'Strib' Editor Defends Shake-Up -- Promises More Local Coverage

By: Joe Strupp Editor Nancy Barnes of The Star Tribune in Minneapolis defended the ongoing newsroom shake-up that is likely to mean reassignments for 100 editorial staffers, from reporters to designers, saying the changes will result in more local news coverage and enterprise reporting.

"One of the reasons we are reorganizing is making sure we have resources behind our priorities," said Barnes, a four-year Star Tribune veteran who took over as editor in March. "We will have more reporters assigned to local news than we did before and more dedicated to in-depth enterprise stories than previously. The priority is the feet on the street."

Barnes' comments came in response to complaints last week from a local Newspaper Guild official and several staffers who criticized the paper for reassigning some longtime staffers away from jobs they've held for years to new areas, while eliminating some longtime beats and columnist positions. "I've never seen anything as sad as this," Pam Miller, Guild secretary and the paper's religion writer, said last week. "It is being handled without attention to individuals or their talents. People are coming out sobbing."

The newsroom changes were revealed during individual meetings last week with reporters, city editors, copy editors and designers, Barnes said. They took place just days after the paper revealed it would launch a buyout offer aimed at reducing 145 jobs companywide, and 50 in the 340-person newsroom.

Details of the buyout will not be released until specifics are negotiated with the Guild, the editor said. She added that the newsroom reorganization plan would be unveiled for employees during a meeting later today.

"Change is hard and I understand that," Barnes said. "Nobody wants to see the staff reduced. Some people are not happy. For individuals who are affected by it, it is very painful." But she stressed that the need to focus more on local and enterprise reporting is great, adding that several smaller area communities and suburbs have been underserved by the paper.

"In the end, we are going to have fewer resources, but we are marshaling those resources," Barnes said.

The staff changes and cuts come just months after the Star Tribune, which had been owned by McClatchy, was purchased by Avista Capital Partners. Since then, the paper also changed editors, with former newsroom leader Anders Gyllenhaal becoming editor at The Miami Herald.


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