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Pine Journal reporter wins reporting award

Pine Journal reporter Jana Peterson won a first-place Page One Award for investigative reporting from the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists for her coverage of the Cloquet City Council’s suspension and investigation of Police Chief Steve Stracek in 2017.

Stracek was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing by an outside investigator and the city council but agreed to retire early anyway.

Judges commented: "This is a wonderful example of community journalism — closely following the actions of a public body, challenging that body when it violates open meeting laws, giving context and history to problems with the police department, and following up the resolution with a deep dive into documents underlying the story. The town of Cloquet is obviously well-served by its newspaper."

The Pine Journal (with a circulation of less than 3,000) competed with other newspapers around the state with a circulation of 50,000 or less, and was the sole winner in that circulation category for investigative reporting although there were other entries.

The awards were presented June 14 at the Town and Country Club in St. Paul.

Six reporters from another Duluth Media Group newspaper, the Duluth News Tribune, also won SPJ awards in the same circulation category:

  • John Lundy — First place in the feature category for "She taught me how to walk," his report about a man who was gored by a buffalo and rehabilitated through dance. Judges commented: "Lovely writing. Well-sourced story. Full of great scenes."
  • Christa Lawler — First in the column category for "In the kitchen: We found solace, laughter, turkey rollups where the food was," a column about the death of her grandmother. Judges commented: "Lovely descriptive writing and a great reminder that the best food writing is often about so much more than food."
  • Jana Hollingsworth — Second in the feature category for "My life mattered," a story about a domestic abuse survivor.
  • Sam Erkkila — Second in the institutional social media account category for the News Tribune's Instagram account.
  • Chuck Frederick — Second in the editorial writing category for his editorial "Ending sex trafficking."
  • Melinda Lavine — Third in the enterprise/in-depth category for "You're not a fraud," a story about imposter syndrome.