The Gyllenhaal Test

Categories: News

Here's some true or false questions about soon-to-be Miami Herald editor Anders Gyllenhaal, who is leaving the Minneapolist Star Tribune to take the helm at SFla's most widely circulated daily in a couple of months:

1. He is uncle to movie star siblings Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

2. During his first two years at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Monday-through-Friday readership among 18-to-24-year-olds fell by nearly half (from 35 percent to 19 percent).

3. Gyllenhaal recently oversaw a controversial redesign of the Star Tribune, transforming the newspaper's previously staid and substantive front page into a "hyperactive homepage-in-print, full of teasers, headlines, and other items styled to grab readers' attention." Why? Because Gyllenhaal and the other Strib suits determined that the newspaper needed to target people under 30, women, and "light readers." As part of that push, articles have become shorter and the newspaper is playing up fluff pieces more and pushing hard news deep into the newspaper.

4. The Star Tribune's national economics correspondent, Mike Meyers, publicly complained about Gyllenhaal's changes. "We now have two rock critics and no energy reporter. We have a how-to columnist whose job it is to tell you how to iron a shirt and fold a napkin. There's always a tension between style and substance, but news resources seem to be put in other areas."

5. Gyllenhaal has a "sense of humor so dry it's almost a mirage, and his compliments are regarded like water in the desert."

6. The Strib staff generally considered Gyllenhaal non-responsive to their concerns about the soft direction the newspaper was taking. Said Minneapolis city hall reporter Rochelle Olson, "There's a sense he's made up his mind or is never wrong, so it's not really up for discussion. What's frustrating is, we care deeply about the paper, as much if not more than he does, and he doesn't seem to believe that."

7. Gyllenhaal was raised in a tiny religious Pennsylvania town that was dominated a Protestant sect called Swedenborgianism, founded by a man named Swedenborg who believed he spoke with spirits. His family was made up of strict Swedenborgianists.

8. Gyllenhaal's father Hugh was the editor of the University of Pennsylvania's student newspaper who later became a management consultant who organized conferences for President Lyndon B. Johnson and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. He was also an alcholic who disappeared for a month after the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

9. Gyllenhaal was trained in the cello but gave it up for the banjo and has played with numerous bluegrass bands.

10. He started reporting for the Miami Herald at 28 and eventually ran the Herald's Broward bureau. He left the paper at age 39 to become metro editor in Raleigh.

11. He met his wife Beverly at the Herald. She's now a cookbook writer who does a column called "Desperation Dinners."

After the jump: The Answers

They are all, as you may have guessed, true, according to an exhaustive and well-done profile on Gyllenhaal that was published in the June edition of Minnesota Monthly. Writer David Brauer brings the fellow into focus and, while it's a tough and unblinking examination of the man and his work, Gyllenhall comes across as an immensely smart and hardworking man with strong journalistic credentials. But Brauer also implies that as he's risen in the Knight Ridder/McClatchy ranks, the editor has been transformed into a bottom-liner, even a bit of a corporate mercenary who is turning his back on the staples of the Fourth Estate in exchange for cheap circulation ploys.

But that goes without saying. There's no big newspaper editor at a major chain who hasn't sold at least half his journalistic soul, is there?


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