As the Crappy Old Year comes to a close in local media, City Pages has laid off restaurant writer James Norton and Assistant A-List editor Ben Palosaari, while WCCO-AM canned longtime overnight guy Al Malmberg and his regular fill-in, Brad Walton.
CP first: Editor Kevin Hoffman says the “brutal” economy did Norton and Palosaari in, and adds, “The decision says nothing about those guys — they are both stellar.”
Norton, who was hired with Rachel Hutton after Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl departed for Minnesota Monthly a year ago, says, “the fact that City Pages has two food writers presented some low-hanging fruit.”
Neither layoff hits news coverage — Hoffman says a replacement for recently departed staff writer Beth Walton starts Feb. 1 — but does hit the cash-money part of CP’s business, at least in print. A-List has been the spine of CP’s arts coverage, and dining, at least under Moskowitz, was an ad-rich environment.
Hoffman says CP will use some of the staff savings to bulk up food and music blogs, presumably with freelance. Norton, who focused on the increasingly relevant $20-and-under beat, says, “They offered me the opportunity to keep writing for the paper’s dining blog, but I’m planning to strike out on my own … I’ve had plans to launch an online indie food magazine for quite some time now, and there’s clearly no time like the present.”
Over at the Good Neighbor, having a nationwide wee-hours clear channel signal apparently isn’t what it used to be. I haven’t confirmed the details with WCCO management, but new station boss Mick Anselmo is under orders to slice costs — top talent was asked to take a 10 percent pay cut, and two news reporters were recently let go — so low-revenue overnights was probably a tempting target.
One tipster told me the station will shift to a syndicated show out of St. Louis on Monday; I haven’t pinned down its identity yet. Another tipster says the station that advertises itself as “NewsRadio 830” is so short-staffed that it now runs recorded weekend morning newscasts in the afternoon; also unconfirmed.
Oh and by the way: today marks the final day of contractual layoff protection for the Pioneer Press newsroom. Funny, this champagne tastes kinda flat.