Goodbye, Minnesota Independent

After five years years, the Minnesota Independent will end its run on Friday. The Minnesota Independent was the first on-line news organization to win a Page One award from the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists in 2007, and its coverage has continued to win awards since then. Like its parent organization, the American Independent News Network, MnIndy has offered a distinctly progressive journalistic voice.

MinnPost scooped the Minnesota Independent on the news of its closing. Two hours after David Brauer broke the news on MinnPost, American Independent News Network CEO and founder David Bennahum posted the announcement on the Minnesota Independent, under the headline “MnIndy Going Forward:”

I am writing today to announce the closure of the Minnesota Independent. After five years of operation in Minnesota, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news into a single site, The American Independent at

While MnIndy had several reporters on staff in the past, only Andy Birkey and editor Jon Collins remained at the time of closing. Collins, who became editor in September after Paul Schmelzer left to become web editor at the Walker Art Center, told MinnPost, “American Independent executives laid me off in a call this afternoon.” Birkey will continue to be employed by AINN.

The Minnesota Independent was a community media partner of the TC Daily Planet from 2006 to October 2011, when the parent organization, American Independent News Network, decided to end the partnership.

The American Independent homepage still lists sites in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Washington. In a telephone interview, former MnIndy editor Paul Schmelzer said AINN will keep the Colorado site open because it has separate funding, and speculated that they might also keep one person in Iowa for the primaries.

Schmelzer and Andy Birkey both started with the site when it opened as the Minnesota Monitor in 2006. Schmelzer served as managing editor for Minnesota Independent for two periods of time and was one of the managing editors on the AINN site before leaving for the Walker. Other editors at MnIndy included Robin Marty, its first editor, and Steve Perry.

Schmelzer noted that MnIndy had “great people coming through our doors,” naming Perry, Eric Black, Jim Boyd, Paul Demko, and Molly Priesmeyer as a few examples of journalists who worked, for a time, for MnIndy. He cited MnIndy’s award-winning reporting on the 2008 Republican National Convention and early reporting on Bradlee Dean, beginning in 2007, as two examples of important MnIndy coverage.

Paul Demko won a Page One award for “Convention cash: The biggest loophole in American politics,” and MnIndy also took home awards for multimedia and video coverage of the RNC.

Andy Birkey’s coverage of Dean’s You Can Run But You Can’t Hide organization won a Page One award in 2010, with SPJ judges writing:

In conscientious, thought-provoking reportage on ‘a controversial ministry that holds Christian assemblies in public schools,’ the reporter takes a deep-dive with an even-handed approach into a weighty subject sure to provoke controversy from various standpoints. Leads readers to think about serious public policy and constitutional issues.

Since then, Dean has sued Birkey and the Minnesota Independent.

Andy Birkey, who reported extensively on women’s issues and GLBT issues, said he found out this afternoon that MnIndy would close, but was told that his “position has been preserved.”

“It’s been a good five years with the Minnesota Independent,” Birkey said, “and I’m excited to see what will be happening going forward.”

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