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SPJ members in good standing should watch for an email on Monday, June 22, with your ballot to elect the 2020-21 board of directors at MNSPJ. Voting will end on Monday, July 20, with winners announced at the MNSPJ annual meeting.
Here are the candidates for three officer positions: president-elect; secretary; and treasurer. Emma Nelson, who was elected president-elect in 2019, will become president next month. Each of the newly elected officers will serve a one-year term; the new president-elect will serve as president from July 2021 to June 2022. There are four open seats for directors, each with two-year terms.
Bio: I’ve been a health care reporter since 1994, working at newspapers in Indiana, Virginia and Pennsylvania before returning to Minnesota in 2006. I worked at the Pioneer Press for eight years before being hired by the Star Tribune in 2014. Currently, I’m on the Star Tribune’s business desk, covering the business of health care. I’ve been a board member at MNSPJ since 2014.
Candidate Statement: It’s never been more important to explain and celebrate the work of journalists in Minnesota. I’d like to return to the board to keep working on two key projects that were under way when COVID-19 disrupted life in Minnesota. The board had just launched a great program called The Inside Scoop where reporters and editors visit high school classes to explain the work we do as journalists while teaching civic reasoning skills. We need to continue and expand that work. And then, after working to strengthen the Page One Awards contest in 2018-19, we were hoping to re-invent the Page One Awards banquet this spring. I have great hopes for next year’s banquet, whether it be virtual or in-person. There’s more work to be done on our technology platform for running the Page One Awards. I have ideas for recruiting members to MNSPJ. And I’d like to help the chapter do a better job communicating with journalists across the state.
Bio: Taryn Phaneuf is a digital journalist who cares about explaining what’s going on behind issues and trends, especially those that impact a person’s quality of life. She works as a data reporter and researcher at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal and teaches at the University of Minnesota journalism school. She previously worked as an independent journalist covering food and agriculture, education, public health and other topics. Her work appears in MinnPost, Crosscut, The Atlantic, Civil Eats and The Inlander, among others. In addition to teaching an introductory course in news writing and reporting at the University of Minnesota, she returns each year as a writing coach to Mountain Workshops, a visual journalism bootcamp by Western Kentucky University.
Candidate Statement: I was lucky to have the opportunity to join the MNSPJ Board in the fall. Since then, I’ve seen the ways this organization advocates for free speech and a free press, educates the public and supports young journalists. I’m eager to be more involved in the coming year, which is why I’m asking for your vote to become a board officer and serve as secretary. In that role, I will work to keep the board organized and accountable to MNSPJ’s mission and to bring fresh ideas and energy as we respond to important issues facing our industry.
Bio: My name is Briana Bierschbach and I’m running to be the treasurer of the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. I’m a state government reporter at the Star Tribune who has spent a decade covering politics, starting part-time at the Minnesota Capitol for the Associated Press right out of college. I’ve also worked for MinnPost and MPR News.
Candidate Statement: I’ve been a member of the SPJ since 2018 and took over as treasurer shortly after joining the board. Since then, I’ve helped keep track of our books, deliver financial reports to our national chapter and get checks to everyone from our scholarship recipients to our vendors who work with us to put on events in the community. I’m running for a second term as treasurer because I want to continue to be a part of the work SPJ does to help journalists succeed financially, particularly as many face setbacks like layoffs and limited freelance work during the coronavirus pandemic.
Board Members (four open seats)
Bio: I joined The Free Press in Mankato as a health and nonprofits reporter in 2016. While health remains my primary beat, my other coverage areas range from homelessness to city councils to refugee resettlement. Originally from the Iron Range in northern Minnesota, I started my journalism career at the Hibbing Daily Tribune after graduating from the University of Minnesota.
Candidate statement: As an outstate reporter, I’d be honored to bring a new voice to the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, an organization which so aligns with my values. The board’s work advocating for journalists is always important, but especially so now when attacks on the free press are so frequent and so many news organizations are struggling. Working in Mankato and Hibbing solidified my passion for local news and the vital role journalists play in informing our communities. Running for a position on the board of directors is an opportunity to turn that passion into service. By promoting news media literacy, empowering future generations of journalists and highlighting the great work of my fellow journalists, I hope to carry on SPJ’s critical mission.
Biography: I’m a reporter for the Star Tribune based in the paper’s Duluth bureau, where I cover local governments, schools and a little bit of everything else. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis and attended college at the University of Notre Dame, where I caught the journalism bug. After graduating in 2018, I had intern stints at the Chicago Tribune and Politico before returning to Minnesota to start exploring and telling the stories in the Northland.
Statement: Journalists in Minnesota today are doing crucial, historic work while simultaneously facing unprecedented challenges — financial difficulties, physical threats, a need for more rigorous fact-checking to hold those in power accountable and outreach to earn the trust of communities that feel overlooked. I want to join the SPJ board because I believe the work this network produces is vital to this state. I’ve looked to SPJ for wisdom and resources multiple times in my young career, and I’d like to amplify the society’s mission in the Duluth region, particularly for aspiring journalists in northern Minnesota.
Bio: Nate is a journalist at the Southwest Journal community newspaper in Minneapolis, where he covers schools, development, environmental topics and community news. Previously, he was a reporter at the Mankato Free Press, an intern at the St. Cloud Times and part of the digital team at Fox Sports North. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he wrote for the Minnesota Daily’s sports department.
Candidate Statement: Nate is running for the SPJ board because he’s passionate about local news and maintaining a free and vigorous press. He appreciates the impact journalism can have on a community and the news organizations in the Twin Cities doing such critical work. Nate is also passionate about digital journalism, learning new tools and helping future generations of journalists. He hopes to help foster and maintain connections between journalists during a time of physical distancing if elected to the board.
Bio: A Boston boy who lost his way and landed far from home, Frederick Melo has been a reporter with the St. Paul Pioneer Press since January 2005. He resides in a 1916 St. Paul home with his St. Paul-reared wife and their two St. Paul children.
Candidate Statement: It’s been an honor to serve on the board of MNSPJ these past four years, including spending the last three years as a board officer (Secretary). It’s a small little torch and it’s time to pass it. I’m asking for your vote to re-elect me to the board. For Secretary, I wholeheartedly nominate and endorse Taryn Phaneuf, who will do an excellent job as Secretary.
I’ve worked hard on efforts to connect younger folks to MNSPJ, to jobs, to scholarships, to our national conference and to the good work that journalists do. For three years I have co-chaired our scholarship committee, which awarded $3,500 in funds to college students this year. I recently spoke to the college SPJ chapter and co-chaired a public zoom discussion with them on diversity in the media. For four years, I’ve overseen Intern Night at WCCO, a networking event that draws a wide range of media employers for a panel discussion with college students each October. I’m not sure how we will pull it off this year, but I promise to find a way!
For the past two years, I’ve organized autumn Media Mixers at St. Paul taprooms. How will we pull that off this year? Two words: No idea! Give me a minute to think about it, and please give me your vote!
Bio/Candidate Statement: Thank you for considering me for this opportunity to represent and advocate for Minnesota journalists. I have been reporting in Minnesota for the past seven years for WCCO-TV and most recently, MPR News. Before that, I was a multi-media journalist for WBBH/WZVN-TV in Southwest Florida for two years. I am also a proud graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and fully realize I may lose some votes for sharing that! I got my first shot as a reporter at 16 years old through a magazine show for teens on KARE 11 called The Whatever Show. I am proud that our state’s exceptional professional journalists really helped raise me. With that foundation, I was able to go on to report on a wide range of stories and fortunate to catch a few awards along the way. It is important to celebrate our hard work and service to the public, but also important to facilitate a community for journalists to be heard and supported. I believe community is especially needed in these times of (more than usual) under-staffing, attacks on journalists/news organizations, and financial problems.
As an Iranian-American immigrant kid growing up in Apple Valley, I gravitated toward journalism because I truly believe we are all more alike than different. I believe the best storytelling captures our deepest commonalities. I aim to help Minnesotans talk across differences and enrich their own lives. I am also passionate about making this industry one that is accessible to young reporters who come from all backgrounds and especially those who may not have the family means to make it in this business early on. I would be honored to help us advocate for ourselves and the future of our industry.
Bio: I’ve worked with print and digital newsrooms in Saint Paul, Minneapolis, and Seattle. Publications include: the Associated Press, the Growler, Leafly, and Public Radio International.
Candidate Statement: Most of my contributions to journalism have been done on a freelance basis. For some, this is a way of gathering clips, but for me it was a way to train flexibility about where I contributed my work, as well as a way to retain control over what I wrote about.
Freelance journalism is on the rise. Practitioners of our craft are turning to it for a number of reasons. As a member of the SPJ’s national freelance committee, I’ve worked with fellow freelancers across the country, learned more about their unique achievements and struggles, and tried to address them with the committee.
As a member of the Minnesota SPJ pro chapter, I would use this accumulated experience, and the input of members of SPJ in Minnesota, to fight for freelancers in my own state. Access to press credentials, protection under shield laws and other legal protections for journalists, and equitable contracts — are all matters that I would like to address with the talented journalists of our Minnesota board.
Journalism must adapt to the changing world around it. Accommodating the industry for it’s growing ranks of freelancers, echoing a broader trend in the U.S. labor market, is a pillar of that transformation.
While it’s not the only reform that must come to our field, it’s the one I have the most experience with. For the rest that must come, I rely on the experience of my fellow board members, journalists around the state, and the public, so that the free press remains an effective institution in the digital age.