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.