Long-time Strib publisher John Cowles passed away over the weekend at 92.
Brian Lambert at the MinnPost carries the lengthy list of paeans to Cowles and his regional media legacy, which includes ponying up money to help found the MinnPost.
Of course, if you follow politics in Minnesota, Cowles’ legacy is inescapable; he ran the Star Tribune, from an institutional perspective, as a prime mover for the Strib’s own interests – Cowles was a key lobbyist for putting the original Metrodome downtown, and was a vital player in the “Downtown Brotherhood” that has has such a disproportionate impact on state politics these past forty years – and for the DFL.
The Strib didn’t become a cheerleader for the left on Cowles’ watch – although one could make a case that that cheerleading became more institutionalized and ingrained in the paper’s culture (the results of the Strib’s “Minnesota Poll” started swerving into left-leaning fantasy land in the eighties, after Cowles merged the Star and the Tribune). And Cowles’ personal and financial support for the DFL and the the left was a matter of record. In the Twin Cities mainstream media, support for the center-left is so institutionalized that it’s considered “balance” and the norm; Cowles and his generation of business and news staff did as much as anyone to make it that way.
Which is not to belittle his accomplishments – giving the Strib a legacy worth squandering, creating a media and business-political powerhouse notable enough that its decay and retrenchment over the past 15 years would be of national note. Far from it. Cowles, along with the seniors of the Hubbard clan, was a throwback to the long-lost golden age of Minnesota media.
My condolences to Cowles’ friends and family.