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10 for 10: MinnPost co-founder Joel Kramer on the life and death of state Rep. Steve Smith

MinnPost is marking its 10th anniversary with a series called 10 at 10, a look back at the stories that have stuck with us.

Rep. Steve Smith, R-Mound, served his district and the state for 21 years running – the longest tenure of any House Republican at the time.

To mark MinnPost’s 10th anniversary, our writers and editors have dug into the archives to highlight stories that have stuck with them over the years, a series we’re calling MinnPost 10 at 10.

Today, we hear from our co-founder Joel Kramer, who served as Editor and CEO of MinnPost from 2007 to 2016: 

In late 2013, MinnPost created a part-time beat devoted to covering mental health and addiction, a critically important and undercovered subject in Minnesota and throughout the country.

The beat was inspired by my wife, Laurie, who earned a Masters in Public Health at the U at mid-career, and was running an annual mental health conference in the Twin Cities Jewish Community. Her experience with the conference convinced her how widespread mental health and addiction issues are; how challenging it can be those living with the diseases and for their families; and how often these diseases are misunderstood by the public.

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Mental Health and Addiction became our second group-funded beat, after the environment, and Sarah T. (Sally) Williams inaugurated our coverage, which has since been ably carried on by Andy Steiner.

Over the last four years, the beat has produced numerous memorable and important stories, but I especially recall the emotional impact of Williams’ April 2014 piece about the life and death of Steve Smith, a former state legislator who struggled with alcoholism. As much as any story we’ve published, it set a standard for great reporting, compelling storytelling and nonjudgmental compassion.

MinnPost 10 at 10

A former editor, publisher and president of the Star Tribune, Joel Kramer was involved in editing two investigative projects that won Pulitzer Prizes, one at Newsday and one at the Star Tribune. After leaving the Star Tribune, Kramer spent three years as a senior fellow in journalism at the University of Minnesota, six weeks as a political candidate, and four years running Growth & Justice, a think tank he founded to focus on state policy. He and Laurie Kramer co-founded MinnPost in 2007, which they ran until retiring in October of 2016. 

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From day one, MinnPost’s nonprofit newsroom has depended on support from readers. These tax-deductible donations have been instrumental in MinnPost’s growth and success.

As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we’re asking loyal readers to continue making MinnPost possible with a member contribution. These contributions, in any amount, are vital to our work.

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