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MNSPJ disappointed in Supreme Court decision in Metro Transit case

The Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists is disappointed in the 3-2 decision of the Minnesota Supreme Court to deny KSTP-TV access to public information regarding public safety on a Metro Transit bus.

We agree with the dissenting opinion of Justice David Lillehaug and Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, who agreed with an earlier ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals and an administrative law judge at the Department of Administration, both of whom ruled the video footage was public.

We agree with the dissent that noted the majority ruling “misreads” the Data Practices Act and essentially would allow government agencies to change public data into private data at their whim or whenever it made them look bad.

As the case is being sent back to the Office of Administrative Hearings for clarification on some minute details, we are hopeful that office will see that the minor issues brought up by the majority opinion should be outweighed by the presumption of openness in Minnesota’s Data Practices Act.

We applaud KSTP for pursuing this important public access case to the highest levels of the Minnesota judiciary and pressing the case — not just for journalists, but for the public at large.

We’re troubled by Metro Transit’s intransigence in this case and its apparent willingness to fight until the end to keep the public in the dark about its taxpayer-funded activities.

For more information about this statement:

Ben Garvin
c: 612-910-1499


Joe Spear
c: 507-317-8073

Minnesota Sampler

St. Cloud Times reporter Mitch LeClair took a closer look at the challenges people face in overcoming criminal backgrounds after two schools in his newspaper’s coverage area, the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, signed the White House Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge.  The pledge encourages schools to fairly consider applications from people with criminal records.

LeClair’s subsequent article included comments from two men who shared their stories about the difficulty of getting a college education and obtaining licenses for certain jobs after being convicted of crimes.

Link to the piece here.

Congratulations to MNSPJ’s new board members

The Minnesota Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists held its annual meeting Wednesday night, where it counted and announced the results of its annual election.

Members elected Jenna Ross, a reporter for the Star Tribune, as president-elect, re-elected Chris Snowbeck, a reporter for the Star Tribune, as treasurer and elected Joe Spear, Mankato Free Press managing editor, as secretary.

Ben Garvin, KARE11 photojournalist, will serve as president in the coming year after being elected last year.

Full results for this year’s election are below.

(One-year terms)


President (elected in 2015): Ben Garvin

President-elect: Jenna Ross

Secretary: Joe Spear

Treasurer: Christopher Snowbeck

(Two-year terms)


Nathan Hansen

Frederick Melo

Stephen Montemayor

Laura Yuen

Congratulations to our new board members and thanks to all the members who voted.

June Sampler: Medical marijuana too costly for many

Each month, SPJ’s Minnesota Samper highlights a work of journalism from around the state.

In this month’s Sampler, Brian Arola of the Mankato Free Press shares the story of local couples that would like to treat their ailing children with cannabis now that Minnesota has legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.  One problem: the families can’t afford medical cannabis, and their health insurers won’t cover it.

See the story here.

St. Cloud Times staff, Star Tribune reporters garner top 2016 Page One awards

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart gave the keynote address.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart gave the keynote address.

A newspaper confronting fear and misconceptions about refugees in its town, a veteran reporter who’s churned out countless investigative stories, and a digital journalist who teaches the next generation of news hounds were among the big winners Wednesday at the 2016 Minnesota SPJ Page One Awards.

The St. Cloud Times’ wide-ranging exploration of immigration issues, which included a special fact-checking series, was named Story of the Year.

Two Star Tribune reporters received special recognition.  Photojournalist Renee Jones Schneider won the title of Journalist of the Year while digital journalist C.J. Sinner — also a University of Minnesota instructor — was named Young Journalist of the Year.

Longtime investigative journalist Paul McEnroe, formerly of the Star Tribune and now an executive producer with KSTP 5, received the 2016 Peter S. Popovich Award, which is given to a person or organization that exemplifies the fight for First Amendment rights.

The Page One Awards recognize the best in Minnesota journalism.  More than 120 journalists working in print, TV, radio and online attended the event, which was held at the Town and Country Club in St. Paul.  The entries for this year’s awards were judged by members of the Colorado pro chapter of SPJ.

Jonathan Capehart, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and member of the Washington Post editorial board, gave the keynote address.  Capehart discussed the increasing role that digital media plays in journalism, noting that reporters must now produce more and more content in less time – all the while interacting with news consumers on Twitter and other social media venues.  He urged reporters to stick up for their work, saying, “Be sure you are reminding the reader or listener that you put in a lot of hard work in what you do.”

Minnesota SPJ also announced the winners of two student scholarships.  Jacob Belgum, a junior at Augustana University, and Ellis Williams, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, each will receive $2,000.  Generous donations from the event’s silent auction help to fund the scholarships every year.

The awards ceremony was hosted by Jana Shortal, a reporter and co-anchor of KARE 11’s “Breaking the News.”

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 full program can be viewed here: SPJ Page One Program 2016

Join Us for a June 21 Networking Happy Hour

IMG_0958Unwind and network with your fellow journalists at our After Deadline happy hour! This is one of many events that Society of Professional Journalists chapters are holding across the country on June 21 in order to give journalists a chance to meet others in the profession.

Event is open to members and nonmembers alike, though we’d love for you to consider joining SPJ. The event is being sponsored by MNSPJ, AAJA-MN and TCBJ.

When: Tuesday, June 21, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Grumpy’s Bar & Grill

1111 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415

Let us know on Facebook whether you’re interested in coming. We look forward to seeing you!