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