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Star Tribune's new multi-media boss oversaw three-time Pulitzer-winning staff

The Star Tribune has hired a multimedia boss to replace once-and-future TV guy Brett Akagi, and she comes with a prize-studded resume: Janet Reeves oversaw three Pulitzer wins in seven years at the since-shuttered Rocky Mountain News. That's one more than Twin Cities newspapers have won, combined, in the past two decades.

Reeves has had a rough 17 months, professionally. Despite its Pulitzer hardware, the News succumbed to competitive pressures in February 2009; that July, Reeves described herself as a "one-woman job fair." She was hired two months later to lead the Washington Times visuals staff, but the Moonie paper wiped out its entire photo department in December.

But like an NBA team with salary-cap space, the Strib was able to grab a proven veteran. Two of the three Pulitzers went to the News staff, indicating a high level of teamwork and leadership. Both were for breaking news: the Columbine shooting (a 2000 winner) and the state's rampant forest fires (2003).

Lest you think that was right-place-right-time stuff, the final Pulitzer, in 2006, was for Todd Heisler's feature photography on Colorado Marines' funerals.That work included the full boat of audio, video and photography, as well as Jim Sheeler's Pulitzer-winning feature story, so there was obvious foresight and planning involved. Though the News' multimedia player appears FUBAR, you can see the photos here.

One work that's still up is the News' good-bye video, which is funereal in its own right:

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

In an interview with her former Rocky boss, John Temple, Reeves assessed the decline and occasional fall of American newspapering:

I find fault with the publishers and owners of American newspapers, not just currently, but 10-15 years ago. They demonstrated little foresight or vision for the future. If they did hold workshops for themselves and employees on how to survive and re-invent themselves before they became outdated, they certainly didn't listen or care much past their profit margins. That group demonstrated in the last few years how little American journalism and the whole Fourth Estate theory means to them.

Having said this, my own experience tells me that at the Rocky we were trying very hard for years always to reinvent. Design, voices, technology, web, online multimedia, Yourhub.com, Olive (e-edition) and even the experiment in the late 80's early 90's with an online version known as the a la carte edition. We used so many different vehicles to try to stay ahead and meaningful to our readers. The fickle reader has some blame here as well. Take something for granted and it will disappear. 

Let's hope the third time's a charm for her, her new staff, and local readers.

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Comments (3)

The quotes from John Temple about what happened to newspapers, including his own, are dead on. The best and most succinct summation on this topic that I have seen. No wonder the Rocky was a great newspaper. And yet, it's gone....

Sorry. The quotes are from Reeves. The Strib got a great hire.

Congratulations to both Janet and the Star Tribune newsroom.
Both are well known throughout the country for their dedication in providing readers
quality journalism.
This is not only a perfect fit but gives hope that our industry is heading in a
stronger direction.