Twin Cities stories, with datelines from afar

  • Article by: NANCY BARNES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 15, 2011 - 6:43 PM

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Members of a Kodiak Gas & Oil Corp. crew, Harmon "Bronc" Jasperson, left, and Brendan Brown, pulled drilling pipe from the ground near Watford City, N.D.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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In today's hypercompetitive news market, with TV, radio, cell phones, iPads and social-networking sites all competing for your time, we know we will succeed only by providing content that readers cannot find anywhere else. For that reason, we have invested heavily in a strong staff of reporters who fan out to cover the Twin Cities metropolitan area in depth, from the local arts community to our Fortune 500 businesses, from the major cities to the exurbs.

The metropolitan region, in its broadest sense, will always be our first priority for coverage. Home to the State Capitol, our major sports franchises and most of the state's businesses, the region is truly the heart of Minnesota.

But over the last year, as we have looked for more ways to bring value to our readers, we have started to make some changes to expand the types of stories we deliver. Readers have told me repeatedly over the years that they want the Star Tribune to bring them the world in the broadest sense. They aren't looking just for coverage of their communities; they want to know what is going on in neighboring cities, elsewhere in the state, in the country and in the world. We get many of our national and international stories from wire services, but there are some very important topics the wires don't cover adequately.

Earlier this year, for example, we shifted reporter Jim Spencer from our general-assignment team to our Washington, D.C., bureau, where we now have three reporters. Spencer's new job is to cover Congress as it affects Minnesota business and vice versa, a topic that nobody else covers well. His job is to report on businesses that are lobbying Congress for changes that might help their bottom lines, and to follow legislation that could have a big impact on how our businesses operate. In the last month or so, he has written about debit card fees, visa rules, farm subsidies and med-tech funding. These aren't always sexy topics, but they have huge impacts on Minnesota business. He's the only journalist in the state to cover such issues, helping us meet our goal of providing business readers exclusive content they cannot find anywhere else.

"Everyone I have introduced myself to -- from legislators to businesspeople to trade groups and consumer advocates -- has been excited to see the Star Tribune expanding its Washington bureau," Spencer said. "On all sides, everyone seems to believe that more coverage of the intersection of business and politics is a good thing."

We've also decided that we need more coverage of outstate Minnesota, and occasionally the Upper Midwest as it affects our residents. We've always covered farming and important enterprises such as the Mayo Clinic, but we know that many Minnesotans hail from small towns elsewhere and are intensely interested in issues that affect small towns and rural Minnesota. For that reason, we have asked our general-assignment reporters to start to look more often for important stories elsewhere in the state or region that would resonate with our readers.

This Sunday's cover story, for example, is rooted in North Dakota, home to the country's biggest economic boom. Reporter Larry Oakes and photographer Glen Stubbe traveled eight hours by car to reach the oil fields of Williston, N.D., so we could tell our readers the ramifications of North Dakota's new fortunes. Now producing 424,000 barrels of oil a day, North Dakota is expected to soon become the third-highest oil-producing state, behind only Texas and Alaska. Our intent isn't just to provide a vanity dateline. This story may be rooted in Williston, but it resonates all the way to the Twin Cities; Oakes found workers who had pulled up stakes from their hometowns and moved to North Dakota for better jobs and more money -- as long as the boom lasts.

It's a classic example of the type of story that transcends borders -- and it's one that we couldn't find from any wire service. In the coming months, you'll see more of these stories in the Star Tribune as part of our effort to continuously improve the quality of the content we bring you.

Thank you for reading the Star Tribune.

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