Beyond "Black Monday" at the Star Tribune

Dubbed "Black Monday," the May 7 announcement that the Minneapolis Star Tribune is aiming to eliminate 145 positions including 50 in the newsroom, was followed by "Blue Tuesday," an emotional day in which newsroom employees were called in one-by-one to learn their fate. Many reporters will be assigned to new beats, some columnists will revert to reporting, and at least one has learned he'll be let go. And the unofficial word in the newsroom is that the editorial page staff will be cut to seven people.

The Rake's Brian Lambert reports that TV writer Neal Justin will be given the opportunity to "compete" with Deborah Rybak for a non-column reporting job; Linda Mack will be reassigned away from architecture coverage; and writer Sara Glassman will likely be losing her fashion beat.

Many longtime reporters are considering the buyout offer, which would offer two weeks of pay for each year of service, up to 52 weeks, plus six months of paid health insurance (the March buyout offer capped payouts at 40 weeks). The Newspaper Guild must approve the offer before its members can sign on.

Reached yesterday before she met with editors, Sharon Schmickle, an international reporter and 1995 Pulitzer Prize finalist, said, "It might be too strong to say I'm seriously considering TAKING a buyout. What I'm doing right now is using the occasion to explore a lot of options, to think about where the newspaper is going and whether I want to steer in the same direction or try something different."

She said, despite all the "gloomy analysis" about the future of print journalism, she's somewhat hopeful about new opportunities in the field, citing the online multimedia package on Liberia she worked on earlier this year.

"It was so cool to be able to add the power of audio and video to that report, and I'm eager to do more of it," she said. "On the other hand, I'm not sure how much interest there will be at the Star Tribune of the future in covering Liberia. The interest may be there. Nancy Barnes was very supportive of the project, and she committed the time and resources I needed to make it happen. I just don't know whether she could do the same in the future."

Pam Miller, at the Strib's Guild blog, wrote of the meetings, "People winced and wept upon learning that nonunion colleagues and friends were being abruptly let go. (We now work at a newspaper where someone like Par Ridder stays, and someone like Rob Daves goes?? Up is down, and down is up.)"

The paper's Matt McKinney reported Tuesday that the paper "gave an involuntary buyout" to Daves, longtime director of the Minnesota Poll and part-time manager of Buzz.mn. Daves said he was too busy at the moment to comment on what he admitted was "shocking" news of his firing. He's preparing for a high-profile address he's giving next week at the national conference for the American Association for Public Opinion Research. He's the organization's president.

[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.]

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