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Anti-Vikings column gets caught behind Star Tribune paywall

The Strib’s new Access Vikings paywall makes you pay for Purple prose. But a policy column shouldn’t be treated the same as a game review.
By David Brauer

For the record, I’m not opposed to the Strib’s Access Vikings paywall. There are certainly grounds for skepticism about its financial benefits, but open access hasn’t been so great in that regard, so it’s a time to try new things.

Wednesday, though, the first real wrinkle showed up — one that Norwegianity’s Mark Gisleson caught first.

Columnist Rachel Blount took a whack at Zygi Wilf’s stadium plans, noting the owner’s wink-and-nod duplicity about moving the team, despite a 2005 declaration there was “no way” he would.

Maybe you find Blount’s take naïve — though given her experience covering North Stars absconder Norm Green, who played out the string all the way to Dallas, probably not. Still, her piece is one of the first staff broadsides against Zygi’s proposed pleasure palace. (The Opinion section’s Nick Coleman is now a freelancer.)

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However, only those who paid Access Vikings’ $5.95/$19.95 fee could check out Blount’s piece online. There’s no false advertising here: The Strib gave everyone ample warning the paywall was coming, and that sports columnists writing about the Purple would be behind it.

But fundamentally, Access Vikings was sold as a way to charge sports junkies more for gridiron goings-on — reporter chats, ex-player blogs, photo galleries, etc. In other words, Favre fascination, AP preoccupation, Chili check-ins and cheerleader cheesecake.

On the other hand, Blount’s is an issues piece — one that, given the budding shakedown over a billion-dollar frill facing a cash-strapped state, deserves a wider audience.

Sure, someday, everything at StarTribune.com may be behind a paywall. And the site already delays certain Sunday news features, though they show up for free a few days later. There’s certainly no law that says they need to make their stuff easily accessible.

But the Strib does stands to benefit hugely if the Vikings decide to buy their land for a new stadium. Even though I don’t think that dynamic affects how stories are covered, it’s another reason the paper should bend over backward to make critical views accessible.

Another reason: Right now, news columns aren’t paywalled or delayed. The Strib should treat all policy columns the same, no matter what section they’re in — even if they mention the V-word.