Meet the Candidates for the 2023-24 MNSPJ Board of Directors

Members of the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists can vote between now and 5 p.m. on Aug. 21 to elect board leadership for 2023-24.

Electronic ballots will be distributed via e-mail. If you don’t receive a ballot and are eligible to vote, please contact us at

Results will be announced at the chapter’s annual meeting, which will be announced soon. Any member can attend, but please RSVP.

Here are the candidates:


Kirsten Swanson

Bio: Kirsten Swanson is an award-winning investigative reporter at KSTP-TV. Hired in 2017 as a general assignment reporter, she’s covered a variety of topics for the TV station, including criminal justice and social services. Before moving to Minnesota, she worked as an anchor and reporter in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Rapid City, South Dakota. In her free time, she enjoys running, reading, cooking and riding horses.

Candidate Statement: I was elected to the MNSPJ Board of Directors last year. In that time, I’ve helped plan several events that brought our professional journalism community together. Coming together is more important than ever. That’s why I’m running for the position of president-elect. As president-elect — and then president — I want to bolster those partnerships to increase MNSPJ’s membership in Minnesota, as well as advance our advocacy work around First Amendment issues that our journalism community faces. I also believe it’s important to prioritize training and other educational opportunities for local journalists. MNSPJ is in a unique position to tap into its national resources and offer those opportunities, but also should be leveraging local relationships with professional journalists who can share their own expertise.


Katie Galioto

Bio: I am a reporter covering St. Paul City Hall for the Star Tribune. I previously covered northern Minnesota for the paper out of its Duluth bureau, which I joined in 2019. I’m a Twin Cities native and was first elected to the MNSPJ Board in 2021.

Candidate Statement: During my two years on the MNSPJ Board, it’s been energizing to engage with so many journalists across our state. After a few completely remote years, I’ve helped with MNSPJ events geared at bringing journalists back together, including mixers, workshops and our annual Page One Awards. I’ve also worked to reach more college students and advocated for the rights of the free press.
As secretary this past year, I’ve strived to keep our board organized and in alignment with the bylaws and mission of MNSPJ. Moving forward, I would like to continue improving MNSPJ’s internal and external communications, in the hopes of boosting membership by connecting with even more journalists across the state.


Max Nesterak

Bio: My name is Max Nesterak and I’m running to serve on the board of the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. I am the deputy editor of the Minnesota Reformer, where I cover labor and housing. Previously, I worked as a producer and reporter at MPR News and at NPR on the podcast Hidden Brain. I also was an editorial assistant to Angela Duckworth for her New York Times Bestseller “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” and was a Fulbright scholar to Berlin, Germany.

Candidate Statement: I joined the MN SPJ board about 18 months ago as an appointed member, and was elected treasurer last year. I’m running to serve as treasurer to continue assisting the board in carrying out its duties and managing its finances. I’m passionate about freedom of the press, government transparency and diversity in journalism and would aim to advance those issues as a board member and treasurer.

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.

As a board member of SPJ and the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, I engaged MNCOGI board members Mary Jo Webster and Don Gemberling to train Minnesota journalists in the state’s public record laws.

Thanks to the televised trials of Derek Chauvin and Kim Potter, we will see more cameras in Minnesota courts. MNSPJ, with the help of past president Joe Spear, helped persuade the Minnesota Supreme Court to allow cameras during criminal trials. I plan to help set up a training session for journalists before cameras are permitted starting Jan. 1, 2024. I have supported efforts to have cameras at every stage of a criminal proceeding. I will continue that effort.

I also helped MNSPJ find pro bono legal help when we were threatened by a copyright troll supposedly representing the Associated Press.

Melinda Lavine

Bio: Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 17 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014 as its features editor, and today, she writes about the people, the heartbeat of the community.
Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

In 2006, she earned bachelor’s degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota, and that summer, she started her career as a copy editor and page designer at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, a Forum Communications Co. sister publication. In 2012, she helped launch the Herald’s features section, as the editor, before moving east to do the same at the DNT.

Candidate Statement: I’m passionate about covering BIPOC and marginalized communities, and leading with heart and compassion in my storytelling. What interests me about serving on the MN SPJ board is the opportunity to lend a hand to up and coming journalists and writers, our next-generation storytellers, and be part of a network of resources that I wanted and needed. (I’m also looking forward to learning whatever I can while serving alongside a dedicated group of journalists.)

Torey Van Oot

Bio: I’m currently a reporter for Axios Twin Cities, where I write a daily newsletter that helps metro residents get smarter, faster about the news unfolding in thier own backyard. Prior to joining Axios, I worked as a political reporter at The Star Tribune and The Sacramento Bee, and editor and writer at Refinery29 and an editor on the national digital desk for 11 NBC Owned Television Stations. My freelance reporting has also appeared in publications ranging from InStyle to The Washington Post.

Candidate Statement: I’ve enjoyed jumping in as a board director this past year. In my first year in the role, I helped plan the Page One Awards and launched an occasional web posting seeking to promote local jobs in media for our members. My primary goals for a second term will be to help Minnesota SPJ rebuild our membership ranks and organize programming and events that allow members of Minnesota’s media community to connect and build new skills.

Deena Winter

Bio: I’ve been a journalist for over 30 years in North Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado and now Minnesota, covering everything from school boards to city councils to state Legislatures to presidential candidates and lizards in lettuce in grocery stores.
I started out at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota and worked there off and on for many years, was briefly a stringer for the Denver Post, covered city hall in Lincoln, Nebraska, for a decade and was an editor of eight weeklies in the western suburbs of Minneapolis for three years. In 2020, I was a freelancer for the first time in my journalism career, and ended up writing/helping with stories for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.
I also began freelancing for an upstart called the Minnesota Reformer, and was hired full time in September 2021.

Candidate Statement: Honestly, I got involved with SPJ when Fred Melo called me out at the end of the 2022 SPJ Page One Awards, asking me to apply. I joined to help out where I can, when I can. I’m particularly interested in freedom of the press issues, and would like to see SPJ get more involved on this front. After decades working within the confines of public records laws in several states, I have a decent handle on the law and am always up for defending and strengthening reporters’ ability to peer inside the bowels of government.
Right now, for example, I think we should be weighing in on DHS deleting emails older than a year. In my dream world, we would also beef up the DPA laws, but that’s often an elusive goal.