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Community Ties

By Amanda Rider

Award Winners Celebrated and American Politics Discussed at Premack Lecture

Presidential forerunners and public affairs journalism were the talk of the night at the 28th annual Frank Premack Memorial Lecture, held at the Coffman Memorial Union Theater. Featured speaker and Rothenberg Political Report editor Stuart Rothenberg offered an informal rumination on "everything I know about American politics," and the 2005 Premack winners accepted their awards at the April 18 event.

Stuart RothenbergA national political handicapper and CNN analyst, Rothenberg talked to the crowd about the current mood in Washington D.C.--"foul"-- and sized up potential 2008 presidential candidates, including Senators Hillary Clinton, Bill Frist, John McCain, George Allen, and Chuck Hagel, and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Other topics included the 2004 elections; Rothenberg marked 2004 as "a year for incumbent winners" and observed that the presidential race was won because "President Bush convinced a majority of Americans that the war in Iraq was the 'War on Terror'."

The Frank Premack Public Affairs Journalism Award competition is one of Minnesota's most coveted and celebrated journalism honors. Started after the death in 1975 of Frank Premack, a reporter, city editor and assistant managing editor at the Minneapolis Tribune, the competition seeks entries from Minnesota newspapers reporting on public affairs in their community or region. The entries are judged by a panel of citizens representing the Minnesota community and public life in the arts, education, journalism, law, and politics.

The Star Tribune and reporters Mike Meyers and H.J. Cummins were the winners of the Metro-Daily Newspaper award for "The New Global Workplace" series about outsourcing, published on Sept. 5-7, 2004. Star Tribune assistant business editor Tom Buckingham accepted the award on behalf of the team. The Premack judges called the series "skillful" and "balanced," commenting that the story was "diversely approached and provided a balanced view against perceived public opinion."

Chris Thierfelder of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder was the winner of the Weekly Newspaper Award for the series "Minneapolis Empowerment Zones: Where did all the money go?" published on April 1, 8, and 15, May 20, and June 17, 2005. Accepting on his behalf was Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder editor Shannon Gibney. The Premack judges were impressed by Theirfelder's detailed research and the intricacy of the issues he covered in the series. "This was a complex and difficult issue to cover," the judges noted. "In-depth research brought in background to the evolution of empowerment zones from their creation in Congress to their local implementation. Each installment built the readers' understanding of the issue."

The Mankato Free Press and enterprise editor Kathy Vos were the winners of the Opinion Writing Award for "Blockers of School Play Choice Erred," published on April 12, 2004. Premack judges in the category noted that the editorial, which reported on a controversial local school board decision to cancel a high school play, "elevates the issue to a broader discussion of freedom of speech. It was extremely well written and makes a very persuasive argument. Quite an educable moment for everyone who reads this editorial."

D.J. Leary and Wyman Spano, co-editors of the political newsletter Politics in Minnesota, were the recipients of the 2005 Graven Award. The award is given each year to members of the journalistic community whose contribution to excellence in the profession merits special recognition. The award is named after David L. Graven, a close friend of Frank Premack, who served on the Premack Board until his death in 1991.

Introduced by longtime friend and Premack board member Lori Sturdevant as "the two people to go to regarding Minnesota politics," Leary and Spano spoke with pleasure and pride when recounting the story of their unique newsletter and great friendship.

The 2006 Premack Lecture, given by National Public Radio's Michele Norris will be held on April 17 in the Coffman Memorial Union Theater.

Talking to Tomorrow's Top Journalists

Most outreach efforts in the MJC center around providing professional development opportunities for working journalists and updating alumni on the goings-on of Murphy Hall and fellow graduates. This semester marked an expanded outreach path for the MJC--talking to high school students and their advisers about studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.

Students from the metro area were a top priority for MJC staff who attended the University of St. Thomas' inaugural Communications Career Day. The January event, held in St. Paul, Minn., was the perfect avenue to promote the benefits of a journalism education, as well as the types of SJMC scholarships and programs available to students from Minnesota.

April showers brought the MJC to Seattle for the National Scholastic Press Association/Journalism Education Association national conference. Thousands of students from Oregon, Florida, Washington, California, New Mexico, Texas and other points eastward descended upon the Emerald City for several days of lectures, writing contests, seminars and a trade show expo.

Information about the Star Tribune Scholars Program, as well as examples of student work and copies of the Minnesota Daily were top draws for the students in attendance. College of Liberal Arts Admissions counselors Adam Pagel and Kristin Smith joined the MJC's Kathleen Hansen and Amanda Rider in talking to students about academic opportunities, Minnesota winters and the benefits of a liberal arts education. Advisers received information about scholarships and SJMC courses, with special attention paid to those advisers from states that participate in reciprocity or tuition benefit programs with the U of M.

For students and advisers who signed up to receive more information about the SJMC, the opportunity to win an iPod and a $250 Amazon.com gift certificate were an added bonus. Congratulations to student Elaine Olbertz from Gig Harbor, Wash., who won the iPod, and to Albuquerque, N.M. adviser Scott McIndoo, who took home the gift certificate.

The School provided materials for high school students at two other venues this spring. In February, a book of student work and information about scholarship programs and the SJMC were available at the Washington Post's Diversity Day, as well as at a college fair on the Crazy Horse Reservation in South Dakota in April.

Listening to the "Voices of the People"

With the advent and ease of blogs, message boards and websites, personal opinion and life experiences have become accessible for media audiences accustomed to more traditional forms of journalist-generated content. . These audience-generated stories are authentic, unique and moving, but most of all, they are a new form of storytelling.

On Thursday, February 3, 2005, producers, online site managers, editors, writers, reporters and webmasters gathered for a Minnesota Journalism Center seminar entitled "Listening to the Voice of the People: Integrating User-Generated Content into Everyday News." Participants explored concepts and the means for telling, identifying and publishing user-generated stories that complement and enhance typical news coverage in any medium.

The workshop was led by Daniel Meadows, a professor at the Cardiff University School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies and creative director of the BBC's "Digital Storytelling" project, and Jody Abramson, a noted documentary producer who currently works for National Public Radio's "Speaking of Faith" program. Meadows and Abramson's morning presentation featured details from their collaboration on a digital storytelling project for the BBC's "Capture Wales" initiative. The "Capture Wales" project provided community members throughout Wales with the tools and training to tell their own stories for publication on the Web and for broadcast on television and the radio. A panel discussion in the afternoon featured Will Tacy, startribune.com editor, Andrew Haeg from Minnesota Public Radio's Public Insight Journalism project, and Jim Ragsdale from the Pioneer Press's "We the People" project. The panelists talked about how local journalists are encouraging and managing audience-generated content in traditional news outlets.