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Strib finalizes new features section lineup

How do you save money without laying off reporters? The Strib finalizes its feature-section reorganization, promising “significant savings” while emphasizing the most popular and timely local content. By David Brauer

How do you save money without laying off reporters? Two weeks ago, I wrote about “cuts the newsroom actually likes” — a smaller, but more locally focused Variety section, which will replace the much-unloved Source moniker.

Today, features editor Christine Ledbetter announced the finalized changes. In a memo to staff, she promises “significant savings” while emphasizing the most popular, and more timely, local content. Fear not, “Withering Glance” fans — your boys will still be snarking when the new lineup debuts June 22.

A quick view of the changes reveals a new Page 2 that will let more reviews run in Variety, instead of Metro. Not only has “hard news” been spared for now, there might be a bit more space for it.

There’s something for the affluent/aspirational — a regular Sunday “Second Home” feature — and women get a new syndicated fitness column. Techies will get more Tuesday digital-entertainment reviews, Home & Garden commandeers Wednesday Variety, and fashion will help anchor Thursday coverage.

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As always, here’s the memo:

All hands,

When we asked readers in two focus groups what they wanted from Features, they said they wished Variety would return.

So after lengthy discussions with a cross-company task force and features team leaders, we’ve decided to give readers what they want — Variety every day. We’re also adding and organizing content to better serve readers in high interest categories such as health and fitness.

Of course in planning these changes, we kept an eye out for savings — and there are significant savings here — but the goal was to make the most of our local content, particularly in the franchise areas of A+E coverage, Home+Garden, Taste and Travel.

We plan on implementing Variety beginning June 22.

Here are some highlights:

Variety A&E: We move Withering Glance to Artcetera page, and add Style and Party coverage to the section. We will also add pop culture and design content frequently to this section.

Sunday Source, which has typically been buried in the classifieds, goes away.

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Travel: A Second Home feature will be introduced to reflect the lives of Minnesotans who own cabins or southern escapes. We’ll profile a reader about her/his second home and offer real estate price points for those considering buying real estate in the featured city. We’re expanding our Going Places feature to include day trips and a Day in the City feature.

Variety Fitness and health content will be moved to Monday. Stephen Regenold’s Ultrafit column will run here as well as the Lean Plate Club (moving from Wednesday) and How I Got This Body (moving from Sunday). We’re adding a syndicated female fitness columnist and will provide local fitness tips and information.

Page 2 in Variety will take the Artcetera name and will house a best bets calendar listing, online refers and a theater or music review. This feature will also run Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. If there are other reviews in the section, we will refer to them from that page.

The TV page will be redesigned to elevate Neal Justin’s Picks and provide a space for a TV review when appropriate.

Variety: We expand Technobabble to house newly released DVDs, CDs and the latest in online entertainment.

Variety: Home & Garden This section will continue to focus on home and garden but will be able to house an entertainment story or general feature story on the cover if the news dictates, such as when a big movie opens on Wednesday.

Page 2 is called Front Door and offers home and gardening tips and news. An entertainment page, with space for reviews, will be added at the back of the book to signal entry to the TV, comics and advice pages.

Wednesday Source goes away.

Variety: Will provide a home for fashion and general lifestyle and entertainment news.

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Taste: Will debut a thrifty cooking feature, which will focus on low-cost dishes for family meals.

Variety A&E: Only thing that changes is the name. Readers suggested they didn’t see a difference between Sunday and Friday entertainment sections and preferred name consistency.

Variety: Will continue to house Faith & Values content as well as general lifestyle and entertainment coverage.