I love, love, love that the Star Tribune is picking fights with Minnesota Public Radio on the eve of Monday’s “Future of the News” forum!
The Strib’s Jennifer Bjorhus does a nice job contextualizing MPR’s news ambitions — which have been endlessly serialized here. But her true accomplishment is getting media moguls to bare their teeth at the public-radio colossus. … as they prepare to sit on the same dais with each other … at MPR’s World Headquarters.
It’s like the stare-down at the weigh-in before a big fight!
New Strib board chair Mike Sweeney, on the eve of whacking 30 designers, copy editors and other newsroom non-reporters, gives the best quote:
Mike Sweeney, the private equity pro who’s now chairman of the Star Tribune, bristles at MPR’s ambition. He said MPR has created “a sense of false crisis” with its regional news conference, and that it’s wrong to question the Star Tribune’s survivability. Including digital readers, the Star Tribune’s audience has never been larger, he said. The newspaper is projected to generate significant operating cash flow next year and is in no danger of collapse, he said.
The paper has undergone deep staff cuts over the past several years, but top editor Nancy Barnes said that newsroom restructuring has resulted in the paper having just 11 fewer reporters than in 2000.
“MPR is making a blatant land grab by calling into question the viability of existing news organizations in Minnesota,” Sweeney said.
He also questioned the use of taxpayer dollars to help pay for MPR’s nonunion newsroom to compete with the Star Tribune’s unionized newsroom.
While I’m sure there are a lot of union members not terribly enamored with Sweeney right now, he does show a certain bare-knuckle charm. My boss Joel Kramer again expresses his frustration at MPR’s non-cooperation, but you’ve read that before, and Joel doesn’t quite have the same outrage voltage.
Head’s up to everyone: I’ll be live-blogging the conference Monday in this space. Normally, I disdain these get-togethers as huge wank-fests, but perhaps some real ideas will break out … and some live cat-fights! Sweeney, Kramer and MPR Chief Operating Officer Jon McTaggart will be on the same panel at 12:30 p.m., so do drop in.