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Star Tribune Names Ridder New Publisher

The Minneapolis-based Star Tribune filled their vacant publisher position on Monday hiring Par Ridder, the former publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune, written by Matt McKinney, reported that Ridder was hired away from the Pioneer Press and was the frontrunner for the position from the time that the previous publisher, J. Keith Moyer, resigned. The story also reported that Ridder and his family have a long history in the industry dating back 114 years. The story reported that Ridder and his family have been operating the Pioneer Press in competition with the Star Tribune since 1927 and that Ridder understands that his new position may make things difficult at first for the paper that he formerly competed against.

I think that the biggest issue with this story is how to portray a story that is objective and interesting to readers. In some cases, unless you were interested in the news about the position, the average reader might not care too much about who the publisher of the Star Tribune is. I think that McKinney had to balance the needs of the average reader with the interests of the avid and knowledgeable reader. McKinney also had to balance an apparent conflict of interest throughout the story. A rival publisher comes over the river to his competitor and there is a story written by the paper that he now works for, that is a pretty hefty conflict of interest. Yet, as a journalist, McKinney is responsible for reporting the facts of the event and I felt he handled the situation dispassionately and with objectivity.

A competing story also ran in the Pioneer Press, written by John Welbes. The Welbes version reported that Ridder moved over the river to Minneapolis and that he met with the staff on Monday morning. Welbes also reported that Ridder made his decision on Friday that he would be making the switch. Welbes said that the potential new owner of the Pioneer Press was reasonable upset with the loss of Ridder.

“I’m surprised and disappointed,? said William Dean Singleton, the CEO of MediaNews Group Inc., which is in the process of buying the Pioneer Press.

Welbes reported, from the Pioneer Press angle, that Frederick B. Mott Jr. would take over Ridder’s position on an interim basis. Welbes reported that Mott has experience with MediaNews Group Inc. and Knight Ridder and that Ridder’s move would not change the media culture in the Twin Cities.

“If somebody’s going to run us out of the business it’ll have to be somebody who will stay more than two to five years,? Singleton said. Venture capital firms such as Avista typically buy properties, cut costs and then resell them at a profit.

I felt that both of these stories had some very good points and were pretty interesting despite the fact that I wasn’t very interested in the quibbles over a publisher of a newspaper. I felt that the McKinney version was a bit more dispassionate and objective and I appreciated this. The McKinney version may have been a bit shorter than the Welbes version and I think that made me like it a bit more as well. Both stories were acceptable and achieved what they set out to accomplish, which was to inform the reader about the event without a complete conflict of interest.