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Star Tribune’s Tice: from politics editor to editorial page

A conservative once controversially tapped to help direct the paper’s politics coverage returns to the editorial pages.
By David Brauer

Doug Tice, the conservative Pioneer Press editorial writer whom the Strib tapped to be political editor during the Anders Gyllenhaal regime, will return to the editorial pages next month. Tice will replace departing Strib commentary editor Eric Ringham in July, editor Nancy Barnes announced in a staff memo Monday.

Local lefties howled about Tice’s original Strib move, asking why the paper would hire an acknowledged advocate to cover — much less direct — a beat that demands impartiality. (I’ve been one of them.) Whenever the Strib produced balmy copy like this, finger were pointed at Tice, if not more senior Strib leaders.

However, I’ve spoken with many staffers over the years about my former Twin Cities Reader boss, and he’s generally held in high esteem not just for a sharp mind, but as guy who hasn’t put his finger on the scales. (My colleague Eric Black, Tice’s former sparring partner on the Strib’s Big Question blog, is a huge fan.)

Frankly, that was my experience with him when he was editing my Reader copy, even if I didn’t always agree when we discussed politics.

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From my perch, Doug’s new job seems optimal, though he does add another right-leaning voice to a section that publisher Chris Harte has pushed rightward. I’m willing to wait and see how well the ideological spectrum is represented.

Also, congrats to reporter Lora Pabst, who’s been moved to the paper’s high profile “Whistleblower” desk, producing daily watchdog copy. Management loves this beat, so it’s a nice tip of the cap to her abilities.

Barnes also discusses “NewsBreak’s” reduced schedule, covered here earlier, brags about mobile growth, and touches on two big hot buttons I’ll cover in future posts: the paper’s vacation overload, and redistributing merit pay, which has more than a handful of reporters steaming.

Here’s the memo:

Doug Tice to editorial: We are pleased (and yet sorry) to announce that Doug Tice, our fearless political government editor, will be moving to the editorial department in July to take the commentary job vacated by Eric Ringham.  We are deeply sorry to see Doug leave the newsroom, where he has led the political team through some truly amazing political seasons, but we’re at least glad to know he’ll still be working for the same cause. We’ll be posting Doug’s job immediately, and sharing more news about his transition in the weeks to come.

Whistleblower: Lora Pabst moves to her new role reporting for Whistleblower today, helping to produce daily reports for whistleblower, which is gaining traction in the community. Our goal is to have watchdog reports nearly every day, branded in the paper, so that the public comes to expect this work from us on a regular basis.

Newsbreak goes to summer hours: Congratulations to the crew on Newsbreak, which has been working to develop a new format for distributing our news and information. They started from scratch, and had to develop many new skills, including script-writing, in a very short window. The show has been evolving and steadily growing audience, however, it is also incredibly time consuming. For that reason, it’s going on summer hours until Labor Day, when we plan to bring it back in an improved format and set.  Meanwhile, we plan to take a strategic review of our video, with an aim to rapidly growing the audience around this platform. That may involve changing some of our priorities around where and what kinds of video we produce.

Mobile growing rapidly:  More than a year ago, we first shared the news that Terry Sauer was going to do some research, along with our digital department, on how to rapidly advance our mobile efforts. If you haven’t checked startribune.com on your mobile device, you might want to do so. The site is advancing swiftly, growing audience, and revenue thanks to the trend-setting work of Terry and Roxanne Oswald. They’ve put us ahead of many newspapers when it comes to mobile initiatives. Our site now boasts more than 200,000 monthly unique visitors, nearly 2 million monthly page views, and an 83% sell-through rate on banner ad inventory in May.  StarTribune.com’s mobile initiative is on track to bring in several hundred thousand dollars in revenue this year.  Unique visitors have increased 444% in the last eight months with visits up 308% and page views up 257% in that same period. It’s important to note that we are making progress even in a rotten business and economic climate.

Vacation: I know that many of you are anxious about what the changeover to a PTO plan means for you and your vacation. HR is working on this and I hope to be able to tell you more about how the company will handle the transition in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, please be patient with us as we work through all of your vacation requests.

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Paycuts, etc. We deeply regret the pain that the pay and benefit cuts are creating for people and their families.  We hope that if we are able to emerge from bankruptcy at the end of the summer, we’ll have a company that is healthier, and able to finally grow again.  As discussed with the Guild negotiators, a small portion of money has been put aside to give to some staff members who lost pay;  that money is being awarded in the form of monthly performance supplements. Those receiving the monthly supplements include Guild members who:

• Perform jobs with significant leadership responsibility, such as managing a staff. (Staff members who receive significant overscale pay are generally excluded).

• Hold jobs that are highly competitive in the employment market

• Possess unique skill sets

• Perform jobs of strategic importance to the company

• Consistently produce exceptional work. (Staff members who receive significant overscale pay are generally excluded.)

All staff members will also be eligible for quarterly performance bonuses for truly exceptional work in a quarter, as determined by their managers.  The first of these bonuses will be awarded at the end of June, and are separate from the editor’s award.