Monday, April 17, 2006

Star Tribune memo flap continues

The fallout from the internal memo that was distributed to employees of the Minneapolis Star Tribune continues.

If you recall, in a cost-cutting move, papers are no longer made available to employees for free. Instead employees have the option of reading an electronic version or purchasing print copies from vending machines throughout the Tribune building.

In the memo, senior vice president for Circulation Steve Alexander admonished employees who are either taking papers without paying for them or paying for one paper and taking several more. He warned that such actions are theft and employees are risking their jobs by continuing the practice.

After the memo was posted on Romenesko, employees were warned "that the leaker would be found out and dealt with," according to an article in today's The New York Times.

This latest development has confused employees, who are "wondering why a debate over free personal copies of the paper was obscuring the fact that the public was buying the newspaper — and almost any newspaper — less frequently."

"The whole free newspaper-Romenesko leak issue is our version of the gay marriage debate," says Jon Tevlin, a Tribune staff writer. "We're deeply in debt, circulation is falling and profits are down 14 percent this quarter. So let's obsess about something that isn't really very significant."

The author of The New York Times piece, David Carr, suggests that the Tribune's actions have larger implications. "It is one thing to beaver away, building out a digital gallows. Given reader habits and industry trends, that kind of innovation is required. But at some point — perhaps when reporters are denied access to newspapers — publishers are saying something else to their employees and their readers: What you're holding has no value."


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