Par for the course

For some of the best — and most disturbing — local writing to be found these days, follow this link:  http://media.startribune.com/smedia/2007/04/12/21/pplawsuit.source.prod_affiliate.2.pdf

 This should take you to a PDF copy of the lawsuit filed by the Pioneer Press April 12 against The Star Tribune, Newspaper of the Western Milky Way and Leveraged Buyout Mistress of Avista Capital Partners, LP.  It represents the opening salvo in the battle over Par Ridder’s thoughtful decision to remain on Interstate 94 on his way to work from Sunfish Lake, exiting on 5th Street in Minneapolis rather than 7th Street in St. Paul, thereby leaving his job as publisher of the PP to take the comparable position at the Strib.

Now of course, kiddies, we all learned in school that a lawsuit is a “claim,” and not to be believed as fact.  It’s one side of the story.  To be sure.  But if just a fraction of the allegations laid out in a compelling narrative — drafted by one Dan Oberdorfer, former Strib-reporter-turned-lawyer — that is both detailed and genuinely disturbing, are true, then what we have here is a real corker. 

In short, the suit describes a series of actions by a spoiled little MBA rich kid who decided to turn his back on 75 years of history and loyalty to both a newspaper and a company — the Pioneer Press and Knight-Ridder, respectively — and to trot across the River to that company’s arch-competitor, taking with him a mountain of highly sensitive information, the substance of which is enough to blow a competitive hole in the side of the PP the size of the USS Cole.  And this doesn’t even touch on the fact that there appears to have been some sort of inconvenient “non-compete” agreement that Mr. Ridder (whose name Channel 9 news amusingly pronounced as “Rider,” as in Easy Rider) either inappropriately removed from the premises of the Pioneer Press, mischaracterized as being null and void, or both.  Oh, and did we mention that Par also persuaded two critically important PP executives to join him?

Perhaps most disturbing in all this is the very real possibility that The Star Trombone’s best and brightest executives gleefully accepted all this information, with Par “Easy” Ridder firing off one email after another bristling with attachments of spreadsheets, reports and other goodies — machine gun belts of business amunition for the Strib to fire against its cross-town rival.  This, in an industry whose stock-in-trade every so often lights upon such subjects as credibility, accountability and, ah, ethical behavior, is utterly amazing.

To read the Strib’s coverage of the issue is to witness one of those VERY CAREFULLY edited bodies of reportage that characterizes the dispute in the most antiseptic of terms. (Those of you who haven’t been on “the light side” — versus the dark side of PR — should be aware that any story that even mentions The Mothership is given extremely careful treatment, frequently being read and edited by the Editor-In-Chief, the company’s lawyers and any number of other Poobahs — consideration usually reserved only for BFD Superprojects.) 

We would also invite you to visit the Strib’s web site and to search for “Ridder,” whereupon one will be rewarded with 79 hits.  One of those headlines, dated April 17, 2007, reads:  “Star Tribune Union Seeks Inquiry of Allegations Against Publisher.”  Interestingly, a click on that particular headline results in an Error 404.  “We’re Sorry.  The page you requested could not be found. It may have been moved; more likely it has been removed from our servers. Most articles are automatically purged from startribune.com’s free news database after three weeks.”  Hmm.  Let’s see.  Today’s April 18th, I think. . .

Not that any of you care, but for some demented reason (maybe it’s because my family just visited my profligate artist son, who is studying for a semester in Florence, Italy), I’ve been reading Dante’s Inferno.  I would note the following:  Dante reserves his lowest and most horrifying level of hell, Judecca (for Judas), the innermost region of the Ninth Circle, for those who commit treachery against their benefactors.  One would assume that those who receive the fruits of that treachery are somewhere in close proximity. 

– Tony Carideo

3 Responses

  1. Sadly, who publishes either paper won’t mean a thing as the Internet, podcasts and other technologies eat their lunch. I wash less and less ink off my fingers every day as I slowly disassociate myself with hardcopies of practically everything. So let the Pi Press and Strib fight it out, waste their profits (ha) and trim their staffs even further over something as ludicrous as this. Their demise is in their own hands.

  2. How could they ever have hired someone named “Par” on the correct side of the river? A name that preppy foreshadowed trouble for good old St. Paul. I’m sure Par’s pals at the club (Buffy? Bink?) are glad he moved to a city with a passable art gallery.

  3. The legacy model of the newspaper biz is irretrievably broken.

    History will show that Avista Capital way overspent in buying the Strib. And whatever intel and human capital Ridder brought with him from the Pioneer Press amounts to pebbles in the ocean.

    I predict very bad futures for both papers. The current embroglio is salacious and entertaining, but a distraction from the real problems of both organizations.

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