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College scandals at the University of Minnesota and St. John’s bring Premack Awards

So there’s a silver lining when Minnesota colleges and universities screw up: journalists win awards.

Two of the six Premack Awards — for coverage of Minnesota public affairs — went to tales of campus misdeeds.

Twin Cities Daily Planet reporter Molly Priesmeyer’s probe of how the University of Minnesota’s mishandled the environmental documentary “Troubled Waters” deservedly won the breaking news award for smaller organizations.

Extra deliciousness: the University of Minnesota Journalism Center sponsors the Premacks. (MJC relies on community jurors to decide the winners.)

St. Cloud Times editorialist Randy Krebs, who ripped St. John’s University’s dismissal of McCarthy Center fellow Nick Coleman, took the large-organization editorial-writing award.

Here’s hoping the Premack crew invites City Pages’ Erin Carlyle to the April 18 ceremony; her original story on Coleman’s axing was a fine piece of work that included damning quotes from the conservative booster who pressured the school.

As in 2010, the Star Tribune won the large-org investigative/analytical award — this time for the solid “Losing Our Lakes” series.

Interestingly, general assignment reporter Jim Spencer and environmental reporter Tom Meersman have been reassigned since then. Spencer now covers Minnesota business influence in D.C., a worthy perch for his talents, while Meersman was moved to the west-metro bureau, which angered some environmentalists and Strib colleagues. (The well-regarded Josephine Marcotty now covers the beat.)

Another winning reporter also changed gigs. St. Cloud Times staffers Kirsti Marohn and Britt Johnsen took the small-org investigative award for “Gambling on Growth,” which chronicled losing Central-Minnesota development bets and the consequences for homeowners and taxpayers. Johnson has since left for the Winona360 nonprofit journalism venture out of Winona State; Marohn remains at the Times.

Bemidji Pioneer opinion/politics editor Brad Swenson won the small-org opinion award for his editorial, “Election Issues: Health Care.” It’s Swenson’s third Premack in three years; he’s really one of the better editorial writers and analysts in the state. If only the Pioneer’s owner, Fargo-based Forum Communications, would let individual editors make their own endorsements for statewide and federal offices.

And the Strib staff’s coverage of a deadly Minneapolis apartment fire won the large-org breaking news award.

Last but not least, MPR’s Gary Eichten won the Graven Award, given for excellence in the profession. Anyone who has listened to Eichten grill a politician knows this one is richly deserved.

While the winners I’ve read all are deserving, the Premacks have had a problem getting a critical mass of entries in some categories in recent years; I’ll check on participation later today.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 03/07/2011 - 07:11 am.

    Good for Molly. She was all over the “Troubled Waters” story, and stayed on it like a pit bull with lipstick.

  2. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 03/07/2011 - 07:29 am.

    Karen Himle immortalized!

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