined documents and specific dates when possible, and if you are unsure of what a document is called, ask first before making the request.

Make personal contact. It is easier to work with people who know you and you have a working relationship with. An information request from a stranger is easier to ignore, and you never know what new story ideas or leads might come from a meeting to discuss your request.

Don’t take no for an answer. You can appeal an organization’s decision to deny your request, or you might realize you need to modify what you are looking for. At the very least, a denial is a story in its own right if an organization is denying you access to public information and records.

Sunshine Week Story Ideas:

Follow the money: Is a private business or organization making large profits from running an institution or providing a service that used to be under public purview?

Hiring: Both local governments and units of government spend tens of thousands of dollars on hiring top level employees like university presidents or county administrators. What are they paying for and what do they get for their money?

Student Debit Cards: Does your college or a university have a relationship with a local or federal financial institution? Some student IDs double as debit or credit cards, and is there a financial arrangement involved with this relationship between the university and the bank?

Transparency: Are private contractors as transparent or accountable as the public agency or staff they replaced? Check and see why kinds of reports the public agency was creating in the past and compare that to the reporting requirement for the private contractor. What does the public not know now that is used to?

Relationships: Is the mayor’s private business collecting trash for the city? Is the brother of a municipal official on the board of the lobbying firm representing the city at the Legislature? What is the relationship between between the public and the private organization they are working with?


Sunshine Week 2015 Activities are brought to you by:


MNA Logo-Horiz

Call for Applications: 2015 MNSPJ Student Scholarship

Attention college journalists: The Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists (MNSPJ) is now accepting applications for its 2015 student scholarship. This year, MNSPJ will award two $2,500 scholarships to students pursuing careers in broadcast, print or visual journalism.

Applicants must either be enrolled in a post-secondary institution in Minnesota or have graduated from a high school in Minnesota and be enrolled in college elsewhere. Preference will be given to Society of Professional Journalists members.

Click here to submit an application form–the first step. E-mail the additional application materials to minnesota.spj@gmail.com. Here’s what’s required:

Application form: http://bit.ly/1yLCdIh
College transcript
Letter of recommendation
Essay (limited to 500 words): Why have you chosen journalism as a career?
Up to six samples of work: Provide a link to your portfolio, a PDF of clips or links to stories.
Applications must be received by March 1, 2015. No late submissions will be accepted.

Scholarship winners will be announced this spring and will receive their awards at MNSPJ’s annual Page One Awards banquet.

Questions? Email minnesota.spj@gmail.com.


SPJ_Vertical_WebThe Minnesota Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (MN SPJ) recognizes the best in Minnesota journalism each year with its annual Page One Awards.

Journalists working for all print, broadcast and online news outlets in Minnesota (or news outlets in neighboring states that cover Minnesota) are eligible to enter. All work published or broadcast during the 2014 calendar year is eligible. Entries must be submitted by Friday, February 13. The fee is $20 per entry.

New for 2015:  We’ve added categories for “Best Social Media Account – Individual” and “Best Social Media Account – Institutional.”

Contest winners will be honored at MN SPJ’s Page One Banquet, an annual spring event celebrating excellence in Minnesota journalism.

MN SPJ encourages collegiate journalists to enter student work in SPJ’s Mark of Excellence Awards. Submission deadline for that contest was January 23, 2015.

Important Links:

Please contact MN SPJ with any questionsminnesota.spj@gmail.com



  • The fee is $20 per entry.
  • Entries must be submitted no later than Friday, February 13, 2015.
  • All work published or broadcast during the 2014 calendar year is eligible.
  • Journalists (including freelancers and contract employees) working for all print, broadcast and online news outlets in Minnesota (or news outlets in neighboring states that cover Minnesota) are eligible to enter.
  • We encourage collegiate journalists to enter student work in SPJ’s Mark of Excellence Awards. The submission deadline for that contest is January 23, 2015.
  • An individual may submit only one entry per category. Exceptions: 1) if a second entry is a multiple-byline entry; or 2) if it is submitted by his/her employer because they could not agree on a single entry.
  • Entries will be judged by journalism professionals outside Minnesota.
  • Judges may move an entry from one category to another.
  • Up to three winners may be chosen for each category. Judges may choose not to name a winner in any category.
  • Entries will not be returned.
  • Awards Presentation: Winners will be announced in the spring of 2015 and honored during MN SPJ’s annual Page One Awards Banquet. Date and location, TBD.


  • NEWSPAPER, ONLINE & PHOTOGRAPHY ENTRIES must be submitted online.
  • FOR PRINT ENTRIES (Newspaper and Magazine): Entrants should submit a link to the online article or a PDF of the news/magazine page on which the story appeared. The date of publication should be visible.
  • FOR NEWSPAPER AND MAGAZINE “BEST ISSUE” CATEGORIES: entries may be submitted by mail. TWO COPIES of each issue must be submitted in an 8 1/2-by-11-inch folder or envelope. Please write category name on outside of folder.
  • FOR GRAPHICS/PHOTOGRAPHY CATEGORIES: Entrants should submit a PDF of the news/magazine page on which the art appeared, or a link to the art published on an online news site. The date of publication should be visible.
  • FOR TV ENTRIES: Entrants should submit a URL where video can be viewed (preferred) or entries may be submitted on a DVD (please include TWO COPIES).
  • FOR RADIO ENTRIES: Entrants should submit a link to the work online (preferred) or entries may be submitted by mail on a CD (please include TWO COPIES).

CLICK HERE to access the contest submission form