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?
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.