Off Beat

Long Live Block E

BEFORE VOTING 8-5 last Friday to approve a $134 million, taxpayer-subsidized plan to redevelop Block E with a hotel, an ESPN sports-theme bar, a megascreen movie theater, assorted chain restaurants, etc., Minneapolis City Council members pontificated for two hours on the subject. Joan Campbell (aye) discussed how much she loves to go to the movies; Sharon Sayles Belton (doesn't get a vote, but aye) said that although she isn't "into" microbreweries, she's heard that other people are, and Barb Johnson (aye) waxed rhapsodic about the downtown of her youth, where you could get garlic bread and a Coke for $1.25 at the Venice Cafe. Jackie Cherryhomes (aye) confessed to attending sports bars on occasion. Not surprisingly, those who voted against the project were less poetic, though Paul Ostrow (nay) got in a good crusaderly jab when he observed, "We are not venture capitalists....If we're trying to be venture capitalists here, we're not doing it very well."

C. Bruce Solomonson, Still Dead

HOW MANY OBITUARIES does one newspaper owe one man? If the man is C. Bruce Solomonson and the paper is the Star Tribune, the answer would seem to be...two. Last Monday, February 28, Dee DePass struck a matter-of-fact tone in noting the passing of the 58-year-old Plymouth resident: "C. Bruce Solomonson, a son-in-law of the late Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey who was convicted of bank and mail fraud in 1988, died Friday of heart failure." DePass's terse, 240-word obit went on to detail the former insurance company exec's 1988 bank- and mail-fraud convictions for diverting more than $1.5 million from his insurance agencies to his personal accounts. Then, the very next day, a second obit appeared, headlined "C. Bruce Solomonson remembered for loyalty." DePass's colleague Joy Powell opted for a more elegiac opening: "C. Bruce Solomonson, son-in-law of the late Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, was remembered Monday night by mourners who ranged from a federal judge to the state's most influential politicians to his old school classmates." Powell devoted the bulk of her 465-word composition to quotes from family members and friends, and made only passing reference near the end to Solomonson's felonious past. Though we're well aware that fraud and loyalty are not mutually exclusive, Off Beat couldn't help but wonder what was up. "We messed up with the first one; we shouldn't have put it in the paper--it was just too one-sided," says Strib editor Tim McGuire. "It was a mistake, it was wrong, it was ugly." McGuire says the first version generated several irate calls from the family and from other readers, prompting him to order a second take. "One of those readers who complained happened to be the editor," he quips, adding that Solomonson's brother-in-law, former attorney general Skip Humphrey, joined him among the miffed. McGuire says DePass did everything she could to get comments for the first story, but no one returned her calls. In hindsight, McGuire says, he wishes the paper had held DePass's piece until it could be made more balanced. "There are some people who believe that we should not write about the criminal past of people in obits. Those people are wrong," asserts the editor. "We've got to look at obits with the golden rule in mind." And what might he want written about him when the time comes? "I'll leave that to the editors," McGuire laughs.

Give Yourself a Pat on the Back

AND SPEAKING OF editors, have you ever noticed that newspapers pretty much only write about awards when they win them? St. Paul Pioneer Press top hat Walker Lundy was honored late last month by the National Press Foundation, which presented him with the Chairman's Citation--an honor the organization has bestowed only three times in seventeen years of award-giving--for the paper's unraveling of last year's University of Minnesota basketball scandal. The occasion merited an (admirably modest) item in the Pi Press. Not a word in the Star Tribune, however. Okay, so it's not the Pulitzer. Wonder if the Strib'll take note if Lundy and Co. bring home one of those next month. Though Pulitzer honchos make a big to-do about secrecy, the preliminary judging is over and the buzz is that George Dohrmann, the Pi Press sports reporter who broke the U basketball story, is a finalist in beat reporting. "That's what I hear," confirms Lundy. As for his own recent honor, the editor writes off the rival paper's silence to "human nature," saying he might have done the same thing had the shoe been on the other foot. "Readers are more interested in their newspaper than in one they don't read," Lundy notes. "I have to tell you, I didn't know we were doing a story until after it had appeared. I wouldn't have proposed it."

 
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