Strib to kill Monday ‘B’ section

A single early-week news section: it’s not just for the Pioneer Press anymore.

According to a staff memo, the Star Tribune will combine its “A” and “B” sections on three January Mondays “to gauge reader reaction.” Presumably, if readers don’t scream, the Strib’s national and local news sections will stay smushed together.

The Strib will begin the change Jan. 12, right around the time it could file for bankruptcy.

The PiPress currently produces an “A-B” paper on Mondays and Tuesdays, a change it implemented mid-year. The move saves production costs; combined sections almost always have fewer pages than their separated forbearers.

My guess is that the Strib will extend the policy to other light-advertising days eventually.

The key question: with the Strib’s “B” section gone, will there be less room for stories? Occasionally when you read these “section-smushing” memos from papers around the country, management claims “news hole” will be preserved. (You save space by eliminating graphical elements to create two section fronts — the price is one less section front to showcase stories.)

There’s no mention of news hole in the memo, though the Monday papers in question — Jan. 12, 19 and 26 — would be tiny regardless, given typically small post-Christmas papers and an especially terrible advertising climate. There’s also no mention of what, if anything will get whacked — local coverage or national stories.

According to the memo, the editorial page and op-ed page will appear at the end of the combined section, with weather on the back cover. The obituaries “will be toward the back of the section.”

Two other changes you’ll notice: the Business and ever-shrinking Classified sections will be combined Monday through Thursday. Business will be in front; classifieds will start “upside down” on the back page, backing into the back of Business.

Wacky, but at least it preserves a Business front page, which is good. Other papers have folded business into another section, denying it front-page treatment.

Finally, as of Jan. 21, the Strib will stop producing a weekly “Extra” section for east-metro subscribers. That may be a nod to the PiPress’ strength in that part of the Twin Cities. The memo notes “news will still continue to zone east in Bnews” — at least when the paper still has a “Bnews” section.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Annalise Cudahy on 12/30/2008 - 11:19 am.

    This smells like death to me.

    I used to hear constantly how local was the future of newspapers – local was the one thing people couldn’t get anywhere else. Ah, but local’s too expensive … which implies that the whole operation is too expensive, yes?

  2. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/30/2008 - 04:47 pm.

    “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” comes to mind.

  3. Submitted by Chris David on 12/30/2008 - 10:16 pm.

    This will undoubtedly decrease news, but one thing in the article I disagree with is the Business section. I don’t care much whether that has it’s own front page or not. These days you could call it the Robber Baron section. Obviously they won’t, but it would be nice if they brought back a labor section where we could learn that higher wages are what can save the economy.

  4. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 12/31/2008 - 12:57 am.

    Squeezing into the backside of Business?

    Classified upside down on the back page? Business on the front? Wow…I say turn Business upside down on the back page and put Classified on the front page with a full-page transcript of John Pilger’s speech filmed in Chicago in 2007; a point of view which even good-guy journalists may find worthwhile; whatever one’s political persuasions. Axisoflogic.com have “thoughtfully” republished Pilger’s film under the title “Freedom Next Time”…thoughtful journalism indeed.
    It’s harsh, it’s cruel but fits in well with the present global developments that have spread their bloody trail from the streets of Gaza back to Israel and still travels beyond; leaking its bloody red path back to the coffers of the Bush administration – all that funding for Israel wasn’t for lollipops. It is the “Bush gang” who have funded and do vocally support this evolving genocide and unacceptable terrorism on the Palestinian people.

    I’m stretching subjects here maybe…but when print media becomes mere shopping news for the marketplace, Pilger’s perspective may ring a few bells of truth; and just may explain to some degree, the sad demise of print media as we once knew it… either way, ring out the old, ring in the new, whatever that may be…and for what it’s worth Have a happy New Year!

  5. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 12/31/2008 - 01:17 pm.

    What a trap: local is the one thing local media can produce for themselves, but also the one thing they must produce for themselves instead of just buying from wire services. I guess providing content no one else can isn’t cheap.

    Do newspapers in other countries have the same problems as American newspapers? They all have the Internet and TV to contend with.

  6. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 12/31/2008 - 01:18 pm.

    I just want to add that my question about whether newspapers in other countries have the same problems isn’t rhetorical. I’m really asking.

  7. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/31/2008 - 10:49 pm.

    Eric–
    Print is still very viable in countries with mass transit–papers are read on the train. Think China. In the developing countries, everything is mobile–they’re skipping print and internet and going right to their phones. It’s the cheapest. Otherwise, it’s the same things. High internet penetration=put a stake in print.

  8. Submitted by Tom Weyandt on 01/02/2009 - 12:27 pm.

    The Pioneer Press fills the news hole with absurdly large pictures and headlines on a regular basis now – not news.

    I wonder when they will give up and just go on-line and start to do real journalism again. Getting rid of the ‘paper’ would seem to cut the costs tremendously. I’m sure many are waiting to see how the experiment works – was it Detroit that is dumping the ‘paper’ 3 or 4 days a week?

    Fr. Whalen is turning at a high rate of speed whereever he is now.

  9. Submitted by Hannah Hosanna on 01/02/2009 - 07:26 pm.

    Why is the sports section so large? I read somewhere a long time ago that each week more people attend church or other religious venue than the number who attend all sports functions. If so, the church section should be more than a paltry page or two on Saturday.

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