Five hundred years of experience leaving Star Tribune

It’s hard to see how the Star Tribune will be a better newspaper without the experience that is about to walk out the door.

Roughly a dozen-and-a-half staffers have taken voluntary buyouts and will be leaving the newspaper.

The Newspaper Guild said the departing members have 586 years of newspaper experience.

Many of them are familiar bylines like Curt Brown, who is a terrific storyteller who also provided the My Minnesota column on the weekends, featuring regular old Minnesotans doing regular old Minnesota things.

Ben Welter was one of the architects of the Star Tribune website, clearly the frontrunner in websites in Minnesota. Of late, however, he’s been in charge of the copy desk. There aren’t a lot of copy editors left at the Star Tribune.

The announcement that Pat Doyle is leaving carries some coincidence, coming as it does on the day a Southwest LRT deal was reached. That was included on his beat.

Technology writer Steve Alexander, with more than three decades at the paper, is among those leaving. He also wrote a weekly column answering questions from people who lost that e-mail they wanted to save and couldn’t figure out how to get it back. Maybe that’s laughable stuff for the technophiles, but the world isn’t made up of technophiles.

Bill McAuliffe covered the weather, environment, and climate. He won an Emmy for the Star Tribune’s Red River flood coverage in 2009. Imagine that. An Emmy for a newspaper guy.

Richard Sennott has been at the Star Tribune for over 20 years as a photographer, specializing in documentary storytelling.

No doubt other, younger journalists will come along and take their place. From all accounts, the Star Tribune’s finances are in pretty good shape. But the value of experience in journalism can’t be overstated.

Here’s the list of the departing:

Jim Adams, Bruce Adomeit, Steve Alexander, Bruce Bisping, Laurie Blake, Curt Brown, Pat Doyle, Jim Durkin, Paul Levy, Marlin Levison, Bill McAuliffe, John Oslund, Jeff Peters, Stan Schmidt, Rick Sennott, Mary Jane Smetanka, Bill Ward, Ben Welter, Suzanne Ziegler.

The buyouts were made possible by a union contract which gave employees the right to claim a week of severance for every year worked if the the newspaper is sold. Many of those who took it were nearing retirement age.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor closed on the purchase of the newspaper last week.

In an interview with MinnPost in April, Taylor suggested that replacing older journalists with young ones would be a way to remake the newspaper.

“I’ve seen some of the new reporters and I think there is a little bit more of a balance,” he told Britt Robson. “But I think traditionally, some of the reporters that have been hired and they have been there for a long time, I don’t know how you are ever going to change those people and what they write, but through time itself, some of those people will retire.

“And that’s where the decision is made, who are the people you hire to replace those people? And if that person is from the old school and thinks that my job is to make or show one viewpoint, well then whose else do you have on the paper that is giving the other side?”

“One thing I can tell you is that our coverage will in no way be diminished,” Star Tribune spokesman Steve Yaeger told MPR News’ Bill Catlin this afternoon.

  • MikeB

    A lot of talent going out the door. But a lot of new newspaper owners are learning that they can still make money with a hallowed out staff.

  • Dave S.

    I’ll be sorry to see Curt Brown go. I learned that even if the topic wasn’t something that would normally make me want to read an article, his byline meant it would be worth reading.

  • lschuc

    It’s not really a voluntary buyout, since the newspaper is trying to reduce the staff to save money, and if these folks did not take the “voluntary” retirement, these or others would probably have been laid off.

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      To my knowledge there was no indication that layoffs were planned. I’m not familiar with the Guild contract, but I’m pretty sure the most senior members aren’t in danger of being laid off.

    • Ken Chia

      It really is a voluntary buyout, unlike most of the buyouts of the past. The contract calls for the employees to be offered buyouts upon the sale of the newspaper. Most of these people are choosing to retire.

  • bri-bri

    First thing that came to mind when reading this headline: “Sid is finally retiring?”