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Star Tribune launching Sunday sections for Dakota, Washington counties

New Strib CEO Mike Klingensmith has just fired his first jab at the Pioneer Press’ solar plexus, announcing new Sunday sections for Dakota and Washington counties.

Updated 5:45 p.m. Wednesday with additional staffing info.

New Strib CEO Mike Klingensmith has just fired his first jab at the Pioneer Press’ solar plexus, announcing new Sunday sections for Dakota and Washington counties. Those only happen to be two of the PiPress’ three core counties.

According to a news release I just received, the Strib will open a Woodbury bureau and dispatch five additional reporters for expanded east metro coverage. The four-page Sunday sections start June 27.

The PiPress has weathered Strib incursions for a quarter-century, and the St. Paul paper has long bragged about its high household penetration in its base (which also includes Ramsey County). So there’s certainly no guarantee Klingensmith’s attempt will succeed in a) raising revenues or b) knocking out the competition.

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The Strib used to have an east metro weekly section on Wednesday, as it still does for the north, south and west metro. They backed off during bankruptcy, in part because the section was neither a financial nor journalistic success. It will be interesting to see which reporters are dispatched, because these bureaus have been places where journalists on the outs are sometimes exiled.

Still, it is excellent news that the Strib will hire five new reporters. Spokesman Ben Taylor says the new hires may not all be deployed to the new sections, since some current newsies might be shifted. The paper has done an admirable job with Sunday news features in recent weeks, so I wonder if they’ll use this opportunity to bring in a few more heavy hitters.

Without knowing much more at this point, it’s probably smart for the Strib to do the sections on Sunday, the most lucrative day for the paper (and I do mean paper; Sunday profitability swamps every other part of the operation, including online).

The Strib’s Sunday circ has stabilized through a bit of gamesmanship involving the Saturday paper, so if Klingensmith can keep the price point low for the east-metro zoned advertisers and organically grow readership, he could kill two birds with one stone. If nothing else, the Minneapolis paper is on offense again.

Here’s the release:

The Star Tribune announced today that it will launch two new Sunday local news sections serving Dakota County and Washington County, beginning Sunday, June 27.

“These are major growth areas of our market,” said Star Tribune Publisher and CEO Mike Klingensmith. “We’re adding this coverage to give the same attention to these areas as we are now giving to other parts of the market.”

Klingensmith said the launch of the new sections will be accompanied by a marketing initiative to gain new subscribers in the two counties.

Currently, the Star Tribune produces weekly “Extra” sections on Wednesday with in-depth local news for the North, South and West areas of the Twin Cities market.

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“A key Star Tribune strategy going forward will be to develop more coverage of local news in all parts of the market,” Klingensmith said. “Our market is large and diverse, and we are committed to being the local newsleader for the entire metro area.”

Star Tribune Editor Nancy Barnes said five additional reporters would be added to support the expanded Dakota and Washington county coverage. They will join a staff of about 20 reporters and editors who already focus mainly on coverage of suburban areas of metro market. Additionally, a Washington County bureau will be opened in Woodbury in August. The Star Tribune already has a Dakota County bureau in Burnsville.

“In the new Dakota and Washington county sections, we will be offering close-to-the-ground coverage specific to each county,” Barnes said, “including city hall, police, schools, arts, business and prep sports.”

Initially,each of the sections will be four news pages in the Sunday paper, she said.