Who’ll be the Star Tribune’s next publisher?

A: I don’t know — but I have a good fix on the internal possibilities.

With the Strib naming two-thirds of its new board of directors Monday, the identity of the paper’s publisher is the next great unknown — though in one scenario, the editor-in-chief’s job will soon be in play.

To be clear: an outsider could, and perhaps will, be picked, especially if the creditors are looking for someone to put the hammer down on costs.

Still, based on newsroom scuttlebutt and conversations with multiple informed (but non-decision-making) sources elsewhere, there have been three internal candidates: Senior V.P. and current editor Nancy Barnes, Advertising Senior V.P. David Walsh, and Digital Media President Dan Shorter.

Shorter didn’t make the cut — one reason he announced last week he’s leaving for a job with the New York Times’ regional newspapers. Walsh, who arrived from the Chicago-based Tribune Co. 18 months ago, would seem to have the business-side resume.

But by all accounts, Barnes, who came from McClatchy Co.’s Raleigh News & Observer in 2003, is clear front-runner over Walsh. (Unsurprisingly, neither executive responded to emails for comment Monday.)

Barnes has risen fast through the ranks, first as business editor, then deputy managing editor, then editor-in-chief when Anders Gyllenhaal left in 2007.

Stribbers I spoke to regard Barnes’ potential ascension with a mixture of inevitability and dread. To say the least, she is not a people person, and there’s a certain amount of high-level schmoozing a publisher — especially one trying to remarket the Strib — must do. By executing various policies of unloved outgoing owner Avista Capital Partners, Barnes has simply not engendered the kind of admiration that, say, Thom Fladung has in St. Paul.

At the same time, she is from the content side, has shifted resources toward investigations, and fought executive-suite battles to limit newsroom cuts. Even to Stribbers who criticize her, she’s the devil they know.

Would the Strib’s new cast of private-equity owners flip a content person the keys to the business side? It’s not unprecedented locally. MinnPost’s own Joel Kramer was promoted from Strib editor to publisher in 1992. Of course, times are as different now as they could be, so Barnes’ ascension is far from a lock.

I know zero about the outside candidates, but the creditors have certainly been talking to them, and media-watchers may well be learning a new name in a matter of days.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by dan buechler on 09/01/2009 - 02:35 pm.

    Do you think it is down to two or is there another dark horse?

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