Off Beat

Tipping Point

In these tough times, even the Newspaper of the Twin Cities has to cut corners. Still, for reporters at the Star Tribune, one penny-pinching measure went too far. Earlier this month staff writer Steve Brandt went public with his displeasure, in the following aside to a posting on the e-mail forum Minneapolis-Issues: "[T]he bean counters, who must be at the parent company in sunny California, have quit supplying felt tip pens, apparently not knowing that ballpoints freeze up in Minnesota winters."

Actually, the bean counter in question wasn't the McClatchy Company, the Strib's Sacramento-based owner, but rather Kent Gardner, an assistant manager in administration who has been with the paper for 33 years. "We cut back on the variety of pens we have been offering," Gardner confirms. "In the big picture, we have been cutting back on expenses in various ways."

Gardner wouldn't say how much he thought the move might save the paper. In any event, the point (as it were) is moot: Having received numerous protests, he has reordered the felt tips. "I sent a felt tip in the mail to one reporter who complained," he adds helpfully. --By G.R. Anderson Jr.

 

Smile When You Say That, Sid

As the Super Bowl edition of KSTP-TV's weekly Sports Wrap drew to a close on the night of February 3, host Joe Schmit prepared to wrap things up with regular guests Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune and Bob Sansevere of the Pioneer Press.

Turning to Hartman, Schmit kidded the venerable sports columnist about his aversion to the Olympics. Hartman responded with an abbreviated anecdote, during which some swear he uttered what Schmit now refers to delicately as "the F-word."

Schmit: Sid, I got just a few seconds left. Will you analyze the figure-skating competition for me on the women's side?

Hartman: You know who they remind me of? I used to have a teacher--

Schmit: Be careful!--

Hartman: --who we called "The Smiling [unintelligible]," and all those judges look like The Smiling [unintelligible].

[Chaos; several people talking excitedly at once]

Sansevere: [laughing] What did he say? Is this cable?

Schmit: I don't know. That's a wrap!

Reached by City Pages, Hartman denies uttering the word Sansevere evidently thought he said. The teacher to whom he was referring, an irate Hartman explains, was notorious for passing out failing grades, and hence earned the nickname The Smiling Flunker. "I wrote about her a few years ago," he says. "The smiling flunker. F-L-U-N-K-E-R. So get your facts straight, sir!"

Schmit says he received several calls from colleagues who wanted to know "whether Sid had said the F-word on TV." After listening to the tape repeatedly, the Channel 5 sports anchor has concluded that Hartman is "innocent of saying a naughty word, guilty of slurring his words. Diction and enunciation have never been Sid's strong points." --By Mike Mosedale

 

The First One's Always the Hardest

When the New Jersey-based Florence and John Schumann Foundation awards grants, it focuses on a few specific areas: fair governing practices, the environment, the media. The organization, whose president is acclaimed journalist Bill Moyers, counts among its high-profile beneficiaries Wesleyan University, National Public Radio, and the PBS series Frontline. Now add to that list the irreverent media critics at Cursor.org.

The grant, a modest $25,000, is the four-year-old Web site's first, but both the foundation and Cursor co-editors Rob Levine and Mike Tronnes are relatively mum about it. "The foundation likes to keep a low profile about our grants," explains vice president Lynn Welhorsky. "That's the wish of the Schumann family, and we have to respect that."

Levine respects it too. "Be sure to say how completely and thoroughly grateful we are to the Schumann Foundation," he says. "They went out of their way to help us." Levine says he and Tronnes don't have concrete plans for the money yet, though it will probably involve a stipend of $5,000 a piece--mere pennies an hour for all the work they've done over the years. They also intend to pay some of their writers and contributors. (Levine himself is a City Pages contributor. His story "MPR: Money Public Radio" appeared in last week's issue; see citypages.com/archive/.)

While he acknowledges that both the money and the recognition are nice, Levine stresses that those aren't the driving forces behind Cursor. "The need for what we do--a critical view on media and mass culture--is greater than ever," he says. "I would do this with no money at all. And that's how we've been doing it." --By Leyla Kokmen

 
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