Roster moves: Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, MPR, Mpls.St.Paul

There’s been a bunch of hirings and job-shifting in the three biggest Twin Cities newsrooms, plus a departure or two, so I thought I’d give you a quick rundown.

At the Strib, Rose French joined the paper last month as the religion reporter. French is a former Associated Press religion writer from Nashville, and part of a “two-fer” — she’s married to Brad Schrade, hired in August as a Strib investigative reporter.

The editorial page hired former Strib religion writer Susan Hogan for a new sweet-paying position. After leaving the Strib some years ago, Hogan worked for the Dallas Morning News and Chicago Sun-Times before the downsizing bug claimed her.

Although the job ad originally stated, “Preference will be given to candidates who have experience writing about national issues, including Congress, federal regulatory agencies and national politics,” editorial page editor Scott Gillespie says Hogan’s web experience was a big factor in the hire.

“As you know, we’re independent of the newsroom,” Gillespie says. “We need someone daily to be in charge of our part of the site.”

Hogan created the “Pretty Good Lutherans” blog during the ELCA’s debate over gay ordination (tagline: “ELCA news in real time”). Unfortunately, that site and others she created have been taken down, so we’ll have to wait to see her web skills — and her politics.

The biggest Strib departure is health business reporter Chen May Yee, leaving in late December for family reasons. Her position will definitely be filled. She’s the second health-coverage vet to leave the beat in the last couple of months; Josephine Marcotty moved to the environmental beat a couple of months ago.

The Strib added health expertise this summer when it swiped the PiPress’ Jeremy Olson. That departure finally worked its way through St. Paul’s system; after some beat-switching, former Fargo Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova became the first outside hire in a couple of years. She now covers Dakota County education. 

Koumpilova worked on Forum’s top-notch “Running With Oil” series, and may be the only local reporter who lists Sofia, Bulgaria as her home town.

Just as the Pioneer Press filled a hole, another popped up this week when Mpls.St.Paul Magazine grabbed shopping writer Allison Kaplan.

This is another example of a “traditional” journalist using entrepreneurial instincts to make herself more hirable; Kaplan will take her “AliShops” site to MSPmag.com site. MSP’s Jayne Haugen Olson says she tried three times to hire Kaplan; the third was the charm. Kaplan will be Senior Editor of Shopping and Style.

Haugen Olson says the hire represents a budget increase for MSP, which, like every other lifestyle title out there, was savaged by the housing-market collapse. Haugen Olson says the retail ads have held up better than other categories, so it made sense to invest in that area after a few years of staff cuts.

Will the PiPress now start a new game of musical chairs ending up with an outside hire? That’s unclear. Pioneer Press editor Thom Fladung says a succession plan is still under discussion for the consumer-friendly beat. “We always consider internal candidates who raise their hands first,” he says.

At MPR, Michael Olson from Austin, Texas’ KUT has replaced Bob Ingrassia as the curator of the “Minnesota Today” aggregator. Get to know Minnesota in a hurry, Michael! The MPR staff memo notes Olson most recently “launched Public Media Texas, an NPR initiative to improve online coverage of public media organizations in Texas.”

Julie Siple will be the lead reporter for MPR’s coverage of hunger, a one-year (presumably grant-funded) project. She had been a “Midday” producer; that job goes to David Chong. Also, Jayne Solinger will take over as MPR’s “All Things Considered” producer; Jeff Jones has moved to the company’s Public Insight Journalism initiative.

Finally, MPR News weekend newscaster/producer Emily Reese will become a weekend host/producer on Classical Minnesota Public Radio. 

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