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Continued: Dec. 26, 2006: Private group buys Star Tribune

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 27, 2006 - 12:54 PM

Faith in the printed product

Some observers of the industry believe that newspaper readers will continue to migrate to the Internet, leaving fewer readers to support the printed product that remains the main source of revenue for publishers, although most are aggressively beefing up their Web content and advertising.

However, Harte indicated that his group believes the printed product will remain in demand and profitable for many years.

"We believe strongly that there will be a Star Tribune printed and delivered to hundreds of thousands of customers every morning for decades to come, probably for generations, maybe for centuries."

The Star Tribune has a paid circulation of 361,172 daily copies and 596,333 on Sunday.

Avista plans to continue some of its relationship with McClatchy for at least a year as it negotiates for wire services and other content used by the newspaper.

While layoffs and other staff reductions have occurred among a number of the papers that have been bought by private groups this year, Avista officials said they are not eyeing major staff reductions or a quick sale.

"You don't buy a paper that's involved in intellectual property and strip it," said Avista partner James Finkelstein. "There'd be no point. All you're selling, all you have, is your intellectual property. You want people to read."

McClatchy plans to live up to its commitments through the Star Tribune Foundation, the charitable arm of the newspaper, Pruitt said. The foundation gives away $3 million annually to local charities and national journalism organizations and will continue to do so through 2007 under an agreement that was struck when McClatchy purchased the paper.

The deal ends after 2007, Pruitt said, but McClatchy has already made some commitments to local charities into 2008 and will live up to those as well, he said.

Media observers react cautiously

Twin Cities media watchers were cautious in their comments about the sale, with most adding that they knew little about the new owners.

"From a reader's point of view, this is one of the most literate centers in North America, so I hope this [sale] means we will continue to develop great journalism in the Twin Cities," said Vance Opperman, co-owner of MSP Communications, which publishes Mpls/St. Paul magazine and Law and Politics. He said he couldn't comment about whether he knew the Star Tribune was up for sale or whether he was offered the opportunity to bid for it.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said his "first reaction is that I'm extremely concerned to see a major local institution that's been a key player in our civic life suddenly owned by a company no one's heard of. However, many people felt that way when McClatchy bought the paper, and they turned out to be a good corporate citizen, so I'll wait to learn more."

Rybak said that when he worked as a Star Tribune reporter, the newspaper "understood its impact on the community went beyond the bottom line," and he cited the newspaper's leadership in civic efforts. "My hope is the new owners would understand that this is not just any business in the city."

Too early to tell what might happen

Jane Kirtley, professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said it's too soon to draw conclusions about the sale.

"I think you've got a mixed bag, and [it's] hard to predict at this point what is likely to transpire," she said.

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