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Ghoulish Gannett Cuts St. Cloud Times to the Bone

Plus car scrappin', workforce shrinkin', and hero dog rescuin' in today's Flyover.

St. Cloud Times HQ from 1977 until 2019. The building was sold in 2018. Read into the half-mast flag all you wish.
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Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily midday digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

The St. Cloud Times Is Down to Two Staffers

Gannett isn’t in the journalism business. The country’s largest newspaper chain is in the profit extraction business, and its greedy bloodletting has the St. Cloud Times down to just two newsroom workers. We learned that today via a nice Axios scoop on the 93-year-old “ghost paper,” one that staffed 36 news employees as recently as 2014. We hear from a St. Cloud State mass comms prof; we hear from a state DFL lawmaker; we hear elite mealy-mouthed corporate drivel from a Gannett PR stooge. We don’t, crucially, hear from any current or past workers. (Racket is speaking with one tonight.) Gannett is quick to blame layoffs on its shrinking advertising revenue, but less eager to cite the behavior of its CEO, Mike Reed, and its board of directors, who just authorized $100 million in stock buybacks. “Why are we suffering for poor business ownership?” Arizona Republic investigative reporter Joseph D. Jaafari tweeted in August. “This dude [Reed] is reaping millions off the backs of our labor, threatening us with layoffs, then betting money on the expected gains from us gone. This is cold-hearted and an immoral business practice at the hands of a dirty CEO.”

With stories like these, we like to yield the floor to local Twitter personality/former St. Cloud resident Stu Neuman, our unofficial central Minnesota correspondent: 

“This is so depressing. I applied for a job there that I was resolutely unqualified for after getting whacked by MPR in 2016,” the Surly Brewing comms man tells us. “They were understaffed even then, though not to such an absurd extent. And it’s not like there isn’t newsworthy stuff happening in the greater Stearns County metroplex! The New York Times sends reporters to St. Cloud to talk to maniacs at Culver’s. The first revolt against the state’s COVID shutdown was at a bar out in Albany. The entire Sartell school board just got taken over by anti-CRT idiots. You have two reporters to cover that, along with the day-to-day work of city council meetings, road construction, business closures/expansions, a diversifying population base, etc. Good luck. Anyway, if you’re a politician or business jerk looking to get away with something, move to St. Cloud. No one’s watching.”

MN Scrap Metal Companies Don’t Want to Stop Scrapping Stolen Cars

Stolen cars and catalytic converters often end up in junkyards, but, unlike pawn shops, metal scrappers aren’t required to use a state tracking system that could help cops find these missing items; attempt to remedy this has faced fierce industry opposition over the years. In 2013, the Minnesota state legislature, anticipating a big jump in car thefts, passed a law requiring scrap recyclers to use a database that would make it easier for police to recognize stolen parts and vehicles. But, in 2015, a year before the cop- and consumer-approved database would have become a requirement, the law was quietly repealed. Why? A handful of politicians had a change of heart. According to KSTP, one of the law’s key opponents, Rep. Marion O’Neill (R-Maple Lake), received $14,000 in campaign donations from scrap companies, owners, and other people connected to the industry. So why is the industry so against the database? Scrap companies say it’s redundant, as they already use a federal database to record purchases (police argue those systems aren’t updated fast enough to be useful). Meanwhile, Northern Metals has claimed that not scrapping stolen items they purchase could cost them up to $150,000 a year. Gee, sure sounds like you’ve got a business model that should be scrapped.

Where Have All the Workers Gone?

As was the case across the nation, Minnesota’s workforce shrank during the pandemic, as businesses shut down and layoffs and furloughs swept through all kinds of industries. The thing is, Minnesota’s workforce still hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic numbers. MPR’s Tim Nelson reports that “there are still about 90,000 fewer workers in Minnesota than there were before the pandemic,” as Minnesota state demographer Susan Brower recently told folks at a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Women in Business gathering “It’s not the great resignation,” she said. “It’s not mothers, by and large, who have stayed outside of the workforce.” Instead, it’s the simple fact that our workforce is aging and retiring, resulting in our state having one of the tightest labor markets in the nation. So, to answer the question posed in that heading? …Florida and Arizona, probably. The only way to loosen up the market: immigration from other nations and migrations from other states.

22 Good Dogs Seized from Bad Breeder

Puppies to seniors, Corgis to Great Danes. That describes the diverse haul of 22 dogs the Animal Humane Society recently acquired after a rural Minnesota breeder was shut down by the Board of Animal Health for overloading its kennels, Bring Me the News Reports. “Our expert veterinarians are currently providing each dog with vaccinations, balanced nutrition, specialized behavior rehabilitation, and spay/neuter surgery,” the Humane Society wrote today a Facebook post. “These 22 lives are about to be changed forever—and it’s all because of supporters like you.” The rescued cuties will be available for adoption in the comings days and weeks, BMTN reports. Click here to view photos of their tail-waggin’ intake process; click here to view the current roster of adoptable pups.