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Tell us your story: Former newsies reflect on their time in journalism

The Minnesota pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists salutes former journalists who have moved on to new adventures.  In this ongoing series, we invite newsies to reflect on their time in the news business.  Here is the first entry, from John Welsh, who spent two decades in the trade:

John Welsh, a registered nurse, worked for the St. Cloud Times and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

John Welsh, now a registered nurse, worked as a reporter for the St. Cloud Times and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Here’s what I miss most: the non-fatal fire.  In 20-plus years of newspaper work, I covered high school wrestling meets, regional trash commission meetings, mass shootings, Presidential appearances and funny pet stories.  But, really, does anything else reflect the joy and fun of being a reporter like a good non-fatal fire?  Each time, whether the fire was big or small, you had the classic ingredients for a story: a villain (the fire) and a hero (the fire fighters).  And, unless it was a springtime grass fire that lingered for days, the hero usually got the fire out before deadline.

Non-fatal fires always got better play than they deserved because flames and smoke equal good art and that’s the ticket to the front.  Of course, sometimes people or pets died in the fires.  Then the story arc became tragic and while some reporters may secretly yearn to write about tragedy, I never did.  Heroes bravely rushing in to save life and property to knock down a fire — that’s the story I wanted to tell.  I miss that.  It was fun.  And here’s the important part: when reporting is done well — on a fire story or any story — it is extremely valuable for our society.  It connects people to one another.  It builds community.

I commend those who are entering or sticking it out in journalism as it reinvents itself.  This messed-up world desperately needs good reporters.  And as you tweet, post online, create a podcast or write the story for the next day’s paper, I hope the fun of being a reporter remains, whether it is at the scene of a fire, a city council hearing or one of those awful regional trash commission meetings.

John Welsh worked for 20 years at newspapers across the Midwest, including six years at the St. Cloud Times and ten years at the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  In 2009 he became a registered nurse.  Twitter: @JohnWelshRN.

Have a reflection to share?  Send it to the Minnesota SPJ at minnesota.spj@gmail.com

December Sampler: Bemidji Pioneer reports from Standing Rock

The Bemidji Pioneer recently sent reporter Grace Pastoor to the anti-pipeline demonstrations at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.  The protests drew a handful of residents from Bemidji, the deep-woods northern Minnesota city with a significant indigenous population and a history of environmental activism.

The story, this month’s Minnesota Sampler, can be read here.

Murphy Hall panel to discuss state Data Practices Act

Join the Society of Professional Journalists for a public forum on the Minnesota Data Practices Act.

The forum, which will be held Dec. 8 at at the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, will include a panel of journalists and state administrators who will share their thoughts about collecting public data and interacting with public officials.

When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8.
Where: Room 130 of Murphy Hall at the University of Minnesota, 206 Church St. N.E. Minneapolis.

The event is being co-sponsored by the SPJ Minnesota pro chapter, the SPJ student chapter at the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information.

‘Off the Record’ holiday party is Dec. 15

Join the Minnesota SPJ pro chapter for it’s annual “Off the Record” holiday party!  All journalists (and friends of journalists!) are welcome.

“Off the Record” holiday party

When: 7-10 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15.
Where: Pizza Luce, 119 N. 4th St., Minneapolis.
Details: Cash bar; SPJ will supply the food

No RSVP is necessary, but visit us on Facebook and let us know whether you plan to attend: SPJ on Facebook.

This year’s event is being co-sponsored by the Minnesota chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association and the Twin Cities chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.  If your organization is interested in co-sponsoring, drop us an email at minnesota.spj@gmail.com.

Pulitzer winners debate trust in media at packed MNSPJ event

A panel of Minnesota’s Pulitzer Prize winners weighed the public’s declining trust in media at a packed event Thursday night.

The reception and panel, hosted by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, drew about 200 people to the Guthrie Theater to honor the 100th anniversary of the prizes and hear how its winners think journalism might rebuild trust.

Here are a few photos taken by MN-SPJ president Ben Garvin:

Panelists talked about their award-winning work and debated questions of trust to a packed crowd at the Guthrie Theater.

Panelists talked about their award-winning work and debated questions of trust to a packed crowd at the Guthrie Theater.

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MN-SPJ hosted the event, which was supported by the Guthrie Theater, Star Tribune and David and Leni Moore Family Foundation. MinnPost also supported the panel.

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MN-SPJ board member Laura Yuen introduced the topic and panel

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The panelists — Robin McDowell, Jacqui Banaszynski, Steve Sack and Jeremy Olson — took questions from the crowd, weighing coverage of the election.

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Moderator Chris Ison, now with the University of Minnesota

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Attendees watched a short film marking the 100th anniversary

The event was made possible by the support of the David and Leni Moore Family Foundation. The Mooores live in Minneapolis, and Mr. Moore is the great-grandson of Joseph Pulitzer.

The event was made possible by the support of the David and Leni Moore Family Foundation. The Moores live in Minneapolis, and Mr. Moore is the great-grandson of Joseph Pulitzer.

Jacqui Banaszynski, now an endowed Knight Chair professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, said that schools ought to bring back media literacy and civics in schools. There's too much "fake news," she said, and too many people falling for it.

Jacqui Banaszynski, now an endowed Knight Chair professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, said that schools ought to bring back media literacy and civics. There’s too much “fake news,” she said, and too many people falling for it.

 

October Sampler: APM report looks at Wetterling investigation

Check out this month’s Minnesota SamplerAmerican Public Media‘s nine-episode series about the 27-year investigation into Jacob Wetterling’s abduction.

The podcast, led by reporter Madeleine Baran, can be found here.