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Star Tribune business section wins national award

Even as it struggles with its own business realities, the Star Tribune’s business section has picked up national kudos, ranking with the New York Times and Washington Post.
By David Brauer

Even as it struggles with its own business realities, the Star Tribune’s business section has picked up national kudos.

The Society of American Business Editors and Writers gave the Strib one of three “overall excellence” awards in its “giant newspapers” category — over 325,000 daily circulation. (Interestingly, the Strib’s circ was slightly less than that in both 2008 audits, but someone decided to punch above their weight. There are 14 papers bigger than the Strib.)

Co-winners were the New York Times and the Washington Post. Suck it, Wall Street Journal!

Now, journalism awards run the gamut from well-deserved to wacky, but I’d put this one in the former category. While longtime readers can’t escape the section’s shrinking story count, reporters such as Chris Serres, David Phelps and others have chased the big stories, including the Petters saga, with aplomb. According to the judges:

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This is an excellent example of what a local business section can be. It took the big national stories and brought them home to readers with clear, intelligible writing. And it tackled local and regional stories with gusto. The editors picked their targets and deployed their resources wisely. Notably, this staff did a remarkable job of storytelling, from exploring local scandals and scoundrels, to capturing the economic angst at a coffee shop. The coverage was very readable, with bold graphics and design.

(It was a bit odd, given the Strib’s overall excellence, that no reporter won an individual award.)

Cynics might note that economics have eviscerated many competitors; two of 2008’s large-paper winners have closed or ended daily printing in ’09.

However, this is not merely a last-section-standing thing. The Strib’s coverage is overseen by one of the paper’s most widely respected managers, Eric Wieffering. And amid the ambient triage, management has at least kept business a separate section, unlike at many other major papers. They also went out an swiped an experienced competitor, the PiPress’ Jennifer Bjorhus, late in the year.

Congrats to everyone doing good work under crappy conditions.