Minnesota Public Radio News operates out of our headquarters at the Kling Public Media Center in St. Paul, MN and has long been recognized as one of the foremost journalistic organizations in the Upper Midwest, reaching news consumers across all platforms. We are fortunate to have many talented journalists working at MPR.
Recently MPR News’ Mukhtar Ibrahim has been honored twice for his extraordinary work in the field of journalism.
The Milwaukee Press Club honored Ibrahim as a 2017 Excellence in Journalism Awardee for best Multi-Story Coverage of a Single Feature Topic or Event for the series “Documenting Hate” focused on the recent increase in hate crimes across Wisconsin, and the rise of hate groups that target ethnic and religious minorities. The investigative team named by the Milwaukee Press Club included Ibrahim, Alexandra Hall, Riley Vetterkind and Coburn Dukehart.
Ibrahim has also been named a 2018 Above the Fold Award recipient by the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communications. This award honors alumni under the age of 40 who have made exceptional contributions to their fields.
The Current’s midday host is celebrating 10 years at APMG, and she was kind enough to answer some questions about music, career and life.
On any given weekday, Jade can be heard spinning The Current’s stacks of wax from 10am – 2pm. She comes across in person much as she does on air: she’s friendly, easygoing, and has a deep knowledge and enthusiasm for the music she plays. She’s been with APMG for 10 years, and agreed to answer a question for each year on the job. You can follow her on Twitter: @jadeisthename
Q: Hi Jade! What did you see yourself doing with your life when you were a kid?
A: When I was a little kid I thought I would be a dancer, but I loved music and when I was in middle school and high school I always told people that I wish you could just get paid to listen to music and talk about it. So I pretty much found my childhood dream job.
Q: Tell us about the first time you opened a microphone. Where and when was this? Were you nervous?
A: I had performed in front of live audiences on mic for plays and while I was working at Camp Snoopy (started that back in 1999). But if you’re talking radio that would have been in 2003 when I was a freshman at the University of Kansas on my 2-4 am shift. And there was no nerves, I was mostly just excited.
Q: You’ve been with APMG for 10 years. How would you describe the workplace to someone considering a career here?
A: I think most people who think about a rock station expect it to be like the movies: rock star cameos, loud music, grungy couches. It’s actually more like a regular job, as Michael Ian Black once said during a brief tour: “This is less rock and more spreadsheets and sadness.” He was joking of course, but we take radio pretty darn serious and probably geek out on the technical and minutia more than people expect. That being said, there are still rock star cameos.
Q: What are some of the career goals you haven’t reached yet?
A: I’d love to write a rock book, but like I said, I’ve always wanted to listen to music and get paid to talk about it. Seems to be going pretty well so far.
Q: Tell us about your pets, if any: what kinds, and how many?
A: Zero pets. I’m a little allergic.
Q: If you could spend a week anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
A: I’ve spent many months in Scotland, but I would go back in a heartbeat.
Q: What was the first music you ever paid for? Was it a CD, LP, cassette?
A: An Ace of Base CD is the first thing I remember paying for. I used to record onto cassette songs that I liked on the radio, probably the most rebellious thing of my youth.
Q: If you could invite two famous people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would you choose?
A: This would probably change tomorrow, but today I would love Kurt Vonnegut and Mr. Rogers.
Q: Do you have any unusual skills or abilities that would come in handy in a zombie apocalypse? (e.g., able to fly a helicopter, hotwire a car, pick locks, etc)?
A: I have no useful skills for the apocalypse. I was talking about this with my boyfriend recently since he’s picked up woodworking, and we’ve decided I need to take some foraging lessons, just in case.
Q: What inspires you most about Minnesota?
A: The excitement for growth and change. On the side I have an event planning company and we’ve been collaborating on a project the past few years to create a more welcoming Minnesota. The conversations that I’ve had with new Minnesotans and the people who have volunteered to be part of the welcoming committee have shown me that there are things that need to be changed and worked on, but there are so many people in Minnesota will to do the hard work to listen and grow and make the time, space and put in the energy to keep working towards a better home for all of us.
Josh Holt, end user support, IT Department has just celebrated five years with APMG, so we asked him some questions about working here.
Q: Congratulations on five years at APMG, Josh! What do you like most about working here?
A: Thanks, I was honestly shocked to see I’ve been here 5 years. There are a lot of things I enjoy about working here, but it is probably the people. Everyone is friendly, patient, smart, and excellent at what they do. It gives me a genuine belief that everyone is happy to be at APMG, and they’re fully engaged in their job.
Q: You started out in Member and Audience Services. What was that like?
A: Starting out in Member and Audience Services was one of the best things to happen in my career here. I got a great broad overview of the departments and how they interact, because I had to be knowledgeable about whatever the listener would want to know about. That nature of not knowing what the person on the other end of the line might want also prepared me really well for my shift into IT .
Q: What do you wish someone had told you before you started working in end user computing?
A: That I would never ever know everything there was to know about end user computing and technology, and to be comfortable with that.
Q: It’s not unusual to see you leaving or coming back from a run with colleagues. Are you marathoner?
A: I’ve run a marathon and a couple of half marathons as well as a lot of 10 miles and 10ks. 10k is my absolute favorite distance as you can focus a lot on speed rather than conservation of energy.
Q: You’ve gained a reputation as the building’s animal wrangler. How did that happen?
A: My very first day here as a temp there were a couple of mice in the stairwell by the front desk. No one else wanted to go near them, much less touch them. I put some gloves on and scooped them into a little cup and took them up to the wildlife rehab center. This resulted in me getting direct emails anytime there was an animal inside or around the building. This led to me helping a sparrow, two pigeons, and eventually a Canada goose. Though that’s a story for another time.
Q: Aw come on, tell us about the goose.
A: Gus the Goose was found outside the loading dock on a fateful MPR day. He spent most of the morning running away from me and hissing. While doing his best to get hit by traffic on 7th Street and Minnesota Street. Eventually we were able to capture him in a soft blanket and put him in the front seat of my Volvo — in a large cardboard box that looked like it would do the trick.
I was driving him up to the wildlife rehab center, and I had just merged onto Hwy 36. I heard a small ripping sound and looked over to see what looked like a scene from an all goose rendition of The Shining. Gus the Goose had managed to use his beak to break through a small tear in the box, and was now looking up at me with just his head and wing poking out from a now mostly ripped apart box. He then burst forth into my lap while I was still driving on the highway.
I managed to wrangle him out of my face, and force him back in the demolished box (at this point the Star Trek fight theme was definitely playing in my head), and tie the box front back up with the blanket we’d use to catch him in the first place. I think the employees at the rehab center must’ve been very confused with me as I showed up looking like I’d been through some kind of horror movie with an undulating, box that had obviously seen better days.
Q: What happened to the goose?
A: I can’t recall what happened after that, but I hope Gus is now more comfortable and hopefully a continent or two away from me.
A lot of APMG employees pitched in to make their communities better in 2017. We’re proud that charitable work is part of our culture – in fact, every year our workers get paid time off for volunteer activities.
Some of our folks choose to do additional work at the end of the year as well. For example, MPR’s Warm Clothing Drive raised 131 new items of clothing for kids in need. About 300 kids received warm winter clothes (coats, scarves, gloves and mittens) in early December at Fairview Park and Recreation Center in Minneapolis. The event was sponsored by the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council.
The Marketplace staff also got into the spirit of things with the “Marketplace Cares” initiative. In early December the New York Bureau kicked things off by donating and wrapping gifts for New York Cares. Our staff in LA made more than 150 lunches that were delivered to My Friend’s Place and the Downtown Women’s Center. They also sorted donated clothing at My Friend’s Place which assists homeless youth in Los Angeles. They’ve also been helping to prepare hygiene kits for selected charities and sorting food donations at the LA Food Bank
Thanks to everyone at APMG who did extra for their communities this year!
Danielle Stellner, APMG’s managing partner for business planning, was recently honored with the First Decade Award from her alma mater, Augsburg University in Minneapolis.
According to Augsburg’s own site, the First Decade award is….
….presented to Augsburg graduates of the past 10 years who have made significant progress in their professional achievements and contributions to the community, and in so doing exemplify the mission of the University: to prepare future leaders in service to the world.
Danielle Stellner graduated from Augsburg in 2007 and is an inspiration to just about everybody she meets, someone who benefited from encouragement and mentorship early in her career, and who has never forgotten to do the same for others. She went on to earn an MBA from the Carlson School of Management. She serves on the board of the Friendship Academy of the Arts, a blue-ribbon school that serves predominantly African American students; co-chairs the Augsburg
Women Engaged (AWE) group; and former Secretary of the board of Isuroon , an organization committed to self-sufficiency of Somali women and their families.
“Radio news isn’t anything I ever imagined doing,” Emma Sapong says. “It was the furthest thing from my mind.”
She grins and shakes her head as she says this, seemingly amazed at the path she’s taken. A lot of twists and turns brought her to APMG – as well as some arm-twisting from an MPR editor, the late Toni Randolph.
Sapong was the youngest of eight children. Her parents are Liberian, and she was born while her father was in the U.S. attending university in Brooklyn. After he graduated, the family moved back to Liberia. She was one year old at the time, and they lived overseas until she was seven.
The family returned to Brooklyn, where they stayed until she was 17. She went to college at the University of Toledo, and found herself torn between her two big interests: cultural anthropology and journalism. She wound up choosing the latter for a very simple reason.
“On campus, I discovered all these fascinating lectures and clubs and cultural events surrounding students of color,” she says. “There’s nothing surprising about that, because the student enrollment was 30 percent people of color. But the student newspaper, the Collegian, never seemed to cover them. One day I gathered up the courage to go into the Collegian office, and told the features editor that I wanted to do some reporting, but admitted that I didn’t have any experience. She suggested an Irish Dance event that was coming up, but I said I wanted to cover what was going on in the Black Student Union, the Latino Student Union, and all these other student organizations. She said that was fine; they had never had anyone to cover those groups before.”
After graduation, she spent a year at the Sandusky Register before moving on to the Buffalo News. It was there that she found a mentor in Margaret Sullivan, and honed her skills at feature writing.
“Margaret Sullivan had suggested that I try my hand at business writing,” she says. “She explained that it’s a specialized skill, and as the internet continued to eat away at newspaper revenue, people with business writing skills will continue to be in demand. But writing business stories just seemed incredibly boring to me.”
After a stint in feature writing she found herself assigned to the business desk anyway. Once again, she found a way to focus on communities that are often overlooked in predominantly white papers.
In early 2015 she was ready to launch her job search and began searching online for Twin Cities National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) members to network with. Randolph, a Buffalo native who had done reporting in Liberia, seemed perfect. And Randolph was receptive and eager to bring Sapong to the Twin Cities and MPR.
“I asked her if she had any contacts over at the Star Tribune or Pioneer Press. She said she did, but then asked me if I’d consider working at Minnesota Public Radio.”
“I knew of NPR, but wasn’t familiar with MPR. And I was a print journalist. I was comfortable hiding behind a byline. And I tended to see radio and TV — especially TV – as lacking depth in reporting.”
But Toni Randolph was nothing if not persistent. She invited Sapong to MPR during the NABJ convention in Minneapolis that summer, trying to convince her that radio was a place where she could do important work. She kept in touch, consistently sending MPR job openings emails to Sapong.
Almost a year later, Sapong came over to MPR, and she has been learning the craft of radio production ever since.
“It’s a big change for me,” she says. “When you’re a print reporter, you just write the story — other people worry about the layout and the placement of photos. In radio, you write a script and then build the equivalent of the layout yourself – you have to make the whole audio landscape that surrounds the story.
“At first I didn’t think it was a medium I could work in,” she says. “I still don’t feel I’m quite there yet.” But Randolph had believed in her work. That, she says, gave her confidence. And it still does.
Here are some of Emma Sapong’s favorite MPR stories: