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BEST REPORTER Minneapolis 2002 - Jim Ragsdale

Why is the Pioneer Press generally more readable than its much bigger, richer rival across the river, the self-declared "Newspaper of the Twin Cities"? There are too many reasons to list here. But a comparison of the papers' coverage of the biggest political story in Minnesota's recent history--the ascent and governance of Jesse Ventura--isn't a bad starting point. For all its resources and institutional ambitions, the Star Tribune has been strangely lackluster in chronicling the Ventura administration--as if its "team leaders" confuse fairness and deference. The Pi Press, by contrast, has seldom shied from a scrap with the gov. Much of the credit for the paper's hard-hitting reportage belongs to Jim Ragsdale. As a state-capitol beat writer (and a city hall, environment, and poverty reporter before that) Ragsdale offers day-to-day coverage that is consistently spot on. But he really shone in his role as the lead author of the Pi Press's excellent weeklong series on the governor, titled "A.K.A. Jesse Ventura." Running in late January, the articles were the product of more than six months of work--and it showed. Along with providing a revealing glimpse into Ventura's past, a good number of amusing anecdotes, and a cogent analysis of his term as governor, "A.K.A. Jesse Ventura" pinned the Body down on the elusive question of his military service. (Did our SEAL-cap-wearing, tough-talking governor ever actually hunt man, as he once famously suggested? The short answer: no). An L.A. native, Ragsdale came to the Twin Cities in 1981 to take a job with the old Minneapolis Tribune. The following year, the Tribune merged with the Star, and Ragsdale, with his low seniority, was laid off. We don't know whether the editors at the Strib regret that decision. But we know they ought to.

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