Nancy Barnes: Sid Hartman at your service for 65 years

  • Article by: NANCY BARNES , Star Tribune Editor
  • Updated: October 31, 2009 - 7:53 PM

This hard-charging journalist knows everybody, so if he offers a tip, listen.

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Sid Hartman, a 65-year newspaper veteran, worked on a podcast at the Star Tribune.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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I arrived at the Star Tribune nearly seven years ago, and my first desk was about 20 feet from the legendary Sid Hartman's equally legendary office. I didn't really know Sid's history or who he was; he was just a white-haired guy who occasionally would march over to me and try to tell me what I should be doing. I would listen patiently, and sometimes ignore him, and he would complain to my boss about "that girl back there" who wouldn't develop the stories he thought I should.

A few years later -- and, one would hope, a few years wiser -- I regret that my initial instinct was to brush Sid off; he is truly one of the most remarkable human beings I have had the privilege to know in my career.

Today marks Sid's 65th anniversary with the paper. Let's think about that fact alone for a moment. Sixty-five years! But that's not what I admire most about Sid. What makes Sid truly remarkable is the fact that after all these years he is as deeply competitive and passionate about this business as a 22-year-old just out of college. Maybe more so.

Not long ago we launched an online talk show called "Unsportsmanlike Comment" with two of our other sports columnists, Pat Reusse and Jim Souhan. When Sid saw that, he marched right over to the sports editor, and then to me, and demanded to know when we were going to put him on. Should you want to drop the frequency with which he appears in print, he'll let you have it. He often hovers outside my office, or the managing editor's office, demanding to be heard because he has a hot tip. And since he knows just about everyone in town, I've discovered that it pays to listen.

I use the word "march" on purpose when describing how Sid walks through the newsroom, because Sid never meanders anywhere. He strides through the halls as rapidly as possible, as if he were delivering the most important information in the world to our readers. And maybe he is. He's approaching 90, but he still runs the traps with his sources, appears on WCCO Radio early in the morning, attends or watches nearly every major sporting event in the Twin Cities, delivers chats online, contributes a column, and has the energy left to fight with his editors.

When a new publisher comes to town (and we've had our share), Sid insists on meeting him, and offers to hook the publisher up with important advertisers who can help us build our business. He knows times have been tough, and he wants to help.

Sid's career path is one that could never be replicated today. A child of the Great Depression, he began his career hanging around the sports and circulation departments of the two city papers in the 1930s, doing anything they asked. He eventually got a paper route delivering to downtown businesses for the Minneapolis Tribune. Along the way, he dropped out of high school but got an internship in the sports department of one of the papers ... and he's been reporting ever since. Over the course of his career, he's interviewed everyone from Muhammad Ali to Bobby Knight. In a Q&A recently, Sid says he's the luckiest guy in the world. I believe it.

As for me and Sid, we've since made our peace. We've had a few tense times in our newsroom in the midst of the recession, but Sid is one who always makes a point of coming up to me, personally, and in his gruff voice, barking: "You're doing a good job." I'm pretty sure he'd like to add the word "kid" to the end of that sentence, but he refrains.

Happy anniversary, Sid. You're one of a kind.

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