Monday, April 17, 2006

Not even penny-wise

A bizarre no-free-papers mandate at the Star Tribune came to national attention last week courtesy of the invaluable journalism site Romenesko. Last week, the site published a memo from the Minneapolis paper warning employees not to take extra copies from its newsracks.

"Taking more than one newspaper from a rack when you have only inserted enough money for one paper is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," wrote Steve Alexander, senior vice president of Circulation. "Employees who steal newspapers will put their jobs at risk. There is zero tolerance when it comes to stealing from our company, even if it is a 25-cent newspaper."

Angered at the leak, the paper is trying to track down the leaker. And of course, the story is linked to on Romenesko.

Newspaper employees take papers because it's a necessary part of their jobs. We need to see if some story made the paper, or perhaps didn't get published in the proper zone. There are many reasons why reporters, copy editors and other newsroom employees need to look at the actual print edition. If excessive papers are being taken, there are gentler ways to discourage waste, such as setting up central repositories where papers can be taken and returned to.

Alexander showed no awareness that his ham-handed approach could deter potential applicants to the paper.

We in the media business live inside a giant fishbowl called the Internet. The Star Tribune should get used to it.

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