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Star Tribune data editor MaryJo Webster, who has worked on many of the paper's largest projects, on Tuesday received the Peter S. Popovich Award from the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists.

Webster's award was one of many won by the Star Tribune that were presented at the Page One Awards dinner. Another major award went to reporter Andy Mannix, who won journalist of the year. Mannix also won story of the year, along with photographer Renée Jones Schneider, for their investigative longform piece, "What happened to Heather Mayer?" It investigated the death of a woman in the bondage, dominance, submission and sadomasochism (BDSM) community and served as an exposé on how police, judges and lawyers failed to protect Mayer and other women from a serial abuser who preyed on their vulnerabilities.

Webster said she was honored by receiving the Popovich award, which is given annually to a person or organization that champions First Amendment rights.

"It's just wonderful. I've always just kind of taken for granted that I use public records on a regular basis, and I have never seen myself as somebody special in that regard, but over the years I've learned so much about how to get information and how to how to use the public records law in your favor, and it has paid off from my work, and I've been sharing that with other people," Webster said.

She joined the Star Tribune in 2015, after spending nine years as data editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She said she was particularly proud of her work along with other journalists last year on the Star Tribune's "In Harm's Way" series, which explores how Minnesota's child protection system fails to save some of the state's most vulnerable residents.

Webster has also trained, mentored and assisted journalists looking to integrate public records and data into their stories. She is board chair of the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, which pushes government entities to make public data more accessible for all citizens.

Star Tribune staffers took top honors in other print news categories including best use of public records, breaking news, features, investigative reporting, business reporting, profiles, columns, headlines and sports news reporting.

The award for young journalist of the year went to Katelyn Vue of Sahan Journal and Elijah Lutgens of the NRHEG Star Eagle and the Waseca County Pioneer.

Webster said she first discovered data reporting from a colleague while working as a young reporter at the Oshkosh Northwestern as she was covering the city budget. "One of my fellow colleagues showed me as I was trying to do math, and he said, 'Do you know what Microsoft Excel is?'" she said. "I quickly learned that it was a key thing in investigative reporting, which … was my dream. I wanted to be an investigative reporter someday."

The Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is the oldest organization of journalists in the United States. The chapter began in 1956; local membership totals about 130.