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Pioneer Press’s Niskanen named DNR communications chief

Pioneer Press outdoors editor and columnist Chris Niskanen used to compete with the Star Tribune’s Dennis Anderson.

Pioneer Press outdoors editor and columnist Chris Niskanen used to compete with the Star Tribune’s Dennis Anderson. Now, Anderson, an indefatigable Minnesota Department of Natural Resources critic, can kick the crap out of Niskanen, who Tuesday was named the department’s communications director.

I’m checking to see if Niskanen is the first to leave a working journalist gig to sign up with Team Dayton. For example, during the Pawlenty administration, former colleague Nicole Garrison-Sprenger went to work for the Department of Commerce. It’s always a bit weird to me when journalists start working for the politicians they cover, but I have a call into Chris to see how the mating dance went down.

[Update: Seems Fox9 producer Kara Owens was the first to switch, in this case to the Department of Public Safety. But Owens says she busted the post-election move before Dayton was declared the winner.]

While not as lacerating as Anderson, Niskanen is a well-respected dude and a good writer: his book, “Prairie, Lake, Forest: Minnesota’s State Parks” (with photographer Doug Ohman) is a Minnesota Book Award finalist. That probably didn’t hurt in the job interview.

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Pioneer Press sports editor Mike Bass had just found out about the move when I called, so didn’t have any details about Niskanen’s replacement. It’s the second slot now open at the paper: former political reporter Jason Hoppin left for a California job recently.

For its last two reporting hires, the PiPress has posted the jobs internally first, and then filled from the outside whatever positions opened up.