The incredible shrinking editorial board

The Pioneer Press editorial staff has been reduced to two permanent employees. Glenda Holste and Mark Yost are no longer working at the paper. As best can be determined they were let go earlier this week.

Editorial page editor Mike Burbach refuses to comment on the changes. "I'm busy on deadline," he says.

However, company spokeswoman Patricia Effenberger confirms that two members of the opinion page staff are no longer working there. "Beyond that, the Pioneer Press does not comment on personnel matters," she says in an email.

The Yost and Holste departures follow the dismissal earlier this year of Deborah Locke from the editorial staff. The Minnesota Newspaper Guild Typographical Union, which represents unionized workers at the paper, has filed a grievance seeking to reverse Locke's firing. Neither Holse or Yost were union members.

Other than Burbach, the only person remaining on the editorial page staff is executive assistant Jeannine Carle. Veteran political reporter Jim Ragsdale and local section editor Don Effenberger have taken on temporary assignments writing for the editorial page.

Here's the note from Burbach and editor Thom Fladung that went out to staff yesterday:


Don Effenberger and Jim Ragsdale have agreed to take on temporary assignments on our editorial page.

They will sit on our editorial board and help write the unsigned editorials that establish the Pioneer Press position on any number of issues.

Don and Jim likely will do this for about 30 days while we search for new associate editors, with Jim beginning immediately and Don joining him the week of April 24th.

Journalists flowing back and forth between the newsroom and editorial -- isn't that pretty unusual? Really, in this case, only in the brief nature of the assignment. At newspapers where we've worked, journalists have moved from the newsroom to editorial and back again. We understand that's been the case here as well. And within this newsroom, journalists have moved between news beats and column writing.

Yes, there still are ethical concerns in doing this. Neither Don nor Jim would have agreed to undertake such an assignment without careful, thorough discussions with both of us about those issues. And, yes, one could argue those concerns are heightened, as a pair of newsroom journalists move from striving for balance and fairness in stories to expressing strong opinions and then back again -- all in the course of 30 days. We wouldn't try it with just any journalist.

Don Effenberger and Jim Ragsdale aren't just any journalists.

They will bring years of institutional memory and broad knowledge of the east metro community during a time of transition for our editiorial pages.

Don, a St. Paul native, came to the Pioneer Press in 1978, has held a variety of reporting and editing positions and has overseen many notable Pioneer Press efforts, such as the 150th anniversary section and the annual Winter Carnival sections. He currently is the team leader for St. Paul and Ramsey County coverage.

Jim joined the Pioneer Press in 1984. He has been an editor, reporter and columnist. His stints included years as a state capitol reporter, marked by his coverage of Gov. Jesse Ventura. He is an enterprise reporter, wandering the state and beyond to find the newsiest, most interesting stories.

We trust both to negotiate the balancing act involved in this, and we'll help. In the end, readers judge us by what's on the page, and Jim and Don are both highly skilled at delivering well-reported, fair-minded journalism. A stint on the opinion pages won't change that a whit. We're excited to see what they do with this new, different assignment.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to contact either of us.

Thom Fladung Mike Burbach

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