New Strib editorialist crosses the ad-edit barrier

For what’s believed to be the first time, the Strib has hired a businessperson to sit on its editorial board. And not just any businessperson, but an ad guy.

John Rash, who has been Campbell-Mithun’s senior vice president and director of media negotiations, will begin a 16-hour-a-week stint on Monday. He’ll keep working part-time at C-M “in a new role focusing on media analysis,” editorial page editor Scott Gillespie says.

How can a former media broadcast negotiator who now does corporate media analysis steer clear of conflicts? We’ll have to see — if we can, given that editorials aren’t signed. The Strib should publish a list of Rash’s past and present clients and negotiating partners, in the interest of transparency.

[NOTE: The original version of this piece said Rash would focus on media analysis for the paper. Gillespie says he will focus on a range of topics.]

Here’s Gillespie’s reasoning for the choice: “A variety of life experiences is part of what makes a good editorial writer. Another essential attribute is a strong sense of ethics. John has both. We’re very fortunate to be able to add someone of his caliber to our staff, and I’m confident that the wide world will offer John plenty of topics that will not pose conflicts for him or the paper.”

Rash was out of the office yesterday, so we couldn’t connect, but he’s no amateur: he’s a prolific, engaging commentator who already writes a column for the Strib’s business section and has the regular Rash Report on WCCO-AM. He also writes weekly for AdAge, so he clearly knows his way around the keyboard.

His non-commercial bona fides include several teaching gigs at the U that I’d consider if I were there: Mass Media and Popular Culture, Mass Media and Politics and Strategic Communications across Media.

I asked Gillespie if a businessperson has ever worked in the editorial inner sanctum. “No precedent I’m aware of at this point,” he said.

Gillespie isn’t afraid of eyebrow-raising hires. When he was the paper’s managing editor, he was part of the leadership that pulled conservative PiPress editorialist Doug Tice across the editorial-newsroom divide to head the Strib’s non-ideological government coverage. Tice’s overt history spawns lefty doubt every time there’s a perceived Strib slight, but he’s still doing the job.

Gillespie says Tice has become “one of the most respected editors in our building.”

Of Rash, Gillespie says, “I’ve spent a lot of time talking with John about these issues, and I’m confident about our approach.”

Mark Oyaas, himself a ubiquitous local presence and communications consultant, tipped me to the original story, and I want to include a link to his thoughts here.

Here, too, is Gillespie’s memo to his staff:

I’m excited to announce that John Rash is joining the Star Tribune editorial board as a part-time writer.

Many of you know John from his extensive media work in the Twin Cities, including the monthly media column he’s written for our Business section and “The Rash Report” radio show on WCCO Radio. Last year he was named to Mpls.-St. Paul Magazine’s list of “The 100 Most Influential Minnesotans.”

When he’s not hosting a radio show, writing columns for us or Advertising Age or teaching at the University of Minnesota, John has served as senior vice president and director of media negotiations at Campbell Mithun, the Minneapolis-based advertising firm.

After joining us April 14, John will continue working part-time for the firm, but in a new role focusing on media analysis. John will also continue “The Rash Report” on WCCO, with the understanding that he’ll be identified as a member of the Star Tribune’s editorial board. And he’ll continue to do analyze the nightly Nielsen race, as well as other topics, on his website, rashreport.com.

John grew up in Minnesota and received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Minnesota in 1987. He lives in St. Louis Park with his wife Deb and children Ian, 2, and Sarah, 6 months.

We’re extremely fortunate to have a thinker and writer of John’s caliber joining the Star Tribune, where we expect him to be a valuable contributor to the newspaper and startribune.com.

—Scott
 

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 04/09/2008 - 01:40 pm.

    Through the knothole: as a passing pedestrian/reader viewing the scene, one can only assume, naively of course, that if Mr Rash is an expert media/television analyst, his editorial expertise will be focusing on virtual reality primarily?

    How does one integrate local, community editorial pages if one’s professional portfolio legitimacy is enriched/tempered by the likes of “60 Minutes”, “Saturday Night Live” or “Oprah”…?

  2. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 04/09/2008 - 03:32 pm.

    Makes you wonder what, if anything, would fail to pass the smell test with Gillespie.

  3. Submitted by Chris Farmer-Lies on 04/11/2008 - 09:38 am.

    I took Mass Media and Politics under John Rash, and I was incredibly impressed by his constant attention regarding potential conflicts. Whenever such conflicts of interest arose in the course of teaching the class, he was always transparent and upfront with his students. I expect the same of him at the Star Tribune, which has gained an extremely valuable asset.

  4. Submitted by Steve Brandt on 04/11/2008 - 09:48 am.

    This situation is utterly shameful.

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