Off Beat

Hiring Chill at the Strib

OFF BEAT HAD heard strange whispers: that the Star Tribune had a hiring freeze in place. Seems odd in this economy, we thought--and heck, the paper's own Web site (
) lists 11 newsroom openings. Indeed, Strib vice president Frank Parisi says we've got it all wrong. "There is no hiring freeze," says the spokesman. But, Parisi hastens to add, there's no rush to hire people, either. (Right now there are more than 70 vacancies across all departments--fairly typical for the company, which employs more than 2,300 people.) The issue, Parisi says, is budgets: The paper continues to lag behind this year's targets for retail advertising sales. Mind you, the Star Tribune is making money hand over fist; it's just less money than managers had projected. And although supervisors are being asked to hold off on new hires until after the first of the year if possible, Parisi says the newsroom and sales are immune. ("Non-labor discretionary expenses" such as travel are under scrutiny, however.) Is the paper's owner, Sacramento, California-based McClatchy Co., setting more aggressive revenue and profit goals than the previous bosses, the Cowles Media Company? "The goals are set by Star Tribune management," Parisi responds. "They are not any different than they have been in past years and past regimes." Still, that's not the impression around the newsroom. Columnist Doug Grow says there's a sense that the publicly traded McClatchy Co. is more cost-conscious than its predecessor. The "business-is-tough" refrain is an old song, Grow adds, noting that the tune hasn't changed for 20 years. "That's 80 successive quarters that we've done horseshit," he says.

The Second Coming

AS A CONNOISSEUR of weird chapters in local politics, Off Beat was intrigued to see Renee LaVoi's name among the election filings for the Fifth U.S. Congressional District seat. Last year LaVoi, a longtime GOP activist, was a Republican-endorsed candidate for the Minneapolis school board. Despite losing, she established herself as an enduring footnote in party annals, owing to an advertisement she placed in the Star Tribune before the election. Entitled "A Vote for Renee LaVoi Is a Vote for Morality," the lengthy manifesto likened moral decline in the U.S. to the conditions in "heathen" pre-Christian African cultures and was laced with references to witchcraft, sexual perversion, and music that was "full of evil." LaVoi's screed led to a minor brouhaha over the party's pre-endorsement screening process (see Mike Mosdale's story "Party Games" in the November 10, 1999 issue of City Pages). State Auditor Judi Dutcher pilloried GOP brass for their failure to swiftly repudiate LaVoi, and then, a few months later, defected to the DFL. As it turns out, the ad also ended LaVoi's career in the GOP. The 51-year-old therapist is running her Congressional campaign under the banner of the Constitution Party, which advocates, among other reforms, abolition of the federal income tax. She made the decision to take the leap to the Constitution Party after concluding that the Republican big tent has simply become too big, LaVoi tells Off Beat. "The Republican Party has embraced too many people who don't agree with their platform," the candidate opines. "The Constitution Party is very welcoming towards Christians and is very solid in its Biblical beliefs. But the Republicans have basically taken the attitude that Christians aren't welcome--particularly Christians who are outspoken." Though LaVoi says "a lot" of fellow Christian Republicans have followed her lead, Tony Sutton, the executive director of the state GOP, disputes that claim. "I don't think any more than a handful of people have left. There's no mass exodus," says Sutton, who defended LaVoi at the time of the flap but now feels she "crossed the line."