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An interview with MinnPost editor Elizabeth Dunbar

“Engaging readers in helping shape local journalism is one of the best trends that’s reached local news organizations around the country.”

In July, we welcomed Elizabeth Dunbar as MinnPost’s new editor. She came to us from Minnesota Public Radio News, where over 12 years she built a strong reputation for leadership and innovation as a reporter, editor and, most recently, assistant program director.

As editor, Elizabeth plays a significant role in determining MinnPost’s editorial strategy. I wanted to make sure our members and readers had a chance to hear directly from her on what’s driving her work.

You’ve worked your entire career in local news. Why do you think this work is important, and what excites you about how MinnPost fits into the local media landscape?

Elizabeth Dunbar: Local news remains an essential source of information for people, whether they get it from traditional sources like a printed newspaper or from newer distribution methods like social media or newsletters. Because it’s so essential, it’s highly shareable. That means local news organizations have an opportunity to help connect people with resources and with each other in unique ways. Engaging readers in helping shape local journalism is one of the best trends that’s reached local news organizations around the country.

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While it wasn’t a big part of my journalism education, I’ve been lucky to be among those who have experimented with audience and community engagement in ways that can make the journalism stronger and better connected to communities. I’m excited to continue MinnPost’s tradition of independent, in-depth journalism on public affairs and culture while also helping the newsroom become even more intentional about reaching out and connecting with the communities affected by the issues and decisions our journalists are covering in the news.

You started your journalism career as a reporter. How has that experience informed how you approach running a newsroom?

Elizabeth Dunbar
Elizabeth Dunbar
ED: It’s so noisy out there! Think about how many emails, texts and social media updates you receive every day. Reporters are often very good at cutting through the noise and figuring out what really matters — or discerning what’s not being said. But even after cutting through all of that information, good reporters will still end up with more story ideas than they could possibly pursue.

When I was a reporter, I would often turn to my editors for guidance. As the leader of MinnPost’s newsroom, my hope is that I can help guide reporters and editors toward stories that will make the most impact. That means we might choose not to follow the story that other news organizations are already chasing, but maybe we can offer some additional analysis or synthesize data that brings a new dimension to a story in the news.

I also feel like my reporting habits and methods evolved over the years toward becoming more audience-centered. I’m excited to encourage MinnPost’s reporters to try audience-centered approaches in their reporting and will help the staff stay aware of the forever changing media landscape so that MinnPost remains a vital statewide news source.

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As MinnPost approaches its 15th anniversary, what are your hopes as we move into the organization’s next chapter?

ED: I’m excited about the three-year strategic plan MinnPost will implement soon. It will challenge the newsroom to be even more nimble with the ways we connect with our audience, and it will also challenge us to find ways to connect with and serve communities that traditionally haven’t been represented or well-served by news organizations. You’ll be hearing more about our plans soon!

What brings you joy outside of work?

ED: My kids! My husband and I have a 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter who keep us moving. Right now, they’re into soccer, swimming, rock collecting and Harry Potter. They’re also trying to convince us they need a dog. (We got a fish last year and they stuck to the very easy fish feeding routine for maybe a week. No dog yet.)