[VIRTUAL] Keeping it Local: Supporting Regional Journalism in Minnesota

After years ravaged by press layoffs, newsroom shutterings, and attacks on the media, the need for a community-driven rescue mission for local journalism has never been more evident. But first we must understand the problem and collectively reaffirm how integral local news coverage is to the health of a community, both literally and figuratively. In order to begin this conversation and foster public awareness and grassroots advocacy for local news media, PEN America is launching a series of town hall convenings to bring together members of the press, elected officials, and the public to discuss the landscape of local news in 2021.

This event will bring together journalists, community organizers, and elected officials to discuss what Minnesotans can do to support local journalism in their state. From amplifying local news stories on social media to subscribing to local outlets to lobbying to their elected officials, this town hall will provide powerful advocacy tools to community members interested in supporting their local news outlets.


Jennifer E. Moore Headshot

Jennifer E. Moore (Ph.D., University of Minnesota) is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She teaches courses in media history, digital journalism, social media, and media ethics. Her research includes journalism history, visual communication, participatory news practices, and digital news preservation. Moore’s research on 19th-century journalism appears in several media history collections, including Sensationalism: Murder, Mayhem, Mudslinging, Scandals, and Disasters in 19th-Century Reporting and After the War: The Press in a Changing America, 1865–1900. An essay about her participatory news scholarship appears in Journalism Research That Matters (Oxford University Press, 2021). Moore’s research has been funded by the National Broadcasters Association (NAB), and she has received two National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Scholar awards. Prior to academia, Moore worked as a radio reporter and a digital content producer and manager.


Hibah Ansari headshotHibah Ansari is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. She reports for Sahan Journal , a news organization based in Minnesota’s capital, St. Paul, that focuses on the state’s immigrants. At Sahan Journal , Ansari covers immigration policy, especially affecting Hmong, Somali, and Latino communities. Born and raised in Wisconsin, she holds a master of science degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she was the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism Fellow. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Previously, she was a reporting intern for USA TODAY NETWORK in Wisconsin and Fox Cities Magazine in northeast Wisconsin.

J. Patrick Coolican headshotJ. Patrick Coolican is editor-in-chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, The Seattle Times, and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and toddler son.

Solomon Gustavo headshot

Solomon Gustavo was born and raised in the Twin Cities and covers the metro area as a reporter for MinnPost. Prior, Gustavo wrote for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and Lillie Suburban Newspapers. The St. Paul native has also contributed to City Pages, The Daily Beast, and Sahan Journal.

Mel Reeves headshot

Mel Reeves is an activist/journalist who has been involved in organizing and writing about human rights and civil rights issues over 35 years. He began his career fighting racism/white supremacy in higher education and the broader society and opposing South African apartheid. He presently is the editor of the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder , an African American weekly that is 86 years old. He is an activist/journalist in the tradition of Frederick Douglass, who started The North Star newspaper as a vehicle to fight for slavery abolition, and Ida B. Wells, who organized against and fought lynching in the early part of the last century.

Tell Congress: Support Local News

PEN America and several partner organizations are mobilizing our Members and Americans across the country to use their voice to save local news. Join us by calling on your U.S. senators and representatives to support the Future of Local News Act, which would establish a federal advisory commission to study the decline of local news and propose solutions for the industry’s revitalization.


If you would like to help us spread the word about the Future of Local News Act and/or this town hall series, we hope you’ll check out our social media toolkit to access links, visual assets, and sample copy for you to use in original posts across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Belarusian protesters in background; on top: “I Support PEN Belarus” and PEN America logo

Our sister organization PEN Belarus has spent years uplifting writers and supporting the freedom to write. Now, the government is trying to shut them down. Show your support and tell them they’re not alone.