Ousted ‘Star Tribune’ Editorial Editor Says Global Issues Are Important

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By: Joe Strupp

During her 14 years running the editorial page of the
Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Susan Albright always saw the paper as a major daily worthy of national and international issues.

“My general approach is to have more of a big city metro paper role in my mind,” Albright said a day after the paper announced she was leaving in a dispute with Publisher Chris Harte over editorial topics. “That means the idea of presenting local, some national and some international.”

But Harte, who recently took over for ousted Publisher Par Ridder, had different views. He apparently wants an editorial page with more local focus, something Albright did not want.

“I can see how a new publisher might want someone to carry on their vision,” Albright told E&P. “I think Chris should talk about what he wants.”

Harte’s office declined to comment beyond a release issued earlier today in which he stated: “We have a professional disagreement about the role of the editorial pages and how they should be edited. The main shift I want to see is toward even more locally focused editorial pages.”

Albright, 59, said she had been wiling to change with new publishers in the past, noting she had served under four previous publishers before Harte. “We revise ourselves all the time,” she said.

“I have worked under four regimes, this was the latest with Par and Chris. Everybody wants something different, we have done two different redesigns. I don?t have any problem with doing more local things. We have done a lot in the past few months.”

But Albright was clear that she long-believed a global outlook was important for the paper as well. She cited numerous foreign trips she had taken with former deputy editorial page editor Jim Boyd and other editorial writers from around the world in past years.

“That kind of changed all of us into thinking it is important to lead at home, but interest our readers in the rest of the world,” she said. “It is a global world and other places are closer than ever to us and uniting the world is important to Minnesotans as well.”

The Star Tribune was among the earliest critics of the Iraq War, Albright said: “We thought quite a long time ago that it was time to at least start planning to [withdraw troops].”

A Jan. 15, 2005 editorial opposing the war stated, in part, “Bush can dissemble all he wants about the reasons for war, but the fact remains: He sold the American people on a quick, clean war of necessity. What they got instead was a dirty, protracted war of convenience that day by day is bleeding the American people of both the blood of their sons and daughters and the money from their billfolds.”

When asked if she believed her stance against the war might have played a part in her departure, Albright said, “I don?t know.” But she said it was important for her to have a clear public understanding of why she was leaving and praised the newspaper for accurately announcing the change.

“I told Chris we should be very honest about things,” she told E&P. “I don’t fully share his vision and he wants someone who fully shares his vision. We shook hands and wished each other well and I agreed to stay on to help with the transition.”

Albright, who is married with one daughter, will leave the paper Oct. 12. Managing Editor Scott Gillespie is filling in as interim editorial page editor. She said she has no plans for another job and may not stay in journalism: “I am open to a lot of things.”

Her departure is the latest in a string of tumultuous times for the paper, which was sold by McClatchy to Avista Capital Partners within the last year, underwent two rounds of job cuts, and saw former publisher Ridder ousted in a messy legal battle with his former paper, and Star Tribune rival, the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Albright declined to comment on the Star Tribune’s future.

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