Off Beat

Strib to Land With Softer Plop

LAST YEAR THE Sacramento, California-based McClatchy Co., parent company of the Star Tribune, floated plans to shrink its newspapers (see the February 23, 2000 installment of this column). Those plans will become reality with the rollout of The Svelter Newspaper of the Twin Cities on March 6. In line with what has become a national epidemic in the newspaper industry, the Strib is cutting the size of its printing web from 54 to 50 inches. (The web is the width of four newspaper pages.) The width of an individual page will shrink from 13.5 to 12.5 inches, or roughly 7.5 percent. Star Tribune spokesman Frank Parisi tells Off Beat that as a result the paper hopes to save five percent on its newsprint costs (which he declines to enumerate). But does this mean that there will be less room for news stories in the paper? In an article about the shrinkage trend last week, Washington Post writer Geneva Overholser noted that "what many newspapers are not saying is that the overall newshole--the amount of information available to readers--is shrinking right along with the page." Parisi disputes the charge: "Our newshole has grown 15 percent in this last year, so we're not concerned about that," says he, adding that focus groups have embraced prototypes of the smaller paper as "easier to manage."

Strib Staffers' Wallets to Land With Softer Plop

IN OTHER STRIB news, McClatchy president/
CEO Gary Pruitt was in town last week for the paper's annual employee meeting, an event that transpired without the customary "success sharing" bonuses. Strib spokesman Frank Parisi says the paper fell short of both cash-flow and revenue targets for the year: "Since we didn't meet or exceed our targets, we told employees several weeks ago that there was not going to be any success sharing."

Only in the Twin Cities

LAST WEEK, AS Off Beat was out getting our semi-annual dose of culture, we happened on a new installation at the Walker Art Center by artist Kara Walker--a series of drawings tied to the museum's celebration of Black History Month. What caught our attention was a warning above the gallery entrance noting that "the works in this room illustrate an artist's reaction to and analysis of racial stereotyping. The language is frank, and the images may be unsettling." Certainly, Walker is no stranger to controversy; her previous work, including a piece in the art center's 1997 "no place (like home)" exhibit consisting of cutout silhouettes of grotesque 19th-century African-American stereotypes, generated a letter-writing campaign by fellow black artists decrying her politically incorrect images. It was somewhat surprising, nevertheless, to see a museum preface an artist's work with the art-world equivalent of an NC-17 rating. Has Tipper Gore, the cultural maven behind parental-labeling of popular music, turned her attention to high culture now that she has some time on her hands? Walker spokeswoman Karen Gysin explains that while such curatorial advisories are not usual, nor are they particularly unusual. "It doesn't happen all the time, but we've definitely done it before," Gysin says, noting that during last year's often explicitly sexual Let's Entertain exhibit, signs advised parents and teachers to preview the work on display before exposing their impressionable charges to it. "Not everything is for everyone," says Gysin. "We want to give the public as much information as possible if there's something in an exhibit that people might find objectionable."

What's in a Name?

IT'S TIMES LIKE this that we're glad we don't work for a mainstream news outlet. Was it just us, or did it actually take a little extra effort to keep the bland-faced professional-newscaster veneer intact when speaking aloud the name of the University of Minnesota's newly minted alleged child-porn connoisseur? Not that we'd ever stoop so low as to make fun of someone's name, but Off Beat did lean a little closer to the tube every time an anchor was compelled to reveal the identity of our own Professor Pervo.