Meet the Candidates for the MNSPJ Board of Directors

Members of the Minnesota professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists can vote between now and 12 noon on Aug. 3 to elect board leadership for 2021-22.

Electronic ballots are being distributed via e-mail. If you don’t receive a ballot, please contact us at

Results will be announced at the chapter’s annual meeting, which will be announced soon is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 3, at 6:30 p.m. at Dual Citizen Brewing Company in St. Paul. Any member can attend, but please RSVP so we know if a larger venue is needed.

Here are the candidates:


Brian Arola

Bio: I joined The Free Press in Mankato as a health and nonprofits reporter in 2016. While health was always my primary beat, it became even more of a focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of my work since early 2020 has involved reporting on COVID-19 trends in south-central Minnesota. My other coverage areas range from homelessness to local governments to refugee resettlement. Originally from the Iron Range in northern Minnesota, I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2013. I started my journalism career at the Hibbing Daily Tribune after being a student reporter at the Minnesota Daily.

Candidate Statement: My passion for local news comes from my experience working as an outstate reporter. Despite the vital role local journalism plays in Minnesota communities big and small, the challenges faced by our industry and the talented people called to work in it are larger than ever. For this reason, I feel now is the time for me to get more involved in advocating for journalists, highlighting and celebrating their work, and empowering the next generations as they prepare to enter the field. 

As president-elect, I’d intend to continue and build upon our chapter’s outreach to high school and college classes. Media literacy is an important issue to me, and meeting with classes to explain what we do and why it’s so important for a healthy society is a key way to promote it. I see great potential for initiatives like this in the Mankato area, but also statewide.


Taryn Phaneuf

Bio: Taryn Phaneuf is a digital journalist who cares about explaining what’s going on behind issues and trends, especially those that impact a person’s quality of life. She works as a data reporter and researcher at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. In addition to enterprise reporting, she is a passionate supporter of young journalists who teaches an introductory course in news writing and reporting at the University of Minnesota and serves as a volunteer writing coach at Mountain Workshops, an annual visual journalism boot camp put on by Western Kentucky University.

Candidate Statement: During my two years on the MNSPJ board, I’ve helped raise money for struggling journalists, speak out against First Amendment violations, and support young journalists who persist in learning and contributing to this craft despite its current challenges.
I think the importance of organizations like Minnesota SPJ has become even more obvious in the last year. I’m eager to continue as an advocate, which is why I’m asking for your vote to remain a board officer and serve as secretary. In that role, I will work to keep the board organized and accountable to MNSPJ’s mission and to bring fresh ideas and energy as we respond to important issues facing our industry.


Briana Bierschbach

Bio: My name is Briana Bierschbach and I’m running to be the treasurer of the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. I’m a state government reporter at the Star Tribune who has spent a decade covering politics, starting part-time at the Minnesota Capitol for the Associated Press right out of college. I’ve also worked for MinnPost and MPR News. 

Candidate Statement: Like any organization, the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists adapted and reevaluated it’s events and programs in the midst of a global pandemic that largely cut us off from one another. We were able to pivot to providing relief checks to journalists who lost their jobs and moved to a virtual Page One Awards event. I’d like to continue serving in my role as treasurer for another term and take some of the valuable lessons we learned during the pandemic into our future work, both in using our resources to help journalists who need it most and taking aspects of our virtual awards ceremony and adapting them for future events. 

Board members

Hal Davis

Bio: I’ve worked at UPI, the New York Post, Bloomberg Business News, the National Law Journal, the Dayton Daily News and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Candidate Statement: When I first ran, I said, “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.” My focus has been on legal developments, including actions to ensure that journalists — and all folks — have access to data that tells us how our government works — at government agencies, among lawmakers and in the courtroom.

This last year has been a turbulent one for journalists. On April 14, journalists were harassed and assaulted by law enforcement during demonstrations sparked by the police killing of Daunte Wright. Nothing new there. Journalists have been repeatedly shot with rubber bullets and/or sprayed with tear gas. SPJ supported attorney Leita Walker, who submitted a letter to Gov. Tim Walz and public safety officials that detailed mistreatment of journalists over several nights. In response, Minnesota police promised not to detain, threaten or rough up journalists covering protests.

The trial of Officer Derek Chauvin was televised. As Jane Kirtley pointed out, it was “the first criminal trial to be televised and live-streamed in Minnesota” and “appears to have broken a log jam that has blocked cameras from the Minnesota courts for nearly 40 years.” Minnesota Chief Justice Lorie Gildea authorized the court’s advisory committee to review and report recommendations by July 1, 2022. So we may see more cameras in Minnesota courts.

As a board member of SPJ and the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, I have supported efforts to have cameras at every stage of a criminal proceeding. I will continue that effort. Minnesota SPJ is a key element in the journalism ecosystem. I hope to help continue to its efforts.

Katie Galioto

Bio: I am a reporter covering St. Paul City Hall for the Star Tribune. I recently moved back to the Twin Cities from the paper’s Duluth bureau, where I spent a year and a half writing stories about the Northland. I joined the Star Tribune in 2019, shortly after graduating from the University of Notre Dame, and I’m originally from Minneapolis’ southwest suburbs.

Candidate Statement: Since joining the Minnesota journalism world, I have admired the work MNSPJ has done to give a voice to me and my colleagues. I would be honored to join the board to continue the years of work that others have spent protecting the rights of the free press, celebrating good journalism and building trust with the Minnesota communities we cover. For the latter, I am particularly interested in lending a hand with MNSPJ’s efforts to boost media literacy among high school students. I would also look forward to finding ways to help provide Minnesota journalists with opportunities to reconnect in person after more than a year of remote work.

Nicole Norfleet

Bio: Nicole Norfleet is a business reporter at the Star Tribune covering commercial real estate and professional services. She has been at the Star Tribune for about 12 years after graduating from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Besides her involvement with SPJ, she is also president of Twin Cities Black Journalists.

Candidate Statement: I would like to serve as an SPJ board member for the third time. I think with my involvement leading Twin Cities Black Journalists that I bring another important voice to the group. I’m passionate about media literacy and newsroom diversity, and I hope to help SPJ prioritize both in the coming years.

Catharine Richert

Bio: Senior ReporterMinnesota Public Radio I’ve been a reporter since 2005, starting my career covering public policy and politics in Washington, D.C. There, I worked for Inside Washington PublishersCongressional Quarterly, and PolitiFact. In 2011, I joined the politics team at Minnesota Public Radio where I launched PoliGraph, a weekly political fact-checking column and radio feature, while also reporting in-depth web stories that highlighted the influence of money on Minnesota elections and policies.

In 2016, I became MPR’s Southeast Minnesota reporter based in Rochester. This beat has given me immense freedom to bring our audience a variety of stories from a city and region changing quickly under Destination Medical Center, the largest economic development project in Minnesota’s history. For the last year-and-a-half, I’ve been MPR’s lead reporter on COVID-19, covering everything from daily press briefings to enterprise pieces that explain how the pandemic is changing Minnesotans’ lives. 

Candidate Statement: It would be my great honor to serve on the MNSPJ Board. As a reporter working outside the Twin Cities, I would bring to the job perspectives on how challenges facing all reporters – strapped resources, staff burnout, reporting under unprecedented and sometimes dangerous circumstances – are playing out in the newsrooms of greater Minnesota. 

I am eager to be involved in MNSPJ initiatives that advance the mission of journalism. In particular, I am excited to hear that the board is working to bring news literacy curriculum to students around the state. Now more than ever, journalists must be transparent about how they work, and to make the case to future audiences that this work matters.  

Finally, running for the MNSPJ Board is the culmination of two years of professional reflection: For many years of my career, I put my daily work first, and was not involved in the professional organizations that represent me. But during the isolation of the pandemic – and before that, living through the constant frustration of doing work that is less and less valued in American society – I realized that I want to do more to join my colleagues in advocating for and advancing the work of Minnesota’s journalists.