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Star Tribune sends Spencer to Washington bureau

Last month, I noted the Star Tribune would “likely” add a third reporter to their Washington bureau. Well, they’ve announced it: Jim Spencer will “reveal how politics and business intersect in the nation’s capital through a Minnesota lens,” according to a staff memo (below).

I hope Spencer rented here; he arrived at the Strib last fall from Denver, where he had been a columnist. Spencer quickly become a featured reporter, snagging Haiti bylines and co-authoring the “Losing Our Lakes” project.

He might have some insights into the medical industry’s Washington doings; in the two years between Denver Post and Star Tribune gigs, Spencer was communications director for the University of Colorado Denver school of medicine. He also wrote for the lefty site Colorado Confidential, part of the same network as Minnesota Independent.

The Strib also announced that health-business reporter Chen May Yee, who is moving to Malaysia, will freelance, covering Minnesota businesses in southeast Asia. You could say the Strib has re-opened a foreign bureau of a sort.

Finally, personal finance columnist Kara McGuire will add digital producing to her duties for the business desk.

Here’s the memo from managing editor Rene Sanchez and assistant managing editor for business Todd Stone:

We are delighted to announce three steps certain to expand the ambition and scope of our business coverage next year:

In this new role, Jim’s mission will be to reveal how politics and business intersect in the nation’s capital through a Minnesota lens. The state’s largest companies and industries all have a presence in DC and a big stake in how Washington works.

Since he arrived at the Star Tribune last fall as a general assignment reporter, Jim has repeatedly shown that he is a hard-charging self-starter with a keen eye for ambitious, distinct journalism, and a reporter and writer with great range. Over the past year, he has reported from Haiti, helped anchor our excellent “Losing Our Lakes’’ series, and produced compelling stories on everything from the growing prevalence of elderly suicide to the scourge of accidental shootings among young people in Minnesota.

His story on scientists battling to regain public support for animal research in medicine won the 2010 Michael DeBakey National Journalism Award. Before joining the Star Tribune, Jim worked as a columnist for the Denver Post and the Newport News. Prior to that, he held a number of writing jobs with the Chicago Tribune, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, among others. Jim’s assignment in Washington will begin sometime in February.

In this new role, Kara will help coordinate our daily report on the web and mobile, and lend her voice and entrepreneurial spirit to expand our digital ambitions for business coverage. It’s a natural step for her, as someone who is quite digitally savvy and who has been at the forefront of the newsroom’s efforts to grow on the web. In recent months, she has been a vital part of newsroom task forces on social media and digital strategies for our business coverage. This is a part-time role, so Kara will continue to write her personal finance column on Sundays, blog, and write an occasional story.

Over the past five years, she has covered a broad range of topics, including investments, housing, student loans and retirement. In 2006, she spent a year following families trying to get out of credit card debt long before the extent of the debt crisis in America was clear. That same year, she started the first business news blog at the Star Tribune, which she has been writing ever since.

Kara is a former producer with Minnesota Public Radio’s Marketplace Money program. She will begin this new challenge early next year.

As you all know, May and her family are moving to Malaysia early next year. But we’ve found a silver lining in her departure: Once she gets her family settled in Kuala Lumpur, we expect to have recurring freelance contributions from May focused on the growing presence of Minnesota business in southeast Asia — a big and dynamic new marketplace for many of the state’s largest companies.

This is terrific news because May is an outstanding business journalist with a knack for finding great in-depth stories and writing them well.

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