MINNEAPOLIS -- In Brad Swenson's world, Bemidji is the capital of Minnesota.
The Bemidji Pioneer's political editor and opinion page editor was one of the award recipients Monday night at the Frank Premack Public Affairs Journalism Awards presentation at the University of Minnesota's McNamara Alumni Center.
Swenson received the David L. Graven Award for excellence in the journalism profession, and two of his articles helped the Pioneer garner the George S. Hage Award for Excellence in coverage of breaking news about public affairs.
"Bemidji is uniquely positioned in the 7th and 8th Congressional Districts," Swenson told the audience of about 100. "So I consider Bemidji to be the center of politics in Minnesota."
The 29-year veteran reporter said he was proud of his career work in covering public affairs.
"I have been fortunate to be able to specialize in political coverage," he said. "I try to study the issues to be prepared for my interviews. Then I have conversations instead of interviews and I try to tell the readers what the person stands for."
Swenson started working at the Pioneer in 1980 as county reporter and later served as news editor and managing editor. He grew up in Duluth, graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and spent a year at the Forest City (Iowa) Summit before moving to Bemidji.
Swenson's exclusive interview with U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, produced two stories that led to the Hage Award. The stories were headlined "Help for cattle farms" and "Peterson: Implementing farm bill is next step."
Peterson played a key role in drafting the latest farm bill and bringing aid to farms fighting bovine tuberculosis.
In accepting the Graven Award, Swenson said, "This is very special to me. A lot of journalism awards recognize coverage of tragedies in our lives. But public affairs is special because it honors what small newspapers should be doing every day -- covering city hall, the county board, the state Legislature."
MinnPost.com Editor and CEO Joel Kramer received the Farr Award for exceptional contributions to journalism. Other competitive awards were given for metro and outstate opinion writing, metro public affairs journalism and rural and metro investigative reporting.