The Duluth News Tribune and Cloquet Pine Journal recently added two new reporters to their newsrooms. Laura Butterbrodt, most recently of Watertown, South Dakota, will take on the business and health care beat at the News Tribune and Izabel Johnson of Esko will join the Pine Journal.
Butterbrodt is originally from Granite Falls, Minnesota, a small town of roughly 3,000 people west of the Twin Cities. She's a 2019 journalism graduate from South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota. In college, she studied abroad for a semester in Bulgaria and took part in a journalism boot camp in Prague in the Czech Republic. After graduating, she moved to Watertown, and began writing for the Watertown Public Opinion daily newspaper.
At the Public Opinion, Butterbrodt covered various beats and eventually shifted into a page design role last spring, but found she wanted to return to writing.
"I'm really looking forward to writing again," Butterbrodt said. "I've missed it and I'm excited to get to know this very specific beat. It's an insane time to be covering business and health care. I'm going to be very busy, but I think that'll be good."
Butterbrodt's interests outside of work have shifted slightly since the COVID-19 pandemic. Before, she focused on exploring and traveling. Lately she's been learning to embroider, going for walks around her neighborhood and slowly learning the guitar. She's excited to get to know Duluth and get outdoors on the trails as well.
Johnson was born in Grand Rapids, but grew up in Esko. She graduated from Esko High School and finished up her associate degree at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College after earning credits there her last two years of high school through the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program. Johnson changed her degree focus a few times and took a couple years to work in the service industry before she landed in the journalism program at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She graduated in December with a journalism degree. She was a managing editor for the UMD student newspaper, The Bark.
"I'm really grateful for the journalism department at UMD and to my team at The Bark. They helped me develop my skills as a journalist," Johnson said. "Journalism is something I've always had in the back of my head. I knew I liked telling stories and it just took a little bit for me to figure out what I wanted to do. The department and paper helped me realize that."
Johnson also credits her mother for her support through her various pursuits.
As a reporter, Johnson covered investigative stories at The Bark. She wrote about climate issues at the college, domestic abuse awareness and various other events and student profiles.
"I was always looking for those difficult stories to write, the ones no one really wanted to do. I usually took those ones," she said.
She also started a podcast with fellow journalism student Sarah Knieff called "Uncovering the Truth in Minnesota." The two have delved into various issues, most recently sex trafficking in Duluth and cold cases of Minnesota. When she's not working or podcasting, Johnson likes to spend time with friends and family members and explore the outdoors.