A Good Year on Portland Ave.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Strib

In her freshman year, though, Parrish has won over the grizzled newsies, who now more than ever covet the marquee spots in her weekend edition. "She has a natural feel for how the entire paper looks, and a genuine interest in giving a wide variety of subjects prominent play," says one longtime feature writer at the paper. "It's a big reason that people all across the newsroom have stepped up their game."

Parrish's boss, Anders Gyllenhaal, is also winning over those skeptics initially put off by his iffy people skills. Unlike his predecessor, Tim McGuire--who retired as the paper's editor in June 2002--Gyllenhaal is analytical and aloof. One longtime reporter likens his management style to that of the Washington Post's famed Ben Bradlee: "He's one of those guys who throws a grenade in the middle of the room and then watches to see how everyone will react. He wants to be above the fray, but cause the fray, and that's created a sort of creative tension around here."

McGuire and his managing editor Pam Fine (who resigned in the spring of 2002) preferred to be involved in the minutiae of almost every story, and were a constant presence on the newsroom floor whether needed or not. They were also skittish about taking swings at venerated institutions, whether it was the Minnesota Twins or the Catholic Church. As their tenure wore on, McGuire in particular became increasingly fixated on process (reorganizing departments into teams, creating layers of management), all of which made it difficult to get controversial projects green-lighted. "Right before Tim left, the air in here was just sort of sick," says one of the paper's columnists. "There wasn't any energy."

New Assistant Managing Editor Mi-Ai Parrish has transformed the Strib's Sunday edition
Courtesy of Star Tribune
New Assistant Managing Editor Mi-Ai Parrish has transformed the Strib's Sunday edition

Gyllenhaal has been inconspicuous but methodical. Besides hiring Parrish and pumping up the Sunday product, he's begun much-needed renovations to the Business and Sports sections, along with the paper's national and international coverage. He's also made a number of high-profile hires, including longtime Pioneer Press columnist Nick Coleman. Still, while the Strib is a better read, the paper has a lot of work to do before its success on Sunday becomes a daily occurrence.

Which may be why, in the next couple of months, Gyllenhaal plans to make a number of moves. In an effort to improve day-to-day news coverage, reporters working for the Metro section, which still suffers from slow-footedness and a lack of in-depth analysis, will be reassigned to different beats. The paper will expand its national desk, investigative team, and online reporting. There will also be more stories from Wisconsin and the Dakotas, filed by a full-time roving reporter charged with breaking regional stories and tying them to national trends.

"The paper has to become even more aggressive," says one editor. "It has to not care if it's seen as a troublemaker or an outsider. Is that who Anders is? Is that why he's doing all of this? It's too soon to tell. No one really knows him. But I'll tell you something, people around here feel like they've been let off a leash--and for now, that's enough."

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