How to cover politics in northern Minnesota, and other quandaries

PHOTO: Axel Bührmann, Flickr CC-BY

One of my life’s most interesting relationships has been with the word, “journalism.” I’ve always considered myself a journalist, even after leaving daily newspapers 21 years ago. But the nature of that relationship changed with time and trends. 

In college during the late 1990s, our journalism professor bemoaned “citizen journalism,” a reference to the idea that anyone could be a journalist. Unedited work. Bias. Influence. Who would keep these things out if citizen journalists ran the show? 

Then we were all blitzed with technology that gave every human on earth the opportunity to become Walter Cronkite if they just got enough clicks. It was during this period that I left daily journalism to become a teacher and, gulp, “citizen journalist.” My official titles have since included columnist, author and blogger. And though I expressed opinions, I still felt that my opinions were shaped by the standards of journalism, that my work should be judged on the merits of its construction. This let me feel better about my status as a fallen journalistic angel, anyway, even though my code of conduct was entirely self-imposed. 

Here we are today. I think most Americans would struggle with a precise definition of “journalism,” and that — as a general concept — they don’t like it. The internet mingles news and commentary like scrambled eggs, and it’s safe to say some bad eggs end up in the pan. 

But people still consume news and commentary. They’re hungry for it, even, bad eggs and all. How do journalists who care about their craft adjust? How can a political system running a fever of 105 coincide with the nobler concepts from Journalism 101?

Let’s find out.

On April 10, the University of Minnesota-Duluth is hosting an all-day event called “Journalism in the Northland.” 

First, the day begins with an event for high school and college students called “Great Adventures in Journalism.” This runs from 2-4 p.m. at UMD. You can preregister here. The event allows students to interact with journalists like Laura Lee from Northern News Now, Dan Kraker from Minnesota Public Radio, Katie Rohman from the Duluth News Tribune, and Neal Justin and Laura McCallum from the Star Tribune.

Next, from 5-7, there will be a “Media Mixer” for regional professionals in the journalism industry. This will be at Zeitgeist Arts in the Atrium at 222 E. Superior Street in Duluth. 

Finally, the evening event is a public forum called “Covering Politics in Greater Minnesota.” I’ll be moderating this event, with panelists to include Marshall Helmberger of The Timberjay, Tom Olsen of the Duluth News Tribune, Renee Passal of WDIO News and Laura McCallum of the Star Tribune. With the election approaching, this could be an interesting discussion.

All events are free, but you should RSVP to Neal Justin at

A friend also forwarded a virtual event at 6 p.m. CST, Tuesday April 9, by the Freelance Solidarity Project called Journalism Futures: The Fight Ahead. For those in the complicated world of freelancers, check that out.


  1. Joe musich says

    Any chance on the UMD event being zoomed ? Thanks

    • Hi Joe — I don’t know. I’m just the moderator, and it’s not my event. I will check and, if they do plan to record or stream it, I will share that here.

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