Strib editor Scott Gillespie admits decision to not ID TCF Bank CEO was "borderline"

Categories: Media
Scott Gillespie photo via Twitter
Yesterday, the Star Tribune published an anti-tax letter to the editor written by TCF Bank CEO William A. Cooper, but editors decided not to identify him as such and instead merely noted that Cooper resides in Wayzata (TCF is also headquartered there).

That call raised some eyebrows. After all, since Cooper and other TCF Bank execs stand to gain from low taxes on wealthy people, shouldn't his affiliation with a major bank be mentioned?

See also:
Glen Taylor, new Star Tribune owner, once paid $10k for a Bachmann-Palin photo op

We ran that question by Star Tribune editorial page editor Scott Gillespie, who acknowledged the decision as to whether or not to mention Cooper's job was "borderline."

"He had a right to write it as a private citizen," Gillespie says. "It didn't have anything to do with TCF and his job except that he makes a lot of money out of it."

Gillespie says the feedback the Strib received about the decision generally split along partisan lines, with conservatives supporting the call not to disclose Cooper's TCF affiliation and liberals objecting.

"Frankly, I could make a case that you should ID [letter writers] always... but can a CEO have a private life or not? I kinda think they can, but I've argued the other way at times," Gillespie says. "In this case he didn't identify himself [as TCF CEO]."

But Gillespie notes that in some cases the Strib editorial team decides to disclose a letter writer's professional affiliation even if the writer doesn't include it.

For instance, in February, Cooper wrote a letter to the Strib supporting Minnesota's system of electing judges. He didn't mention he's TCF's CEO or the former chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party, but since he was involved in a lawsuit pertaining to judicial elections during his tenure as MNGOP chair, Gillespie and his team decided to mention both his affiliation with TCF and political background.

"We contacted him and told him we were going to ID him, and he said, 'That's all right, I don't care,'" Gillespie says. "We generally will try to defer to the desires of the letter writer, but we override them sometimes too."

Ultimately, Gillespie grants that decisions like the one the Strib editorial team made with regard to Cooper's anti-tax letter are up for debate.

"We're making decisions relatively rapidly, especially on weekend content," he says.

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A major media outlet decides not to disclose the identity of a banking executive's advocacy of tax policy that favors mainly himself and a very small faction of the ultra rich?

I wish you all could see how surprised I am.

MicheleBachmann topcommenter

Sad how far the Star and Tribune has fallen.  Now with Glen Taylor in charge hopefully it will die off.  

Jonathan Freed
Jonathan Freed

And with its new owner, you can only expect more of the same from a paper that was once worth its subscription rate. Buh bye.

Doug Wallick
Doug Wallick

I think that anyone who saw the name and city could figure out who it was.

Bob Alberti
Bob Alberti

It wasn't borderline, it was wrong. But my saying is, "If nobody gets fired, then they were doing their job." So maybe it's just that Gillespie's job isn't actually journalism any more.

digitalprotocol topcommenter

borderline is the future viability of a continually poor publication

Holly Fields
Holly Fields

The bigger problem is, everyone is worried about the source of an OPINION letter in the newspaper, than the source behind what is being reported everyday as news in the paper, on the television, on the radio, on the internet. At least in this case, it was on the readers write in page, so we could identify it as someone's opinion. I am more concerned about the opinions touted as fact, and the slanted news, and the revisionist versions of news we are spoon-fed every day from all the assorted media outlets we have subscribed to.

Harry Beckwith
Harry Beckwith

Instead of taking a tax cut, he should reinvest in his bank that has 1) the worst online banking vs any other bank 2) practically zero APR on interest bearing accounts and 3) the worst mobile banking vs any other bank. You know you'd think a guy that had to shutter 700 bank locations last year due to performance and other financial issues would keep his foot in his mouth for a while his bank retools for the internet age that has been upon us for...a few decades. I'm all for people getting paid and getting tax cuts—when they deserve it. Until then, earn it.

Holly Fields
Holly Fields

If they publish letters about how we need more taxpayer funded resources from unemployed people who subsist completely off of welfare, are they supposed to identify the writer as a welfare dependant, too? I understand it is a bit of a grey area, but if e was writing in wit an opinion, on an opinion page for readers, is career/employer/job title are irrelevant. If there is really that much question, they probably shoud have questioned whethre to publish it at all, or to pehaps seek a qualified counterpoint to run alongside it.

DavidFoureyes topcommenter

"We're making decisions relatively rapidly, especially on weekend content," he says.

Oh, in that case...

I love it when people use bad business practices that usually get incompetent people fired as justification for crappy work...when your job is making decisions about how to gather and report information, you'd think publishing the name of your defacto editor would fall near the top of the, "shit to get right on the weekends" list.

Matthew Gramlich
Matthew Gramlich

This makes me wonder which has more gravity; the idea or its source?

MNjoe topcommenter

@MicheleBachmann  If Glen brings the same magic he's brought to the T-Wolves, that should happen pretty quick.

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