A Farce in Four Acts

According to one PiPress staffer, the newsroom drama that led to theater critic Jayne Blanchard's firing was "like watching an auto accident happen in slow motion. You could see a way out for everyone. But things just kept getting more and more bloody."

Carlson: "According to what my spies tell me, a memo came down from on top... we will not name names... came down from on top that said, ladies and gentlemen, that this was... somewhat OK because this man has a wife with a debilitating disease and he can not get sex adequately from her. Am I paraphrasing that correctly?"

Blanchard: "You're being very polite, Barbara."

PiPress management hit the ceiling. According to Davis, details of the incident were badly distorted; she further claims that an internal investigation tracked the apocryphal story back to Blanchard (the transcript of the show suggests as much, though it's not clear whether Carlson heard it entirely from Blanchard). On May 16, Blanchard was fired for "proven dishonesty," a vague but time-tested standard outlined in the paper's contract with the Newspaper Guild. "People have been terminated for this on several occasions: from people falsifying their time cards to lying about why they weren't at work during the day," Davis says. "We can't have a reporter telling lies to other media and continue to work here. Credibility is very important."

Anderson responded by amending Blanchard's complaint to allege a constitutional violation of free speech. "Their actions against her were by design and calculated to silence her," he says. "They have good cause to be embarrassed by what she was saying, particularly in terms of treatment of men and women."

Ugly cases of He Said, She Said are often worked out behind closed doors. But both Davis and Anderson adamantly maintain they will hold their positions until the bitter end. Which may be bad news for Blanchard. Because unless her lawyer can unearth damning evidence during the summer's discovery process, it will be hard to prove the PiPress promotes a hostile work environment for women. On staff, both supporters and detractors of Blanchard tend to agree Shaw is a poor communicator and Blanchard is talented, but unstable. They also maintain the newsroom is an equal opportunity grind.

The Newspaper Guild is expected to file a grievance regarding Blanchard's suspension and firing. In the meantime, Blanchard says she is working part-time doing phone consultations for the Psychic Hotline to make ends meet.

"This was just a story, for Christ's sakes," she says tearfully. "I mean, what do they think? I'm going through all of this just so I could go bankrupt on a local theater production and lose my job? Hell, maybe I should shoot some heroin while I'm at it. Now that would be a great story."

So Hip It Hurts: Rumors have been circulating for some time that the Star Tribune is working on a stand-alone weekly tabloid to go after a notably younger demo than the Strib attracts. Now, in the wake of the Twin Cities Reader's demise, would seem an opportune time to strike. But like most things at the Strib, the plan--if it exists at all--is apparently moving at a snail's pace. In the meantime, the Strib is pursuing a more modest scheme that may be a portent of things to come. The Star Tribune advertising department is reportedly negotiating a deal with the Minnesota Daily to help their clients reach a college-educated youth set armed with disposable income. In July, Strib salespeople hope to work in concert with Daily reps to sell space specially priced to run in both papers. Chad Miyamoto, the Daily's sales manager, says the arrangement fits in perfectly with his paper's mission as a training ground for future reps.

You're Only as Old as You Skew: Refusing to be left on the sidelines in this war of demographics, the marketing brain trust at City Pages has embarked on an ad campaign seemingly designed to attract the over-60 set (who, we feel sure, would love the Wild Side, if only they knew where to find it). The puzzling summer campaign features living Minneapolis legends such as comedian Dudley Riggs, writer Judith Guest, and former wrestler Verne Gagne praising our publication's, ah, edginess. "The purpose of the campaign is to show journalistic excellence, and reach beyond the 18-to-35-year-old age group," ad architect Terry Gruggen says. "Unfortunately, we tended to get a heavy dose of the older edge of our talent pool in this round of the campaign. We'll skew younger in the fall." Here's hoping Marilyn Carlson Nelson's available for a swimsuit shoot.

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