Off Beat

Coming to a Doorstep Near You?

AT THE RATE the newspaper business is consolidating these days, how long can it be before everyone is waking up to the pie charts of USA Today? According to the Star Tribune's Patrick Reusse, the wait may be short indeed for readers of his rag. This past Friday morning on Barbara Carlson's KSTP-AM (1500) radio show, the sports columnist floated a rumor that Arlington, Virginia-based Gannett, publisher of USA Today and owner of local NBC affiliate KARE (Channel 11), was sniffing around Sacramento-based McClatchy Co., which owns the Strib. Representatives for both conglomerates declined Off Beat's requests for comment. But a spokeswoman for Gannett does tell us that the rumor has been batted around by industry analysts in the wake of a June 28 media consortium in New York City during which McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt said that although his company was not looking to sell, it would be "evaluating the changing media landscape."It was mere hours later that Gannett--already the nation's largest newspaper publisher--announced the $2.75 billion acquisition of Phoenix-based Central Newspapers Inc. The move, analysts noted, was in keeping with Gannett's strategy of buying newspapers in markets in which they already have a strong media presence (Gannett owns the Phoenix NBC affiliate). A similar synergy with KARE, along with McClatchy's low stock price as compared with the company's cash flow, would make the company, and especially the Star Tribune, an attractive target. What might local newsroom staffers think of such a deal? Reusse didn't return Off Beat's Friday-afternoon phone call, but the Strib's Minneapolis neighborhoods reporter Steve Brandt, seldom shy about proffering his opinion, was quick to quip on the Minneapolis-Issues online forum: "Re Gannett: It sucks."

Keeping the Faith

THINGS MAY BE, um, looking up for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport's unofficial chaplain, Pastor Bob White. The Air Line Pilots Association at Northwest Airlines recently passed a resolution urging its members to throw some more money in the pastor's collection plate. FaithfulCity Pages readers may recall that Meleah Maynard's February 9 story "What About Bob?" chronicled the pastor's tribulations over the 30 years that he has offered counseling and succor to airport workers and travelers--a calling that has earned him the gratitude and admiration of his transient flock, but barely enough money to get by. "Your article brought to light our financial challenge of carrying out this ministry to the civil aviation community, and informed members of our community of the need to support our cause," says White. In addition to resolving to give White a raise, the pilots requested that airline management match any employee contributions (Northwest staffers make up the bulk of the pastor's congregation), and also that the Metropolitan Airports Commission designate White as the official airport chaplain and give him a break on rent so he can move out of the two tiny $700-per-month offices he currently occupies in the bowels of the airport. Northwest did not return Off Beat's phone calls. MAC spokeswoman Amy Von Walter says as far as her agency is concerned, White's out of luck. "He is strictly a tenant and not affiliated with the MAC, and we don't hand out money to other tenants, so we're not going to hand any to him," she says. "And we don't recognize other tenants as the official anything, so he won't be recognized as the official chaplain. We just don't show that kind of favoritism."

Doing Our Civic Duty

WHILE EATING OUR bonbons and trolling the Internet the other day, a post at the Obscure Store and Reading Room (www.obscurestore.com), the assemblage of news oddities culled by former Twin Cities resident Jim Romenesko, caught our eye. In it, Romenesko--who was lured away from the St. Paul Pioneer Press last year by the Poynter Institute, which adopted his other Web site, the popular gossip clearinghouse MediaNews--noted that he'd received several communiqués from Obscure Store devotees saying their employers had cut off access to the site. "It seems that obscurestore.com has been added to some master list of sites to be filtered out," the post posits. In response to an e-mail from Off Beat, the Webmeister says he doesn't know whether any worker bees in this neck of the woods are affected. Any local victims are urged to contact Off Beat; meantime you can foil the Man by entering Obscure via redwood.he.net/~obscure.

 
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