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Journalism in MN: The Inside Scoop

How do journalists come up with stories?  What are the ethical norms that journalists follow?  What makes journalism different from propaganda, opinion and advertising — and what can readers and viewers do when they believe journalism has veered toward one of these other categories?

The Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (MNSPJ) wants to explore these and other questions during a series of meetings called Journalism in MN: The Inside Scoop.

The idea is to dispatch journalists to classrooms, senior centers and other community gathering places across our state for candid conversations about how journalism works and how news organizations can best meet the needs of Minnesota.  We want these to be honest and constructive sessions that build relationships and understanding. And we’re looking for community partners who can help us get the ball rolling.

Would your group like to host an Inside Scoop session?  Send us an email at with information about your community group and journalism topics of interest and we’ll make a plan.


Save the Date! Annual “Off The Record” Holiday Party Set For Thursday, Dec. 5

Join MNSPJ, AAJA, and TCBJ for our annual “Off The Record” holiday party on Thursday, Dec. 5.

Enjoy free food, good beer and friendly conversation in the cozy event room at Pizza Luce in downtown Minneapolis. And considering bringing some toys, since the annual TCJB Toy Drive will be collecting donations at the party.

Swing by Pizza Luce at 119th N. 4th Street in downtown Minneapolis between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 5. Appetizers provided. Cash bar. Please RSVP here to let us know that you can make it!

MNSPJ seeks the return of emergency dispatches, radio traffic for journalists

The Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (MNSPJ) is troubled by a recent decision to encrypt law enforcement emergency dispatches and other radio traffic by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and agencies that use the county’s service.
MNSPJ urges Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson to drop this new practice, or let journalists continue using this information, which helps news organizations inform readers and viewers about public safety incidents while ensuring accountability and transparency from the police and fire departments that respond.
For decades, journalists have used scanners to monitor radio transmissions from public safety agencies, and respond in real time to breaking news. These radio transmissions are typically a starting point for journalists, who go on to investigate and evaluate whether the incident rises to the level of general public interest.  Reporters know to contact the agencies for more information. They can get to the scene to talk with witnesses. The information helps journalists assess how quickly they must react and with what degree of resources.
All this improves the quality of reporting at the time of an incident, so community members can understand if there’s a broader threat.  Later, it helps ensure that final news reports provide detailed information on a timely basis about the substance of incident — whether it’s a crime, a fire or an accident — and the response by public safety agencies.  Particularly with incidents that involve a police response, this transparency helps hold authorities accountable if something should go wrong — an essential part of building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. It also can help readers and viewers better understand the actions of law enforcement.
In September, radio transmissions in the shooting death of Ronald Davis in St. Paul provided important context, as journalists listening to scanner traffic heard a police officer yell: “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!”  The detail helped readers and viewers understand the story, and also helped journalists evaluate accusations from activists that Davis had been shot down by police in the street in cold blood.
In September 2018, when a teen stole an SUV and raced down Cedar Ave. in Minneapolis at high speeds before crashing and killing three people, journalists listening to police radio could quickly address a key question via scanner traffic: “Our guys were not in pursuit; they were not in pursuit,” a member of the State Patrol said immediately after the incident. The accident came a few months after the State Patrol faced criticism for pursuing at high-speeds a vehicle that crashed into a playground and hit three children.
These are just two examples of why MNSPJ is asking Sheriff Hutchinson to consider alternatives. When a similar change was made in Lincoln, Neb., police decided to publish an unedited online feed that was delayed by 10 minutes. A spokesman for the sheriff has suggested that news organizations might be able to use devices to decode scanner traffic.  We’re encouraged by this, but hope the sheriff will simply revert to the old practice.
Public safety personnel already use alternate, confidential communication channels when needed for tactical reasons.  Other public safety agencies aren’t following Hennepin County’s lead. As a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department told a Star Tribune editorial writer: “We have no intention of going to encryption. … We haven’t seen the need.”


MNSPJ Intern Night, Oct. 24, at WCCO Studios


About this Event

The 2019 Minnesota SPJ Intern Night is a great opportunity to learn about journalism internships throughout the state, network with media professionals and meet fellow journalism students from local colleges.

No previous internship experience is required to attend!

Panelists will include media professionals and intern managers from WCCO, the Star Tribune, Minnesota Monthly, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and other major media outlets. Afterward, tour WCCO studios as time allows!


Thursday, October 24

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.


90 S. 11th St.

Minneapolis, MN 55403

Space is limited at this free event: Only 60 spots are available. If you register and cannot attend, you must notify MN SPJ immediately so we can open available spots to those who can attend. Limited to two tickets per person.

Register here:

Parking is available at metered spots on the street or in nearby parking ramps. Please give yourself time to find a parking spot and arrive on time to the event! Enter by the back door. Please contact with any questions.

Journalists shine light on their role

ThreeSixty Journalism student Safiya Mohamed found time during St. Paul Central High School’s spring break to interview three Twin Cities journalists about their profession. Safiya asked them to describe what they do, explain why their job is important and share advice they would give to a young, aspiring journalist.

The interviews with Star Tribune reporter Nicole Norfleet, Minnesota Public Radio reporter Brian Bakst and Fox 9 reporter Iris Perez were recorded at the studios of the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, a cable access station. Funding was provided by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists.

Brian Bakst, Minnesota Public Radio political reporter

Nicole Norfleet, Star Tribune business reporter

Iris Perez, KMSP/Fox 9 general assignment reporter, fill-in anchor

MNSPJ Election Results for 2019-20

Emma Nelson, a reporter with the Star Tribune, has been voted president-elect of the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists (MNSPJ) for the coming year. Frederick Melo of the Pioneer Press will serve as the chapter’s secretary while Briana Bierschbach of Minnesota Public Radio will serve as treasurer.

All three officers were elected via ballots submitted in June-July 2019. Election results were certified during the chapter’s annual meeting Thursday, July 19, at Dual Citizen Brewing in St. Paul.

Other election results include: Hal Davis was elected to a one-year term on the MNSPJ board of directors; Nicole Norfleet and Jackie Renzetti were elected to two-year terms.  All three currently serve on the chapter’s board. 

Christopher Snowbeck will serve as the chapter’s president for the coming year, with Joe Spear serving as past-president.  Emma Nelson will become president in July 2020.

Thanks to all those who voted. We have big plans for the coming year, so we hope you’ll consider becoming a member. For more information about the chapter, please contact us at