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Where’s Nick? In the Star Tribune’s opinion section.

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.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Peter Swanson on 03/02/2009 - 10:52 am.

    Speaking of Avista, who drew the cartoon of the vulture sitting atop the Portland Avenue Strib compound? Was it Sack? Is he supposed to be drawing for competitors?

  2. Submitted by David Brauer on 03/02/2009 - 10:56 am.

    Peter – there was no byline on the cartoon, but it sure looked like Sack’s work to me.

    I wouldn’t say he was drawing for competitors. The drawing appeared done for his union, which is a partner, right?

  3. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 03/02/2009 - 11:50 am.

    Once the mess on Wall Street shakes out, how long will it take for venture capital to realize what easy pickings major metro area news markets have become? I think we’d all be startled by how few millions it would take to start up an online news venture that would offer decent employment to all the laid off reporters in town.

    Then cherrypick the blogs and voila! You’ve just kicked major news ass.

    If Nick Coleman ended up anywhere but at the Strib, he would indeed take a big audience with him — not just of fans, but of his always-hating-on-the-Strib-anyway detractors who just can’t get enough Nick hate in their feeble talk radio driven lives.

    And no, I’m talking about another AVISTA group. If you make your news decisions based on business practices, your product will sell like deep-fried coffee beans on a dirty stick. The next round of economic growth will reward those investors who are smart enough to focus on product first, long-term strategies second, and profits third.

  4. Submitted by Patricia Litchy on 03/02/2009 - 11:59 am.

    I am one among many who will mourn the loss of Nick Coleman’s pithy commentary.

    I am disgusted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which has been on a downward spiral for several years.

    Union busting does not make a better newspaper either.

    Pat Litchy

  5. Submitted by Ted Snyder on 03/02/2009 - 01:42 pm.

    The loss of Nick Coleman (and, of course the spineless way it was done)accounts for many more steps in the Strib’s march to irrelevance. The Coleman-haters who responded to every one of his columns with misspelled vitriol are, apparently, the new Strib demographic. Well, long live MN Post!

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