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John Rash becomes full-time Star Tribune editorial writer

John Rash is going all-in in the newspaper business at a time when the industry is throwing people out.

The Star Tribune announced Friday that Rash will leave his job as Campbell Mithun's senior vice-president for media analysis and become a full-time editorial board member. Rash has worked at the ad agency for a quarter-century, but joined the Strib edit board in a part-time capacity almost two years ago.

John Rash
John Rash

John is widely known as a smart, nice guy willing to share his expertise; he's a well-regarded University of Minnesota Journalism instructor, and has long been a WCCO Radio commentator and Ad Age columnist. As sharp as he is, when the Strib opinionators first tapped him, I criticized them for hiring a businessperson with advertiser clients, who I felt should've been disclosed; obviously, that won't be a problem any more.

(This was more a "best practice" than a knock on Rash; the paper implemented a conflicts policy and I've heard nary a peep of objection during his time there.)

But John, maybe you don't want to veer too far away from that diversification strategy in the current media climate?

Via email, Rash replied that he was in no way forced out at Campbell Mithun. He observed that in his job there, "it’s been my role to analyze the transcendent trends impacting every media form. Despite the challenges, I’m optimistic about newspapers in general and the Star Tribune in particular. Whether it’s on-screen or on the front step, compelling content is what’s most important, and the Star Tribune is committed to not just maintaining, but expanding news leadership.

"In the two years I’ve been part-time at the paper I’ve entirely enjoyed collaborating with my colleagues in forming our editorial viewpoints, and find opinion writing an intellectually engaging and rewarding process. Yet I still have so much more to learn from my fellow Editorial Board members, and look forward to doing so with the honor of being asked to contribute on a full-time basis."

The timing of Rash's elevation is awkward, however; the day before, there was a good-bye reception for longtime editorial-section copy editors Lisa Hoff and Tim O'Brien, who were laid off or bought out in the Strib's January reorganization. They were two of 27 newsroom workers axed; the Strib is currently looking for a few more buyout-takers.

Editorial page editor Scott Gillespie wouldn't get into the budgetary implications of hiring amid the cutting, though he's not the only one; for example, the Strib is looking for a business editor to replace Eric Wieffering, who left last fall. While that's not technically an addition, the paper has been clear about wanting to maintain its corps of reporters, writers and news-team editors, some of whom will find more copy editor-type functions on their plates.

Assuming editorial-section staffers can navigate the reorganization's shoals, there's good reason to cheer another full-time body, especially since the board is smaller than when ex-editor and current MinnPost co-managing editor Susan Albright ran the page during McClatchy's ownership. For example, Gillespie's crew had a difficult time getting to all the Minneapolis political endorsements last year.

While I don't know how he's affected non-bylined editorials, Rash's columns have focused on media matters, and haven't displayed the sharp elbows the Strib should show more. While I'd prefer another wild-eyed leftist or three (some commenters might disagree), there are many good reporters on the editorial board. Still, at a time when Minnesota is undergoing radical change, they too often shy away from forcefully pinning the tail on the donkey ... or the elephant (though there's always Sack; see the ambulance cartoon). 

Here's the Strib's release:

MINNEAPOLIS (February 19, 2010)— John Rash, a nationally prominent Twin Cities mediacommentator, will become a full-time member of the Star Tribune Editorial Board in March, it was announced today by Scott Gillespie, editor of the Star Tribune editorial pages.

Rash, who has worked as a part-time Star Tribune editorial writer since April 2008, is leaving his position as senior vice president, director of media analysis, for Campbell Mithun, the Minneapolis-based advertising firm where he has worked for the past 25 years. He will continue to do “The Rash Report’’ on WCCO Radio, a daily discussion on the top topics in media, pop culture, journalism and advertising.

Rash has a national reputation for his media analysis expertise and has been a regular contributor to Advertising Age magazine. Since 2001 he has served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine named him to its list of “The 100 Most Influential Minnesotans” and “Best Brains’’ in 2008.

“John has made a significant contribution to our opinion pages and website over the past two years, contributing an impressive mix of columns, online pieces and editorials on topics ranging from Afghanistan to the Super Bowl,” Gillespie said. “We’re all anxious to work with him in his newly expanded role.”

Rash, 47, grew up in Minnesota and received a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in French from the University of Minnesota in 1987. He lives in St. Louis Park with his wife and two children.

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Comments (2)

I've heard the best career move ever is leaving an executive position at a respected ad house to join the editorial staff of a financially-failing newspaper.

And what is to made of MPR getting local information about another two Mpls School Board members retiring before the Strib seemed to get the story ? Someone somewhere not happy with Strib reporting of Mpls School news ? Or is MPR now the goto news source ?