Star Tribune business reporter leaving for online-only venture

As the Star Tribune was revving up its ejector seat Monday morning, one reporter told his bosses he was leaving of his own volition.

Thomas Lee — who covers “emerging and growth companies” for the not-emerging, not-growing Strib — is going to MedCity News. The Ohio-based site was founded earlier this year to focus on “business, innovation and influence in health care.” Some Cleveland newspaper veterans are involved, but Lee says he will be MedCity’s Minnesota bureau chief.

“Strangely enough, I gave notice to Nancy Barnes just a few minutes after she informed the newsroom of the cuts,” Lee says. “[M]y decision was completely coincidental.”

The general trends in the industry did seem to play a part in the youngish reporter’s thinking.

“I want to be forward-thinking and entrepreneurial. I firmly believe our industry’s new business models will originate with innovative start-ups like MedCity News versus big legacy newspapers that have struggled, by virtue of size and culture, to adjust to rapidly changing circumstances.”

Lee’s departure comes about a month after supervising editor for business and local news Eric Wieffering left to become a senior strategist at Minneapolis-based public relations firm Haberman.

The Strib has not named Wieffering’s replacement, which is now probably mixed up in the newsroom restructuring that must accommodate up to 30 job cuts. Lee’s beat is relatively new, and it will be interesting to see if the Strib fills it. Despite the layoffs, I’m betting reporters will be largely if not entirely spared. But whether they’ll be replaced remains to be seen.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Steve Grooms on 11/09/2009 - 03:45 pm.

    I always used to wonder why papers had a business section. There is very little real reporting in that section. We have recently seen incredibly important stories in American business, including the local stories of Denny Hecker and Tom Petters, but I don’t recall any business reporter hinting years ago that these men were less than geniuses.

    The business section seems to be a sop thrown to the business community. It panders to the egos of important men (up until their enterprises collapse). Maybe I’m cynical because I’ve read obsequious praise of businessmen whom I knew by personal experience to be sleazeballs and sharks. Does anyone even expect the business section to try to report the truth?

  2. Submitted by Bruce Pomerantz on 11/09/2009 - 10:46 pm.

    Once upon a time, many many years ago, in a far away era, newspapers used to have a section called “Business and Labor.” At some point, it was decided that the people who actually make the wheels go round were not significant enough to report on. The focus shifted to business geniuses whose companies never continued past the retirement or ouster of “the man.” Exceptions to this narrow perspective occurred wih horrific deaths or strikes. Then, the flacks returned to Capistrano.

  3. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 11/10/2009 - 06:30 am.

    Thomas has done an outstanding job. He is particularly good at blowing away the smokescreen surrounding business climate in Minnesota by comparing it with the situation in Wisconsin. He also very competently covers business and technology issues. I will really miss his cogent insight at the Strib and on his Strib-related blog.

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