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Big night for MinnPost at SPJ awards: Ava Kian wins young journalist of the year; Peter Callaghan honored for First Amendment fight

Reporter Walker Orenstein and freelance contributor Pat Borzi were also honored for reporting in politics and government and sports, respectively.

group MinnPost staff shot
From left, MinnPost managing editor Harry Colbert Jr., reporter Ava Kian, editor Elizabeth Dunbar, reporter Peter Callaghan, reporter Walker Orenstein and associate editor Greta Kaul at the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists 2023 Page One Awards ceremony on July 26, 2023, in St. Paul.
MinnPost photo/Tanner Curl

MinnPost took home two of the most prestigious Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists 2023 Page One awards at Wednesday evening’s ceremony: Young Journalist of the Year to Ava Kian, our race and health equity reporting fellow, and the Peter S. Popovich Award to Peter Callaghan for exemplifying the fight to hold up journalists’ First Amendment rights. 

Reporter Walker Orenstein and freelance contributor Pat Borzi were also honored for reporting in politics and government and sports, respectively.

man accepting award with two others looking on
MinnPost photo/Harry Colbert Jr.
MinnPost state government reporter Peter Callaghan accepts the Peter S. Popovich Award. Also pictured are MN SPJ board members Max Nesterak of the Minnesota Reformer and Kirsten Swanson of KSTP-TV.
The Peter S. Popovich Award, which Minnesota SPJ board members described as the organization’s most prestigious, was awarded to Callaghan after his access to Minnesota House DFL press releases was cut off earlier this year over his questioning of a shortened news conference on a complicated free school lunch bill. While his access was restored after MinnPost protested, his treatment by Minnesota House staff was concerning, and MinnPost worked with other media organizations to send a coalition letter to make clear intimidation and threats against our journalists won’t be tolerated.

In brief remarks at the ceremony held at the Minnesota History Center in downtown St. Paul, Callaghan named and thanked the members of the coalition, along with other organizations that had expressed support.

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Kian’s nomination for Young Journalist of the Year included stories she wrote in 2022 about menthol cigarette use and prevention disparities, recruitment and retention of Black male teachers and the story of a domestic abuse survivor from Zimbabwe who found a new life in Minnesota.

Harry Colbert Jr., MinnPost managing editor and Kian’s editor, wrote in his nomination letter: “Ava is a rising star in the space of diverse community reporting, with an emphasis on health equity. Less than a year into her tenure with MinnPost, Ava has emerged as a trusted voice in our newsroom whose reporting stands as tall as anyone else’s in her space.”

Kian also won second place in feature reporting for the same three stories.

woman holding awards
MinnPost photo/Harry Colbert Jr.
MinnPost race and health equity reporter Ava Kian shows off her Minnesota SPJ Young Journalist of the Year and second place feature reporting awards at an event on July 26, 2023.
Orenstein, who leads MinnPost’s Greater Minnesota coverage including at the Legislature, won second place for politics and government reporting for coverage of the attorney general’s race, legislative politics on Minnesota’s Iron Range and politics in Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District.

Borzi won first place in sports news for stories about the University of Minnesota women’s volleyball team’s earning potential, a coffeeshop plus soccer complex and a profile of baseball star Luis Arraez.

Please join me in congratulating MinnPost’s journalists for these well-deserved awards, which follow an earlier announcement of Kian’s nomination for a National Association of Black Journalists Salute to Excellence award for the domestic abuse survivor story.

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