After 78 days as the sole Star Tribune Washington reporter, today is intern Brady Averill’s last day of work. When the sale of the paper to Avista Capital Partners closed in early March, Strib D.C. reporters Rob Hotakainen and Kevin Diaz chose to stay with McClatchy, citing an unattractive pay package offered by Avista, leaving only the University of Minnesota graduate to cover the nation’s capitol.
But when Averill leaves tonight, the paper’s D.C. office won’t technically “go dark.” Averill has been using office space with her former Strib colleagues in McClatchy’s D.C. newsroom, an arrangement that will end when a new Strib hire is made.
When will that be? Averill said she only knows what has been reported in the paper: They’ll make a hire “in a couple of weeks… or maybe one week.”
On Sunday, May 20, editor Nancy Barnes wrote, “We are committed to hiring a full-time Washington correspondent and hope to do so in the next few weeks. We expect to also have a full-time intern.”
A commitment to hiring is one thing, but Hotakainen seems to question the paper’s commitment to national news, saying “it’s amazing to me they’re going to let the bureau go dark.”
While Averill’s position will be refilled, one of the two spots served by Hotakainen and Diaz won’t. But even if the paper staffed up to three full-time D.C. reporters, levels would be well below those of years past. When he began at the bureau in 1999, Hotakainen said there were four reporters, including an intern. In an earlier interview with Minnesota Monitor, former bureau chief Tom Hamburger, now of the Los Angeles Times, said the paper employed five when he began work in the late 1980s, including four full-time journalists and an intern.