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Another Pioneer Press reporter joins the Star Tribune

Former Twins beat writer Phil Miller, laid off this summer, will be the Minneapolis paper’s backup Timberwolves correspondent.
By David Brauer

Phil Miller, the lowest-seniority Pioneer Press reporter laid off in summer cuts, joined the Star Tribune’s sports staff Thursday as a part-timer.

Miller had been the PiPress’ primary Twins beat writer. At the Strib, he’ll work two days a week backing up Jerry Zgoda on the Timberwolves beat.

You can argue with the wisdom of devoting more resources to the Wolves, but not the hire itself. In two-plus years covering the Twins, Miller established himself as a smart and fun-to-read writer. His layoff was particularly poignant because he left a more secure job at the Salt Lake City Tribune to pursue a dream of covering baseball. His new job marks a return to the NBA; at the Tribune, he covered the Utah Jazz.

According to assistant managing editor for sports Glen Crevier’s memo, “Phil will cover practices, games and spot news and will develop enterprise from the Wolves and the NBA. He will be writing for both the section and the web site.”

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Crevier says Miller’s first Strib piece will appear Friday.

The hire is certain to raise some eyebrows because it comes just days after the Strib announced it is axing 30 newsroom jobs. Might Miller be walking into exactly the same situation that cost him his dream in St. Paul? Not if Strib leaders target their layoffs at non-reporters, as I’ve speculated; management also has increased contractural power to protect some employees from seniority-based cuts. Miller is a great guy acutely aware of the axe’s pain, but it won’t be comfortable walking in as long-timers are boxing up their stuff.

[Update: The job is also a temporary one, expected to last a few months.]

Miller’s hire also marks at least the third time in 13 months the Strib has grabbed a PiPress reporter. In October 2008, the Minneapolis paper hired away business reporter Jennifer Bjorhus, and in July, swiped political writer Rachel Stassen-Berger. Unlike Miller, Bjorhus and Stassen-Berger were still working for the PiPress when they switched.