Off Beat

Who Scooped Whom?

Last Tuesday the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press appeared to share a front-page scoop. Stories in both papers revealed that in 1995 a company owned by the family of Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad had loaned $3 million to Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig, in apparent violation of the rules of Major League Baseball. (Selig was MLB's interim commissioner at the time; he now occupies that position full-time, while his daughter runs the Brewers.)

Both stories indicated that Pohlad had initially denied the existence of the loan but that a subsequent phone call from MLB executive vice president Bob DuPuy had confirmed its existence. And both articles omitted any mention of what had led reporters to inquire about the loan--it was as if the six-year-old fact had fallen from the sky. What was the source of the story? And was one paper actually on to it first?

Columnist Charley Walters, who authored the Pi Press piece, declines to comment, and David Sell, the paper's deputy sports editor, isn't much more helpful. "We put our story on the Internet Monday night. I looked at the Star Tribune and did not see their story on there," Sell asserts. How did his paper learn of the loan? "I'm not sure I want to share with our competitors the reporting process we go through," Sell replies.

Across the river, assistant sports editor Dennis Brackin is more loquacious. "I don't care much for claims and counter-claims or scoops," Brackin says. "But I do want to make it clear that [Star Tribune reporter] Randy Furst had the scoop, not Charley Walters. Read the two stories and I'm certain you'll come to the same conclusion. Randy had the paperwork in his possession. Charley got a phone call from Selig's attorney, Bob DuPuy. We of course received the same phone call, and had the records and reporting background to make it a strong story. The phone call is clearly all Charley had; check out his spelling of the investment company Tempus (Charley called it Tempest). Who had the scoop? I'd just advise you, and readers, to compare the stories and be the judge." --By Mike Mosedale

 

The Last Straw

Southwest Journal editor Linda Picone got an early 2001 Christmas present from her employers. After almost three years at the helm of the biweekly newspaper, Picone was sacked the day before its offices shut down for a ten-day holiday siesta, and now the Southwest Journal is hunting for a new editor.

"I actually cleared out my office on Christmas Eve," Picone relates. The way the ousted editor tells the story, her firing was precipitated by poor meeting etiquette, though tensions had been escalating for months. "I sighed at a meeting and I guess I tapped my pencil, and the publisher asked me to leave, and I left," she recounts. When Picone returned to the office the next day, publisher Janis Hall demanded an apology. Picone refused and was fired.

Hall confirms the gist of Picone's version of what transpired. "That was kind of the last event that led to the decision that we made," the publisher says of the ill-fated meeting. "Linda's talent is indisputable. The decision was based on insubordination and her actions."

Picone plans to focus on freelance writing and editing for the foreseeable future. "I'm not closed to the idea of another job, but I loved my job at the Southwest Journal," she says. "It was like the job that was made for me, and I think I was made for it." --By Paul Demko

 
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