Candidate Statements for the MNSPJ 2017-18 Board of Directors

Minnesota SPJ members running for the 2017-18 Board of Directors have submitted the following statements. Electronic ballots will be mailed to all MNSPJ members currently in good standing with both the national organization and local chapter.

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Ballots must be submitted no later than noon on Friday, June 30. Results of this year’s election will be announced at the MNSPJ annual meeting July 18th at the Cardinal in Minneapolis. All MNSPJ members and local journalists are welcome to attend.

Please email with questions or concerns.


Joe Spear, editor of the Mankato Free Press

Biography: I have been the board secretary for the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists for the last year and a member of SPJ for more than 20 years. I am the editor of the Mankato Free Press, a position which I have held for 12 years. I have worked as reporter and editor at The Free Press for 27 years. I have also been on the board of the Minnesota Associated Press Association for approximately 15 years. I am on the journalism education committee of the Minnesota Newspaper Association and a mentor editor for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., the parent company of The Free Press. I have a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications and a master’s degree in economics from Minnesota State University, Mankato. I have been part of the MNSPJ FOIA committee for the last couple of years and have been involved in freedom of information and public access issues, including helping craft public statements by SPJ on important First Amendment issues. Working with our chapter President Ben Garvin, we met with the Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner to lobby for repealing the ban on cameras in Minnesota jails and prisons. We made a small inroad on this issue and plan a bigger push in the coming year. I represented SPJ at meetings with the Minnesota Coalition On Government Information in their efforts to change Minnesota law to increase the time government must retain emails and other correspondence. I am the media coordinator for the Fifth and First Minnesota Judicial Districts for the Cameras in the Court pilot program. Our news organization has made dozens of requests under this new program and I assisted in organizing media pools in some cases for access to court hearings. I plan to be a participant in the review process for this pilot program at the end of this year.

Statement: As president-elect, I would continue to emphasize and support the important FOIA and public access issues critical to all Minnesota journalists. We will continue our efforts to defend journalists in pursuit of First Amendment rights wherever they play out. I also plan to support and continue the important events that SPJ sponsored this year. Those programs included events with top notch journalists including Pulitzer Prize winners, and an ethics event with the Silha Center for Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota. The Minnesota chapter also sponsored a journalists/lawyers panel, and a “big story” panel. My goal would be to continue to offer our members these kinds of quality programs and networking events. I would also like to work with board members to upgrade the Minnesota SPJ website and bolster our online communications with members and the public at large. We live in an environment and time when good journalism is critical to the preservation of our democracy. Groups like SPJ play a key role in supporting journalists and defending the First Amendment. I welcome the support of SPJ members for the office of president-elect.


Christopher Snowbeck

Biography: My name is Christopher Snowbeck and I’m seeking re-election to the board as the chapter’s treasurer.  Currently, I’m completing my third year on the board, and second year as treasurer. I’ve been a business reporter at the Star Tribune since 2014, and worked eight years before that at the Pioneer Press.  I’ve been a reporter for a number of newspapers since graduating from Carleton College in Northfield in 1994.  I live in St. Paul.

Statement: I believe there’s a learning curve to some of the work we do on the SPJ board, particularly when it comes to the chapter’s budget.  I’d like to draw on what I’ve learned thus far to continue work on stable financials, updating our IRS status and developing new approaches to fundraising.  I think I’ve had some success in the past year generating financial reports that help the board analyze revenue and expenses, so I’d like to continue that work, as well. During the past year, I worked with board member Jenna Ross to plan an SPJ-sponsored event at the Guthrie Theater to honor the centennial of the Pulitzer prizes.  We drew a very nice crowd of nearly 200 people for a panel discussion featuring some of Minnesota’s past Pulitzer winners in the wake of the 2016 election.  In the coming year, I’d like to dedicate energy to highlighting more of the good work produced on a daily basis by Minnesota journalists.  Given all the noise about journalism these days, it’s important for our profession to explain, with sincerity and humility, how we’re trying to make meaningful contributions.


Fred Melo

As I approach the midpoint of my two-year term, I would be honored to be elected secretary of this board. We do important work and the public needs to be reminded that press freedoms matter. A selection of my contributions to date:
1. As a member of the Scholarship Committee, I’ve helped select the recipient for a $2,000 – $2,500 college scholarship.
2. I attended the EIJ (Excellence in Journalism) conference in New Orleans last year and voted on national resolutions.
3. I helped launch a web series called “Tell Us Your Story” that recruits retired journalists to pen 300 words on their life since journalism. Kind of a “Where are they now?”:
4. We as a board are judging the “Page One” awards from a sister chapter.
5. I helped coordinate and presented the “Tickling Giants” movie screening at St. Anthony Main through the U of M. This excellent but harrowing documentary focuses on press freedom in Egypt.
6. I’ve promoted the board and board events through social media and word of mouth, helping to garner press coverage, and helped staff events.


Board Members

Georgia Ellyse

Biography: Georgia Ellyse, Anchor at KBJR 6, wakes up the city of Duluth each morning with the most critical information they need to start their day. The St. Paul native has nearly a decade of broadcast experience that spans from public radio and government television to national commercial television broadcasting. As a journalist she publicly explores her passion for philanthropy and community involvement by giving a visual platform to the stories and individuals that continuously shape her community. Her coverage of a controversial officer involved shooting was nominated for an Emmy and received honorable mention by the Southeast Chapter of the National Academy of Television. Before her promotion as an anchor, Ellyse was the court and crime reporter for the ABC and Fox affiliates in Columbus, GA where she covered gruesome murder trials and uncovered a series of investigative pieces. In 2007, after her oldest daughter passed away, she became an Ambassador for Faith’s Lodge, a non-profit that provides retreat for parents who have lost a child. Ellyse graduated from the University of St. Thomas where she advocated for student parents and diversity inclusion. She has a 9 year old daughter and is engaged to St. Paul Business owner and professional boxer Cerresso Fort.

Statement: The Society of Professional Journalists is such a unique organization because it provides a vehicle to connect with other people in the industry. If granted the opportunity to serve on the board I hope to build awareness about SPJ among professional and student journalists in Northern Minnesota. I would love to contribute editorials to the website including a video series of the impact digital media has had on the Minnesota Television industry and as a former teacher, I would also like to participate with the scholarship aspect of MNSPJ. Finally, as a board member, if there were any other opportunities to offer the MNSPJ my knowledge and expertise of radio, television (both non-commercial and commercial formats) and digital media I would be more than grateful for the opportunity.

Youssef Rddad
Biography: I am the newly-minted investigative and enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, a chain of community weekly and semi-weekly newspapers tightly scattered about the east metro, southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. A Minneapolis native and University of Minnesota Journalism grad, I got my humble start at the Minnesota Daily where I kept tabs on university officials at a school rocked scandal after scandal. Not wanting to stray too far from home, I took a job at the Woodbury Bulletin. In the past year, I’ve covered everything from local government to eating contests, high-profile criminal proceedings to a woman who lost her chair. She has yet to find it but hasn’t abandoned hope. As of June 1, I will be leading our chain’s special projects and investigations team. I am also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. St. Paul is my home.
Statement: I want to contribute to SPJ’s mission of advocating for freedom of information, diversity and our profession. They are among my core values as a journalist, as I’m sure they are for others. Growing sentiment among public agencies to make information and data non-public is a deep concern of mine. As news organizations have been forced to scale down, they aren’t always able to fight the good fight and look to the local SPJ chapter to support their pursuit of reporting the truth. I also feel my background and recent navigation of the J-School to career pipeline will lend guidance and fresh insight for young and aspiring journalists who look to SPJ as a resource, especially minorities and those from diverse backgrounds. Their presence in newsrooms is sorely absent at all levels. My peers who took me under their wing and gave me a nudge in the right direction while interning at Pioneer Press and Star Tribune in college were monumental to my career. I’d like to be in a position to return the favor to others. Thank you for your consideration.
Libor Jany
Biography: Libor Jany covers crime and punishment in Minneapolis as part of the Star Tribune’s public safety team. He joined the newspaper in 2013, covering community events in Washington and Dakota counties. He’s also worked for newspapers in Mississippi, California, New Jersey and Connecticut
Statement: A recent trip to Pakistan highlighted for me the importance of advocating for and defending freedom of the press. While we usually don’t face the same constraints as some of our colleagues in other parts of the world (or the country, for that matter), journalism here still needs protecting. It seems that working with SPJ is a good place to start.
Lindsey Seavert
Biography: Lindsey was born not far from KARE 11 in Golden Valley, Minn. and grew up in the northwestern Twin Cities suburb of Plymouth, Minn. where she graduated from Osseo High School. She began her news career in Minnesota, reporting at KCCO-TV in Alexandria before heading out west to KTVN-TV in Reno, Nevada. Lindsey also spent several years at WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio and worked at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis before joining KARE 11. She’s earned several Emmy awards, a regional Edward R. Murrow award and a National Headliner award for her writing and reporting.

Statement: I am a reporter at KARE 11 striving to serve our community with stories that uplift, educate and inspire. I’m passionate about giving underrepresented communities a voice, and feel called to use my storytelling gifts for social good. I would like to apply to serve on the Board of the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists to give back to an industry that has given me a privileged front seat to the world. I feel it is my duty to mentor and guide the next generation of journalists in our rapidly evolving industry and the MNSPJ chapter would be a great vehicle to connect and strengthen the network of journalists across our state. By lifting up fellow journalists, we serve the public more effectively, which is an opportunity and victory for all Minnesotans.

Nicole Norfleet

Biography: My name is Nicole Norfleet. I’m a business reporter at the Star Tribune, where I have worked for almost seven years covering everything from small town politics to St. Paul crime. I’m also the vice president of print for the Twin Cities Black Journalists, the local chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. Journalism has always been a way for me to combine my love of writing to my weird habit of shooting the breeze with literally anyone. I’m originally from the East Coast, but I have claimed Minnesota as my home. I live in an old house in Dayton’s Bluff with my wife Liz and orange tabby Max.

Statement: After a push from a well-intentioned friend, I want to join the board of SPJ for a multitude of reasons. I have always admired the role that the local SPJ chapter has played in our journalism community from the Page One awards to standing up for the First Amendment in the KSTP petition, and I would like to contribute in my own ways. I think that there are some ways the local chapter can continue to improve. For one, I think we can do a better job amongst the local journalism associations (SPJ, TCBJ, AAJA) to coordinate programming that can benefit all of our members. With me being a board member of TCBJ, it could only help to make our communication and collaboration easier if we want to plan events or initiatives together. I also think that SPJ should provide more outreach to local youth in high school and college and help them connect with working journalists. There are several programs at community centers and schools in which students are already working on journalism-related projects and could use mentors. I also think it is SPJ’s role to help connect journalists to community members in general. During a time of strained relationships between the general public and mainstream media, I think there are actions that SPJ can take to educate the community about the media and provide resources for consumers. I hope to help SPJ explore some of these ideas in a board member role.

Hal Davis

Biography and Statement: I’m Hal Davis. I’m running for a seat on the board so that I can pay back SPJ for keeping me in the game. I had worked in New York as a reporter for UPI and the New York Post, and as an editor for Bloomberg Business News, the National Law Journal and, in Ohio, the Dayton Daily News. I joined SPJ while in Dayton. When I moved to the Twin Cities in 2007, the only byline I recognized was Ruben Rosario’s. I called on Dave Beal and Art Hughes of the Minnesota Pro chapter, who gave me the lay of the land and provided contacts. At the 2007 Midwest Journalism Conference (where I heard Maria Reeve introduce a panel of her mentors), I spoke from the audience at a public records panel. I recommended the Minnesota Open Government Guide published by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. A panelist, Paul Hannah, said, “I wrote it.” I landed a job as team leader for public safety at the Pioneer Press. When Senior Editor Sue Campbell asked me to succeed her as the PiPress representative on the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, it became my honor to serve alongside Professor Jane Kirtley. During her tenure as executive director of the RCFP, it had begun to produce the indispensable Open Government Guide. I took a buyout from the Pioneer Press and retired in March 2016.

But these are turbulent times. So I’d like to keep at it. It is a great and challenging time to be a journalist. The landscape is constantly shifting, but not our commitment to reporting the world accurately. The more we can share the vision of our profession – accuracy, accountability, and fairness – the more we can promote the flow of information, the more we can help journalists do their job, the better off our community will be.