In an area that’s special, Star Tribune thrives

If you hadn’t noticed, the Star Tribune is apparently bucking the trend of dying newspapers in the country and it’s getting love today from Poynter, the journo think tank.

At its peak, it notes, the Star Tribune had 450 people working in its newsroom; now there are 250. But the Strib has survived the worst of what a changing industry and venture capitalists wrought.

Poynter is offering lessons in how the Strib took advantage of the Internet and social media.

But it’s this one that is significant: It still cared about a print edition where newspapers still matter.

Among top-20 markets, Minneapolis is No. 1 in daily and Sunday newspaper readership, according to Nielsen Scarborough Multi-Market Studies 2016. The Twin Cities have high voter turnout, above-average high school graduation rates and rank first among cities where women work outside the home.

Those factors point to an audience that is prepared to read — and pay for — a newspaper.

“Print is still critically important,” Dardarian said.

So, the Star Tribune chose not to go digital-first at all costs. It’s audience-first, she said, and that audience is still reading the newspaper.

A case study in serving both print and online audiences came along when Prince died suddenly in April. They covered the story quickly online. When it was time to put together the next day’s newspaper, one designer told Dardarian it was like a smorgasbord.

Because the Quick Strike team was covering the news as it broke, other reporters in the room had the time to think about what people would need and on day two. The Star Tribune produced a special section that weekend with four different covers. They also dug into the archives and reposted a 15-year-old oral history of the artist. Among mobile readers, the piece had an engagement time of eight minutes.

“We did right by digital, which gave us the opportunity to do right by print,” Dardarian said, “and we were able to see the magic of that.”

It’s not clear in Poynter’s assessment of the Star Tribune whether the success story could translate to all the other struggling newspapers in the country, or whether it would be limited to areas where the audience is special. Like us.

Related (But, really, not at all): The PiPress faces familiar woes, including more buyouts — and the search for a local owner (MinnPost)

  • MrE85

    I’m the only person in my office who buys a newspaper. I note everyone else reads it, though.

  • Will
    • Gary F

      You mean the gatekeepers in newspapers have a bias on what they publish and how they publish? No, tell me it isn’t so.

      • Will

        Sure, I agree but right now we can only speak subjectively about this issue. If you read that article you’ll understand that we need quantitative numbers from media outlets to more objectively point out bias. If the Star Tribune editorial board is 80% liberal (just an example) then we as subscribers can demand more diversity of thought in order to get our business. Read that article, it’s pretty good.

        • Why not just read the PiPress . that’s a conservative paper.

          • Will

            I do, but they don’t have the best coverage and I would like my news sources to be as unbiased as possible, I don’t want an echo chamber and I want all voices and perspectives to be presented. Besides that until media outlets are transparent about the political make up of their organizations we have no clue how far they lean left/right or if they even have bias. I would like the transparency as the first step.

          • So we’re talking op-ed material not news coverage?

          • Will

            Both, story selection in both areas control the narrative. I find the lack of the Donna Brazile story coverage in the Star Tribune very odd, no news coverage or op-eds demanding she step down from the head chair of the DNC after handing debate questions to Clinton campaign, even CNN ended their relationship with her. Can you image if the head of the RNC did that? That’s just one example.

          • Will

            Good points, but only 1 is commentary (from 2 weeks ago) and it’s about the entire wikileaks release and there is no self reflection on the head of the DNC giving debate questions to one candidate no Democrats demanding she leave her post. Cory lost his job a while ago.

          • Rob

            I believe CNN severed their ties with Brazile due to her shenanigans.

          • Will

            True, that happened on Monday, Ms. Brazile is still the head chair of the DNC. Whare is the outrage from the left? If the RNC did this there would be outright revolt against the RNC.

          • // Whare is the outrage from the left?

            I don’t think that has anything to do with the question of editorial product. that’s an issue you have with “the left”. This is the question of your assertion of no op ed and no news on Brazile when they ran two op-eds and two news stories in the last few weeks.

          • Two commentaries and two news stories. You’re moving the goal post. You said there was no news coverage nor op-eds. Clearly that was not the case.

          • Will

            Only one article says “commentary” at the top, the other 3 say National or Nation. I never came across those stories or saw them prominently displayed on the main page, maybe they got lost being published on Halloween, my fault for not paying attention well enough.

          • Two are Erik Wemple. He’s a commentator.

          • Will

            If you take a moment to read “Clinton campaign was tipped off to Democratic town hall question, e-mails show” the article by Erik Wemple it is very much an informative piece, not so much of a commentary. He offers no solutions, he doesn’t ask for anyone to step down and doesn’t create his own opinion…he never uses “I” outside of a quote or “we” either…it’s an informative news piece through and through…although I did consider the article “The Clinton crowd’s emails are scandalous, no matter who pilfered them” very much an opinion piece. That’s quite interesting that a person so involved in the news might not see the difference…and that news organizations are having the same reporters/columnists writing informative news pieces and opinion columns.

          • Gary F

            Besides Sooch, who else? Just a little less left than the Strib.

          • Will

            You both are proving my point, we only have subjective feelings about bias, we really need objective numbers to see the truth.

          • wjc

            Who is going to believe the “objective numbers”? Someone has to accumulate said numbers, and that means their objectivity will be questioned.

          • Will

            I would give them credit for trying and for having some transparency.

          • Rob

            You must not ever read the “less government/tax cuts are magic” editorials the Pi Press editors put out.

    • Rob

      Maybe it had what you call anti-Comey articles because of the fact that Comey acted contrary to the expressed exhortations of his bosses at the Justice department – and contrary to Justice department and FBI policies.
      BTW, who is the actual author of the fff piece?

      • Will

        Sure, that could be interpreted many ways, hiding information from Congress because of an election could be viewed as political too.

        I’m guessing the author is using the Poor Richard method of publishing their work. Leave a message at end of the article on the FFF website and ask or comment if you’re interested.

    • Jeff

      In the end they’re in business to make money. It’s not a non-profit public service. As such they need to cater to their audience. I think there is an editorial bias in the views they present on the editorial pages but that reflects the readers which I would guess is way more liberal than conservative.

  • Jack

    Love my print copy even if sometimes I only read the comics. The rest I’ve already read online.

  • Jasper

    Sigh. Now if they could only put some of that print dedication into their delivery services. Still don’t subscribe for the simple fact that I like to have my paper in hand BEFORE 10:00 a.m., which hasn’t happened in my neighborhood for at least 5 years.

  • Mike Worcester

    Makes a fascinating contrast with the St. Cloud Times, which showed great journalistic integrity during the coverage of the stabbing attacks at Crossroads Mall, only to essentially gut their news room barely a month later.

  • MarkUp

    I found a lot of value reading this article in Tuesday’s Star Tribune, buried in the A section. It placed Comey in the historical context of other FBI directors, namely Hoover, and how his actions compare and contrast to other directors. It was a lens to current events I didn’t know about before:
    http://www.startribune.com/comey-s-maneuver-recalls-hoover-s-fbi-fairly-or-not/399409911/

    I realized it was from NYT authors, and I know there’s a fair amount of syndication in the Star Tribune between the Times, Washington Post, and the LA Times, among others. At some point I’ll take a highlighter and see how many column inches are syndicated vs. original content in each section. I’m guessing papers in urban areas tend to circulate other urban papers content, which are typically liberal demographics.

    I’m not aware if the St. Cloud Times has similar syndicated relationships with other rural papers, though I’m welcome to be shown otherwise. Those relationships, in addition to local coverage, could be another reason these publications have stronger than average performance.

    • You folks know that ANYONE can write and submit an op-ed, right? Have you?

      • Will

        I sent 2 letters to editor to the Star Tribune this week, was rejected both times… instead I saw they printed a letter about the ever important issue of anti-Edina bias. What did you think about that diversity of thought article, should I see if the author wants to publish as an op-ed?

      • Mike Worcester

        I’ve had about five lte’s published in the Strib (including a letter of the day in 2011). They do reserve the right to edit them for clarity, length, and even facts — they’ve done so to all of mine. It is their pages so their rules.

      • MarkUp

        The article I referenced wasn’t an op-ed; that was front page on the NY Times, and I think A5 in the Strib yesterday (also not op-ed).

        I’m wondering if an article written for an urban audience, like New York, reads better in other urban audiences, like Minneapolis. Would two small town papers benefit from sharing content in the same way?

  • guest

    Papers could bump readership by sponsoring joint articles from both sides of an issue, which directly address concerns.

    Instead of two opposing articles, go the extra mile and sit two authors down to write a joint article, point by counter-point. Explain positions with respect and no put-downs and no ascribing evil motives.

    Sure, each will look at the same facts and draw opposite conclusions, but the reader will KNOW how each side responds to direct points.

    Today I see a lot of talking past each other and concerns ignored because “their motives are bad”

    The reader will then be able to hold a deep conversation about what & why, instead of just repeating a set of talking points.

    • Veronica

      Here’s how journalism works: The who, what, when, where is reported. Opinions are only on the opinion page. Real journalists do good work. The craft hasn’t changed; our ability to understand how it works has.

    • Will

      Great idea, a new form of instant written debate…sort of like a David Brooks & EJ Dionne debate in written form. That would be interesting.

      • guest

        YES, it would force both sides to actually address the “But what about….” aspects of a social issue.

        Too often I see “X is all good” with no discussion by the author of the concerns the opposite side has.

  • Zachary

    I subscribe to the Sunday edition. Mostly for the coupons and the comics. But I also read it for the articles sometimes.