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Star Tribune says it will buy City Pages

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A City Pages rack sat next to the Star Tribune.
A City Pages rack sat next to the Star Tribune's in downtown St. Paul on Wednesday, May 6, 2015. The Star Tribune announced today that the company is buying the alt-weekly.
Regina McCombs | MPR News

Updated 1:10 p.m. | Posted 10:46 a.m.

The Star Tribune announced Wednesday it has reached an agreement to buy City Pages, Minnesota's largest alternative weekly.

It's the first acquisition by the newspaper since businessman and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor bought the company a year ago.

The Strib will discontinue its arts and entertainment weekly, Vita.mn. Company spokesperson Steve Yaeger said Vita.mn was the "clear No. 2" in a Twin Cities market that had seen the demise of Metromix, The Rake and other publications.

"Vita.mn has been a good competitor to City Pages," Yaeger said. "We've enjoyed competing with them. We'll now enjoy being part of the same organization together. Clearly it would be redundant for us to publish two brands that are competing for the same audience."

Yaeger said the acquisition allows the Strib to expand its audience and ad revenue. He expects City Pages to drop ads for escort services because they typically are not licensed commercial businesses. 

Voice Media Group in Denver, Colo., currently owns City Pages. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Star Tribune Publisher and CEO Mike Klingensmith said the company was excited to expand its media holdings and create a stronger City Pages.

"We're happy to preserve this unique voice for alternative news and entertainment," he said in a statement. "We look forward to collaborating with our new colleagues to create compelling ways for advertisers to reach an attractive demographic of discriminating readers and entertainment-seekers." 

Mary Erickson, City Pages' publisher, said the move would allow her publication to expand its efforts in print and online. 

"We think the combination creates compelling and complementary benefits to readers and advertisers — and it will be great to have local ownership once again," she said.

City Pages will retain its separate newsroom and advertising sales team. 

A couple of City Pages journalists will lose their jobs as part of the deal. Blogger Ben Johnson announced Wednesday on Twitter he was one of them. "Sad to part with such a creative, talented staff," he tweeted.

Vita.mn's four full-time staffers will continue to work for the Star Tribune. 

Star Tribune officials say the 36-year-old City Pages will retain its independent voice. 

Freelance reporter and former media critic David Brauer, who broke the news of the sale on Twitter, says that remains to be seen but added  that the Strib has the potential to revive City Pages after several years of staffing cuts.

"One of the big questions that'll determine whether readers benefit from this or not is frankly whether City Pages gets more editorial resources to do better work."

Brauer, who is a former City Pages reporter, says the publication's deep dives into issues ranging from police brutality to Northwest Airlines at one time led local coverage and helped it earn a reputation as one of the best alt-weeklies in the nation. 

But "then the Internet happened," forcing ads to migrate to dating sites and other places, Brauer said. City Pages, like many alt-weeklies across the nation, cut back on its commitment to long-form journalism while putting new emphasis on calendar items and listicles.

"As a guy who worked there, it's sad to me that a 40-year-run of alt weeklies that are independent of the dailies is over," he said. "There's been a lot of great work done in both City Pages and the Twin Cities Reader over the years, and in some cases it's changed policy and changed journalism in town."