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Minneapolis Architecture Critic Cut

May 30, 2007

by Alan G. Brake

With new buildings by Jean Nouvel and Herzog & de Meuron, as well as a dynamic regional design community, the architecture scene in Minneapolis is definitely heating up—but it will no longer be receiving consistent review in the local newspaper. The Minneapolis Star Tribune announced earlier this month that it is eliminating the position of its architecture critic and reporter, Linda Mack.

In addition to reporting on architecture, planning, and landscape design, Mack had covered the urban landscape in a weekly features column for 20 years. Her position was one of 50 newsroom jobs cut—part of a larger effort to trim the paper’s staff by seven percent, or 145 jobs—affecting arts, classical music, and film coverage.

Janet Abrams, director of the Design Institute at the University of Minnesota, is among many observers who think that these cuts are ill-timed, if not ill-advised—particularly when it comes to architecture writing. “It’s a shame if there isn’t going to be consistent coverage at precisely the time when the Twin Cities are in an ascendant position.”

But the Star Tribune is hardly alone in shrinking the size of its staff. Despite healthy profit margins, industry watchers are concerned that declining print subscriptions and anemic ad revenue growth signal a potential decline. In response to these fears, newspapers nationwide have been slashing headcounts to reduce costs.

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For their part, managers at the Star Tribune say that layoffs will enable the paper to strengthen coverage in other areas. “We’ll be putting more resources into local daily reporting, as well as in-depth reporting, and we’re putting more resources into online. Those will be our three priorities,” the paper’s editor, Nancy Barnes, told Minnesota Public Radio. “There are some other things that we’ll be giving up in order to make that happen.”

Mack, meanwhile, plans to continue writing as well as getting more directly involved in local planning and design issues. “I’ve been telling people how to design urban environments for a long time,” she says, “it’s time for me to get my hands dirty and I’m looking forward to that.”

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