Off Beat

[Editor's note: A clarification ran concerning this story; see end of article.]

Don't Come Around Here No More

RICK MCCLUHAN LOOKED a bit bemused last Friday morning as he stood in the basement of the Bloomington Doubletree Hotel, outside Ballroom B. Off Beat could hardly blame him: As chairman of Minnesota's Reform Party, he'd come for the press conference called by wannabe Reform presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and, in front of a cadre of local and national political reporters, a Buchanan aide was telling him that the event was "press only"--i.e., he was persona non grata. Could this have something to do with the intra-party chaos that sent Reform Party cover boy Jesse Ventura scurrying away--and urging the state party to do the same--earlier this month? As the proceedings got under way, Buchanan responded to a reporter's question about the snubbing: "He was not permitted to come in? I did not know that." Then, rather than invite his putative fellow Reformer into the room, the candidate launched into his spiel, which included several taunts aimed at Ventura. Outside, Off Beat asked McCluhan whether Buchanan will be permitted to attend the Minnesota Reform Party caucus March 4. His tongue-in-cheek reply: "I'll have to check my guest list."

The Incredible Shrinking Dailies

LAST YEAR'S ALL-EMPLOYEE meeting at the Star Tribune was a giddy affair. At one point members of the advertising department, dressed in Hawaiian shirts and carrying surfboards, strolled across a stage while publisher John Schueler exclaimed, "Circ's up!" So you can imagine how disappointed Off Beat was to hear that this year's edition, held last Tuesday, February 15, was all business. McClatchy Co. CEO Gary Pruitt didn't wear a costume, Schueler didn't appear in any homemade videos, editor Tim McGuire didn't even address the troops. One thing did catch our ear, though. It seems in the newspaper business, as in all things, size does matter: Sometime in the next year or so, the Strib, along with the rest of the McClatchy chain, will likely reduce the width of its product from 54 inches to 50 inches. The move would not be without precedent. The Newspaper Association of America reports that 150 dailies--including the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe--have either converted to the 50-inch format or are planning to do so. The reasoning is primarily economic: In 1995, when the cost of newsprint reached a record $658 per metric ton, publishers looked for ways to economize. By using a slimmer page, the Plain Dealer in Cleveland (which has a daily circulation on a par with the Strib's) has saved more than $3 million a year. And even though the cost of newsprint has been more reasonable of late, Strib spokesman Frank Parisi guesses the "substantial capital investment" necessary to rejigger the paper's printing facility will pay off. In the end McClatchy's hand might be forced by national advertisers, who are pushing for an industrywide standard. Parisi expects the Strib to come to a decision regarding the switch by the end of this year; across the river, St. Paul Pioneer Press publisher Rick Sadowski says his paper is also "looking into" the feasibility of a conversion.

Register Early, Register Often

JUDI DUTCHER RECENTLY registered dutcher2002.com and several other Internet addresses, fueling speculation that the two-term state auditor plans to seek higher office. "That had nothing to do with it at all," Dutcher assures Off Beat, explaining that she registered the domain names to keep them out of the hands of cybersquatters. "I think any public official should protect themselves. Right now I have no plans to run for any other office." Dutcher says she discovered last year that someone had registered judydutcher.com (misspelling and all). When she inquired about getting it back, she says, she was told she could have it for a few hundred dollars, a pledge not to run for any other office, and a testimonial to the character of the squatter, whose name she can't recall. Dutcher passed, but later found that the registration had lapsed, and promptly registered judidutcher.com, judydutcher.com, judithdutcher.com, as well as the aforementioned name. When the state auditor bolted from the Republican Party last month, she said she felt the GOP had shunned her, in part because of her pro-choice beliefs. Others speculated Dutcher believed she might have an easier route to higher office with the DFL. The domain names were registered January 11, about a week before Dutcher announced her defection. Meanwhile, Brooklyn-based attorney Mike Ravnitzky has registered dutcherforgovernor.com. Whatever for? Off Beat wondered. "At this point my only comment is that I may use it in the future," says Ravnitzky.

 

Clarification published 3/1/2000:
The above-mentioned shrinkage from 54 to 50 inches refers to the way a printing press produces a newspaper: in units two sheets (or four single "pages") across. Each single Star Tribune page currently measures 13.5 inches in width; thus, if the change is instituted, the daily's page width would drop to 12.5 inches.

 
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