Alex Friedrich worked for Minnesota Public Radio News, the Pioneer Press and other newspapers during a 25-year career. He wrote the following for MNSPJ’s ongoing series, Tell us Your Story, a salute to former journalists who have moved on to new adventures.


The morning I was laid off from MPR News two years ago, I was stunned.

Me? I thought.

You’ve laid off ME?

That evening I considered calling friends at some Twin Cites news outlets. I’d show them who could bounce back.

After all, I’d had a rewarding career. I’d covered high-profile scandals and disasters here at home, and historic political moments in Europe and the Caucasus. I’d done investigations that brought about change, and written some goofy stories I still laugh about.

But I knew journalism wasn’t the gig it used to be. 

Budgets were tight, and travel budgets even tighter. By 2015, a big trip for me was an overnighter to an outstate Minnesota college. (Woo hoo!)

And the digital age had turned the old daily deadline into an all-day grind: news spots, debriefs, blog posts, tweets. Sometimes I had hardly a minute to think about what I was writing.

So when I thought about clawing myself back into the ring, I thought: Nah. Ain’t worth it. News is a young person’s game now.

And soon I started to think: This layoff is actually a good thing.

I’d long harbored the desire to teach. Getting the ax was the kick in the butt that I needed.

I rang up folks on my old higher-education beat, and they were surprisingly receptive. Who’d have thought I could use my old master’s degree in economics to teach at a community college?

By January 2016, I was running classes on two campuses.

Teaching is just like news, really: Take a complicated subject. Explain it in terms your average person can understand. Add a few anecdotes and some humor to make it interesting.

The students are your readers/listeners/viewers. They appreciate a good story. They seem to dig my old war stories as a business and economy reporter. And I use lots of news stories to illustrate the week’s topic.

I was up for one disappointment. At first I thought that being free from the newsroom meant I could show my political stripes. Not so.

I’m really under the same old constraint of political neutrality, though it’s self-imposed this time. I wear these shackles once again because I’d hate for a student to tune out my economic lessons because he or she doesn’t like my politics. And my students say they appreciate it.

What I relish most is the time and freedom I have – what reporters always crave. With no deadline hanging over my head, I can take plenty of time to research and actually think — THINK — about the material I’m about to present.

Make no mistake: It’s a lot of work. Most of it is outside of the classroom.

But I’m my own boss. My dean handles administrative matters, but I run the show in the classroom. My ideas. My approach. My voice.

I still don’t travel for work, of course. But when winter or summer break rolls around, I’ve got my airplane ticket in hand – and plenty of time to enjoy the trip.  

Page One Awards: Deadline Extended to March 2!

We’ve heard that you could use a bit more time to get those last Page One Award entries in. So we are extending the deadline to March 2 at 5 p.m.

Any entries submitted between now and then will be judged against the full set of entries. 

Did you know your Twitter account is eligible for an award? Under “Online,” categories include individual and institutional social media accounts. Yes, there’s an award for that!

Contest winners will be honored at MN SPJ’s Page One Banquet, an annual spring event celebrating excellence in Minnesota journalism. The date and location for the banquet will be announced later.

Important Links:

Please contact MN SPJ with any questions:



Sports and race event took on tough questions

Panelists at the sports and race event included from left to right Ray Richardson, KMOJ radio personality and former sportswriter for the Pioneer Press, Rebekkah Brunson, Lynx forward, and Carl Eller, retired Vikings defensive end and one of the illustrious Purple People Eaters. The panel was moderated by Rana L. Cash, NFL editor at the Star Tribune. Photo courtesy Melody Gilbert.


Twin Cities Black Journalists, along with the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, hosted a panel on “Where Race and Sports Intersect” on Jan. 23.

Turnout was great with about 80 people in attendance. The panel focused on how race, culture and sports have intersected and how it should be covered by the media.

Panelists included Carl Eller, retired Vikings defensive end and one of the illustrious Purple People Eaters; Rebekkah Brunson, Lynx forward; and Ray Richardson, KMOJ radio personality and former sportswriter for the Pioneer Press.

The panel was moderated by Rana L. Cash, NFL editor at the Star Tribune.

The panelists had a frank and open discussion on controversial subjects from NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to Lynx players wearing T-shirts addressing the Philando Castile shooting.

Eller noted the tradition of players standing at attention for the national anthem started with longtime Vikings coach Bud Grant and his players. Brunson spoke about differences between players’ freedom of expression in professional football and professional basketball.

Richardson spoke about the different expectations for black players and white players to comment and participate in demonstrations.

Video of the panel can be viewed here. The Star Tribune published a story on the event and The Mankato Free Press published an editorial.

Hate in the Headlines seminar draws crowd

The “Hate in the Headlines” seminar drew a capacity crowd at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism. Photo courtesy of Melody Gilbert.

A seminar on covering hate groups and bias crimes that included prosecutors, victims, researchers and the FBI drew a capacity crowd Jan. 19 at the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The seminar was sponsored by the Minnesota Journalism Center, the Hubbard School and the Minnesota Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Participants heard from Assistant Anoka County Attorney Brenda Sund and victim Asma Jama as they retold the story of a hate crime that made headlines across the state. Jeff Van Nest, FBI Minneapolis Division Counsel,  gave a detailed analysis of how the FBI defines and prosecutes hate crimes.

The Southern Poverty Law Center Research Director Alex Amend, a U of M grad, provided a thorough report on the center’s nationwide tracking of hate groups and bias crimes. Jane Kirtley, Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the school of journalism, detailed the legal and ethical implications of covering these groups and these events.

Participants picked up reporting tips and learned of resources that can bolster their coverage of this emerging topic in today’s divided America. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s presentation can be found here…t/uploads/UMN-Presentation.pdf

News organizations large and small gave the event high marks for the depth and breadth of the materials covered.


Attention college journalists: The Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists (MNSPJ) is now accepting applications for its 2018 student scholarship. This year, MNSPJ will award one $2,500 scholarship to a student pursuing a career in broadcast, print, online or visual journalism. A second winner will receive a $700 stipend to attend SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism, an annual national conference for professional and college journalists that will be held Sept. 27-29 in Baltimore.

Applicants must either be enrolled in a post-secondary institution in Minnesota or have graduated from a high school in Minnesota and be enrolled in college elsewhere. Preference will be given to Society of Professional Journalists members.

Click here to submit an application form –- the first step. Email the additional application materials to Here’s what’s required:

Application form, which can be found here
College transcript
Letter of recommendation
Essay (limited to 500 words): Why have you chosen journalism as a career?
Up to six samples of work via a link to your portfolio, a PDF of clips or story URLs

Applications must be received by March 31, 2018. No late submissions will be accepted. The scholarship winners will be announced prior to MNSPJ’s annual Page One Awards banquet, where recipients will receive their awards.

Questions? Email


The Minnesota Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (MN SPJ) recognizes the best in Minnesota journalism each year with its annual Page One Awards.

As always, a few minor changes have been made to this year’s contest. In particular, we’ve made revisions to certain categories in the Newspaper division in response to feedback from our members. The new categories are:

  1. A division of the Enterprise/In-Depth category into single story and series categories, to better showcase the best in both types of work.
  2. A revision to the Arts Criticism/Review category (new last year) to allow an individual journalist to be judged on the strength of a body of work, rather than a single story. Journalists can now enter up to three examples of their work. This change has been applied in both the Newspaper and Online divisions.
  3. A division of the Best Sports Story category to two new categories: Best Sports News Story and Best Sports Feature Story, to allow us to celebrate more of the great sports journalism done in Minnesota.

This year, MNSPJ has elected to hold the price of a contest entry steady at $22 — the same as last year.


Journalists working for all print, broadcast and online news outlets in Minnesota (or news outlets in neighboring states that cover Minnesota) are eligible to enter. All work published or broadcast during the 2017 calendar year is eligible. Entries must be submitted by Friday, February 23. 

Contest winners will be honored at MN SPJ’s Page One Banquet, an annual spring event celebrating excellence in Minnesota journalism. The date and location for the banquet will be announced later.

Important Links:

Please contact MN SPJ with any