‘Strib’ Columnist Should Not Have Appeared in TV Ad, Says Paper’s Ombud

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A Star Tribune sports columnist crossed an ethical line by appearing in a TV commercial for an airline covered by the newspaper, the paper’s ombudsman says.

Sid Hartman’s appearance in the Sun Country Airlines ad raised questions about whether the newspaper could be trusted to fairly cover Sun Country and its competitors, reader’s representative Kate Parry wrote in a Sunday column.

In the ad, Hartman is holding a Star Tribune and says he is reading “the greatest newspaper in the world.”

Hartman, Parry wrote, told her he didn’t consult editors before doing the ad because of that comment. “I thought I was doing a favor for the Star Tribune. I say nothing about Sun Country. This was a free commercial for the Star Tribune,” she quoted him as saying.

Hartman told Parry he was given free airline tickets for doing the ad, and he planned to donate them to a charity he wouldn’t name.

Hartman did not immediately return a phone message left Monday by The Associated Press.

Managing Editor Scott Gillespie told AP he couldn’t comment on the issue because it was a personnel matter. He said in general, the newspaper expects employees to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest, and that readers should expect that as well.

When asked whether Parry’s column provided a way for the newspaper to publicly address the issue, he said Parry is independent in terms of what she writes about.

“I knew she was going to do it, and I support her independence as our reader representative to take on any topic,” Gillespie said.

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