Data journalist. Watchdog reporter. Educator.
MaryJo started her journalism career in 1995 at a small, daily newspaper in New Ulm, Minn., where the so-called "dumb terminals" used for writing stories didn't even have spell checking, let alone the Internet.
After a few years at the Oshkosh (Wis.) Northwestern, she attended graduate school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. A graduate research assistant position with Investigative Reporters and Editors built up her data skills and introduced her to the fabulous world of data journalism and the NICAR community.
After graduation, she worked at the non-profit Center for Public Integrity, leading a national, data-driven investigation into campaign finance abuses. Then she spent nearly three years as the sports data editor for USA Today.
In 2005, she chose to move to her home state of Minnesota and spent nine years as data editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Her contributions to the Pioneer Press were wide-ranging, including development of a set of public searchable databases, a steady stream of data-driven stories, and the more than two years she spent reporting on the spectacular and massive crash of Twin Cities' auto mogul Denny Hecker (writing more than 150 stories in that time).
In Feb. 2014, she started as the Senior Data Reporter for Digital First Media's Thunderdome newsroom. In that role she helped all of the company's papers produce more data-driven content. Unfortunately, Digital First Media shut down Thunderdome a couple months later.
She returned to USA Today in a contract position, working from Minnesota, as part of their data team. She was the primary reporter on a series of business stories called, "Where the Jobs Are."
In March 2015, Webster joined the Star Tribune as its data editor. She has been a key player in numerous projects, including Pulitzer-finalist "Denied Justice", "Shielded by the Badge", "A Cry for Help" and "Students in flight," as well as smaller-scale enterprise stories on housing, teen deaths, school segregation, police misconduct payouts, and a variety of other topics. She also launched Data Drop, a weekly, data-driven, digital-first series.
Webster taught data journalism part-time at the University of Minnesota for about 10 years, and is a regular panelist and teacher at national journalism conferences and workshops. In 2018, she spoke at the International Open Data Conference in Buenos Aires. She served as a Senior Data Fellow for the 2020-21 data fellowship program run by the Center for Health Journalism.