JIM ROMENESKO HAS a well-deserved reputation as one of the Twin Cities' hardest-working journalists. In addition to cranking out five tech columns a week for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the indefatigable Romenesko has built two of the most intriguing links-based Web sites going: the Obscure Store and Reading Room (www.obscurestore.com), stuffed with edgy "holy cow" odditiesculled from the nation's newspapers; and MediaGossip.com, (www.mediagossip.com), which, as the name suggests, revolves around newsroom shenanigansof all stripes. Both sites are labors of love, netting the former Milwaukee Journal reporter/zine enthusiast little in the way of hard cash but melding the interests he developed in past stints on the crime and media beats. Both have also become required reading for media insiders nationwide. Still, we were a bit surprised to learn that Romenesko's cyberaesthetic had impressed the folks at the very serious-minded Poynter Institute for Media Studies--so much so that the St. Petersburg-based think tank has lured him away from thePiPress, where he'd worked since 1996, to build them a MediaGossip-esque site. "I think they want the essential place for journalists to gather. There's so much media news out there, and reporters love reading about themselves and other journalists, so it's just automatic," says Romenesko. "And they promised me I'll get a long leash," he adds with a craggy laugh. So long, in fact, that he won't be moving to south Florida, but rather to Chicago. The new Poynter site (which will be found at www.poynter.org) will replace MediaGossip.com come October, but fans of the Obscure Store need not fear; Romenesko plans to keep that site alive. He will, he says, also maintain a relationship with the Pioneer Press, contributing a weekly tech column.
IN JUNE MAUREEN Durand, Minneapolis's assistant superintendent of recreation, told writer David Schimke that the city's dwindling stock of full-size outdoor basketball courts wouldn't dwindle any more this summer. But just last week, trolling for a little hoops action at Victory Park in north Minneapolis, Off Beat encountered a big pile of rubble where there had previously been a court. Mitzi Patterson, park planner at the city's Board of Parks and Recreation, confirms that Victory's basketball court is indeed destined to be split in two. "It's not that we go in intentionally to take out a court," says Patterson. "It just happens as citizen participation evolves." Debbie Nelson, coordinator for the Victory Neighborhood Association, says her group's recommendation that the court be divided in two as part of a Neighborhood Revitalization Program-funded rehab was made after a number of community meetings held with the Park Board over a two-year period. "The full court was being monopolized by groups of young adult males who would intimidate the younger kidsand take over the court," Nelson explains. "They came in cars, which we assumed meant that they weren't coming from around the neighborhood. There was a lot of foul language, drinking, and smoking. People were also concerned there may have been drug deals going on around the court." Aware that some might construe the term "young adult males" as a euphemism for "young black males," Nelson adds that it was the participants' on-court antics, not their race, that led to the action. "While there were black men, it wasn't just black men," she says. "It was more the behavior, black and white, that people didn't like. And since Victory Park isn't staffed, there's no one on-site to regulate that behavior." Shannon McDonough, the Minneapolis Police Department's crime-prevention specialist for the neighborhood, says that dating back to the beginning of 1997, the park has averaged about 14 police calls per year. Most of those calls were noise-related; none involved drugs. "A lot of complaints were from people bothered by [basketball] play in the small hours of the morning," says McDonough, adding, "When neighbors have an opportunity to change that, they'll take full advantage."
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