DULUTH, Minn. – Duluth News Tribune Investigations Editor Brandon Stahl was named Journalist of the Year on Tuesday by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. He was up against journalists from Minnesota newspapers, websites and alternative newspapers of all sizes.
Stahl’s work in the last year has earned numerous national, regional and state awards, including from Scripps Howard, Investigative Reporters and Editors, American Health Care Journalists, the national SPJ and the Minnesota Newspaper Association.
The three stories submitted to SPJ as examples of Stahl’s work included “Two Stories, One Truth,” a detailed examination of a rape case against a 17-year-old Superior boy that was ultimately dropped for lack of evidence; “The Case of Dr. Konasiewicz”; and “Treatment without Parole,” an examination of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.
The newspaper nominated Stahl because of his “persistence, skill and passion for the truth,” Managing Editor Georgia Swing said in her nomination letter to SPJ.
“Brandon … uses his extensive training from Investigative Reporters and Editors to guide our staff in investigative reporting on their beats,” Swing wrote. “For example, he was the editor on Peter Passi’s investigative story on Excelsior Energy (“Millions in public money spent, but power plant is still just a dream”). … As he assigns and works with reporters on their stories, Brandon juggles reporting of his own and regularly produces some of our newspaper’s best work.”
SPJ gave Passi a first-place award in investigative reporting for his series on Excelsior Energy, a proposed clean energy plant for the Iron Range that has received millions in public dollars over the last decade but has little to show for it.
Stahl said he was “incredibly honored” by the award. He thanked Swing and Executive Editor Robin Washington for investing the time necessary to do investigative stories.
“It shows the value of going after public records, of being an aggressive reporter and doing stories that matter to our readers,” Stahl said.
Stahl’s and Passi’s awards were among 11 the News Tribune received.
“The case of Dr. Konasiewicz,” the series by Stahl and Stodghill, was named story of the year among publications of all sizes. The series was about Dr. Stefan Konasiewicz, who continued practicing at St. Luke’s for years despite malpractice settlements and questions about his skills that eventually led the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice to discipline him.
“We’re terribly proud of Brandon and all of our staff,” said Washington. “More than the well-deserved personal honor, these awards highlight the important role that journalism plays in the life of our community, examining issues that matter and affect real people.”
Runners up for story of the year were “A lethal dose” by Star Tribune reporters Louwagie, Larry Oakes and James Walsh; and “The suicide files” by Jessica Lussenhop of City Pages.
The best issue award went to the News Tribune’s June 12, 2011, edition, which featured coverage of Grandma’s Marathon and reaction to an International Falls man accused of killing his wife with a totem pole. It competed against newspapers with circulations of 50,000 or less.
These awards also were in the 50,000-or-less circulation category:
- First place for sports news for the newspaper’s coverage of the University of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team winning the national championship, led by reporters Kevin Pates, Rick Weegman and John Lundy. Photographer Clint Austin’s photo of three of the hockey team’s top players took second place in the portrait photo category.
- First place in the short feature category to Christa Lawler for a story on a fecal transplants.
- First place in page design to former assistant managing editor Craig Gustafson. Gustafson also took second place in the headline category for “His judgment cometh, your weekend ruineth,” a headline about a Christian group predicting the end of the world.
- Second place in spot news to Jana Hollingsworth for her coverage of the death of 13-year-old Jefferson Bowen, who drowned last year after going swimming in the Amity Creek Deeps.
- Second place in the feature photo category to Photo Editor Bob King for a feature photo of a little boy playing basketball.