Thom Kupper is assistant managing editor for business news at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he oversees a team of 20 reporters and editors.
He joined the Star Tribune in 2010 as senior business editor, in charge of the Sunday business section, and moved to his current role in 2015. In his time at the Star Tribune it has won general excellence from SABEW four times, as well as three Loeb awards.
Kupper spoke this week by email with Talking Biz News about how the Star Tribune’s business section is covering Super Bowl LII, which is being held blocks away in the Minnesota Vikings stadium. What follows is an edited transcript.
What’s been your planning for Super Bowl business news stories before this week?
We started thinking about the Super Bowl around the time football season started. Before that we did a few stories, mainly around real estate topics like people who wanted to rent out their homes for ridiculous prices. But for most of last year it was pretty ad hoc.
Then I’d say sometime in December was when we really started putting specific stories on a budget.
How much interaction has the business news desk had with news and sports to determine what angles to cover?
We have had quite a bit of interaction with the other departments, starting like I said early in the fall. We had meetings roughly every two weeks with all the section editors and maybe a dozen other people to coordinate efforts. There’s obviously a ton of content coming from every corner of the newsroom – sports, metro, features and us – so it was really important to keep track of everything.
We made a master budget sometime this fall, and that has grown to a 12-page document with I’d guess 100 stories on it. Of course the best stories tend to be the ones you don’t plan in advance, so the list is still growing.
What are some of the stories that the business news team has focused on?
One thing we decided early on was we didn’t want a lot of really incremental stories – “Target throws big party,” or things like that. Of course it’s fundamentally a big tourism event, so there were stories about hotel impacts. Features did some stories around restaurants.
We did several stories around what local companies are doing to leverage the Super Bowl for visibility, in terms of events and advertising, as well as local companies getting contracts to do work around the event. Today we’re working on one about the NFL’s efforts to crack down on counterfeit merchandise, which can be a $20+ million issue for them. Last-minute hotel pricing is also fun — we found space listed in a hostel at $750 a night.
How much attention has the Star Tribune given to economic impact studies of sporting events and whether the numbers are accurate?
We had a story about that on the front page on Sunday. There are certainly a lot of questions about those numbers, but at the same time I think most people accept that the impact of having this many visitors is real but also tough to measure with any precision.
One thing we focused on here that’s maybe a little different from most Super Bowl cities is that there’s been a conscious effort to use this as basically a branding effort for the Twin Cities, since this isn’t the first place most people think of visiting in the middle of winter. So we wrote about this effort to generate a carryover affect, if people have a good experience and come back or plan meetings here later.
How much time has your staff spent on covering Super Bowl-related stories versus their normal beats?
That’s a great question, since with all the planning we did and all the Super Bowl activity all around us it would be easy to get carried away and have nothing but Super Bowl stories. We want to avoid that, and we’ve been making an effort to find other flavors of news so we continue to have a good mix of stuff.
In print this week, we’re running virtually nothing about the Super Bowl in the Business section and directing all those stories to the A section. It’s hard to put a number on it, but certainly the resources into Super Bowl is less than 50 percent this week and less than that before now. Many of our reporters did nothing on the Super Bowl and just continued looking for news on their beats.
Did you look at how the Houston Chronicle covered the Super Bowl from a business perspective last year, or other papers in previous years? What did you learn?
We did talk with people at the Chronicle to see what they’d done and whether they had any suggestions. I also worked in San Diego before and went through two Super Bowls there, so I knew some of what to expect.
But at the same time this one has some unique attributes, in that it’s in a cold-weather city and also in that the stadium and most of the activity are right in the middle of the city. So a lot of we’ve been trying to capture is what makes this new and different in terms of the business opportunities and effects.
Give me a pick: Eagles or Patriots, and by how much?
Eagles looked strong against the Vikings. I’ll take them by 4.