Update: Just after publishing, I got an email from Nick saying “I have not signed the op-ex agreement and you are way premature. And wrong.” Can’t get him to say what I’m wrong about besides the signature, but consider this a correction on that. I trust my sources on the newsroom goodbye.
Update II: Brian Lambert has more on the story, including the outrage I suspect Nick would applaud, plus an emphatic bet that the OpEx move won’t happen.
Ten days ago, I promised readers an answer about Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman’s fate. As it turns out, I had to leave it dangling because the situation wasn’t resolved.
Now the deal is done. According to colleagues, Nick said his newsroom good-byes Friday. Rather than shuffle off to the Variety section, where he was reassigned, Coleman accepted the paper’s buyout. Included in the deal is a weekly freelance column in the paper’s OpEx section.
That should be some consolation for Nick fans, if not for the man himself. (I’ve sought comment, but he’s been understandably reluctant to talk about losing a career-capping gig; management doesn’t want to talk for fear of blowing the deal up. By the way, keeping Nick in the Strib’s pages likely limits his ability to blast them publicly.)
In the end, Strib editor Nancy Barnes emerges triumphant. She wanted to get rid of a person she loathed; mission accomplished. She wanted less divisive and political news columnists; so far so good, if you find mostly apolitical storytelling more interesting.
The silver lining is that Coleman will liven up OpEx, which has had its own sharp edges rubbed off in the Avista era. But will Nick — finally free of things like Barnes’ “Don’t talk candidates near Election Day” memo — be more liberated under editorial page editor Scott Gillespie? Especially when the feisty freelancer has given up union protection?
Speaking of which: My sources indicate there’s a non-compete in the deal, which I haven’t been able to confirm with the primary sources. It strikes me as odd because a) who the heck is hiring and b) if you only want Nick once a week, let the market decide what he does on the other six.