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MNSPJ and U of M Journalism Center offer seminar for journalists

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MNSPJ calls on St. Louis County to release emails in accordance with law

The Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists calls on St. Louis County to release to the public county-based emails and campaign communications by county commissioner and Congressional candidate Pete Stauber in accordance with Minnesota law and a recent ruling by the Minnesota Department of Administration.

MNSPJ supports the Star Tribune in its quest for emails between Stauber and the Republican National Congressional Committee where the county email system was apparently used, despite Minnesota law prohibiting such uses for campaigns.

The Data Practices Office of the Minnesota Department of Administration has ruled in an advisory opinion that St. Louis County should have released the emails, yet the county denies that the public has a right to know in this case.

St. Louis County determined the political campaign emails are not public because the RNCC is an “individual,” relying on an unreasonable interpretation of state statute.  As the Data Practice Office correctly stated, this interpretation of the law would make all emails by public officials secret. It ignores the purpose and meaning of the governing section of the Minnesota Data Practices Act, where the paramount principle favors the public’s right to know.

It is troubling that St. Louis County not only denied the Star Tribune’s request to seek truth and report it, but also doubled down on the denial even after the state’s authoritative body on public information called for its release.

St. Louis County is engaging in an egregious violation of the Data Practices Act and MNSPJ calls on it to immediately reverse its decision.



Joe Spear, president, MNSPJ


Seven elected to MNSPJ board

Four new board members and three officers have been elected to the Minnesota Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for the 2018-2019 year.

Briana Bierschbach, Amy Forliti, Reed Fischer and Emma Nelson joined the board as directors for two-year terms. Board member Fred Melo was re-elected board secretary, and board member Chris Snowbeck was voted president-elect. Anna Pratt was voted treasurer.

Bierschbach is a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio News and has covered the State Capitol for eight years. She also worked for the Associated Press, MinnPost, and Politics in Minnesota.

Forliti is a reporter at The Associated Press in Minneapolis, where she has focused on top national breaking news stories, law enforcement and courts. She has also worked at the AP in Indiana, managed the AP’s Rhode Island bureau and worked for the Star Tribune.

Fischer is the senior editor at Minnesota Monthly and also worked at GoMN as the editorial director and was the music editor for City Pages. He has done freelance work for Rolling Stone, Village Voice and other national publications.

Emma Nelson began working as a reporter at the Star Tribune shortly after graduating from the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She has covered various government beats and now covers the city of St. Paul.

Chris Snowbeck has been a business reporter for the Star Tribune since 2014 and worked at the St. Paul Pioneer Press for eight years before that.
Fred Melo has worked at the Pioneer Press since 2005 and is currently the St. Paul City Hall bureau chief.

MNSPJ to city: Drop confidential source hunt

The Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists supports efforts of the Star Tribune to vigorously seek truth and report it with regard to the questionable practice of Minneapolis police encouraging the use of the tranquilizer ketamine involving people suspected of crime and others.

Efforts by the city to investigate confidential sources who leaked a critical ketamine use report to the Star Tribune go against the spirit of the Minnesota Free Flow of Information Act that protects journalists from revealing confidential sources. The investigation will have a chilling effect on whistleblowers who are sometimes the only access a free press has to the secrets of government malfeasance.

The damage by the city’s inquisition to the free flow of information and government accountability and transparency outweighs any purported or imagined damage to the city’s information security systems.

We urge the city of Minneapolis to drop its investigation of the Star Tribune’s confidential source or sources, abide by the spirit of the Free Flow of Information Act and instead use its public resources for addressing the serious problem of the use of ketamine against suspects and others without their consent.

Joe Spear, president, MNSPJ

Hal Davis, FOIA committee

Fred Melo, secretary, MNSPJ

For media inquiries, contact Joe Spear. 507-317-8073.

2018 Page One Awards Honor great journalism in Minnesota


Scholarship winner Nick Kelly at the Page One Awards

Local journalists gathered to celebrate the best in reporting, photography, broadcast, and digital production Thursday night at the 2018 Minnesota SPJ Page One Awards.


Jennifer Bjorhus, an investigative reporter for the Star Tribune, took home Journalist of the Year honors while Sam Brodey, the Washington correspondent for MinnPost, was named Young Journalist of the Year. Chris Serres of the Star Tribune received the Story of the Year award for his “Left to Suffer” series on the abuse of residents in senior homes across Minnesota.


In other news, Ken Goulart, Larry Gubbe, Tom Funk, Alan Kildow, Sonya Braunschweig and other members of a citizens group in Victoria, Minn., received the 2018 Peter S. Popovich Award, which is given to a person or organization that exemplifies the fight for First Amendment rights. Over the span of five years, the group had pushed their City Council for access to basic public records like council meeting minutes and email communications, and later the group was victorious in court when several council members were found to have violated the state’s Open Meeting Law.


The Page One Awards honor the best in Minnesota journalism. About 150 journalists working in print, TV, radio and online attended the event, which was held at the Town & Country Club in St. Paul. The entries for this year’s awards were judged by members of the Florida pro chapter of SPJ.


Christopher Ingraham, a Washington Post reporter who became infamous in Minnesota after publishing a report that ranked Red Lake County, Minn., last in the nation in terms of “natural amenities,” gave the keynote address. Ingraham, who described himself as a “born again Minnesotan” after he moved his family to Red Lake, talked about his new life in rural Minnesota as well as the importance of data especially in a world where some are suspicious of media and “fake news.” “The challenge we face is that we know there are a lot of misconceptions out there,” he said. Visual data such as charts and other graphics can often be more convincing than just plain text, Ingraham said.


Minnesota SPJ also announced the winner of a $2,500 scholarship — Nick Kelly, a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Columbia who has interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Star Tribune, ESPN Radio, the Rochester Post Bulletin and several other outlets. He currently has an internship with The Athletic.


Minnesota SPJ President Jenna Ross awarded the President’s Award to treasurer Christopher Snowbeck highlighting his meticulous financial bookkeeping and invaluable contributions to the chapter.


The awards ceremony was hosted by Star Tribune metro columnist Jennifer Brooks.


The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the oldest and largest organization of journalists in the U.S., was founded as Sigma Delta Chi in 1909.  The Minnesota Chapter, which has about 100 members, was founded in 1956.


If you would like to order duplicate awards or have any awards-related questions, please contact Minnesota SPJ at


The complete winner’s list can be viewed here. Check out a gallery capturing the night’s speeches, music and socializing. 

Emcee Jennifer Brooks crafted a mascot for the evening.

And the 2018 Page One Awards Go To …

Thanks to all the journalists who joined MNSPJ for the annual Page One Awards banquet on Thursday night. All winners have now been posted to the website — use these links to navigate categories.  Congratulations!


Special Awards:

2018 Page One Awards — Special Award Winners


2018 Page One Awards in Newspaper Journalism


2018 Page One Awards in Magazine Journalism


2018 Page One Awards in Television Journalism


2018 Page One Awards in Radio Journalism


2018 Page One Awards in Online Journalism


2018 Page One Awards in Photography