The Potluck

Steve Grove leaves Walz cabinet to join local newspaper

By: - February 14, 2023 1:01 pm

Via Grove’s Twitter.

Steve Grove, who has been the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development since 2019, was named CEO and publisher of the Star Tribune, replacing Mike Klingensmith.

The Star Tribune story announcing the Grove hire briefly mentions the new challenge for Star Tribune journalists, who must cover the Walz administration for a media company now led by a former member of the Walz cabinet, which would be like if Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo were named CEO of the Washington Post.

(Disclosure: I worked at the Star Tribune for five years. My wife works there as a photojournalist.)

As the article notes, the Star Tribune’s owner Glen Taylor, who heads up a sprawling business empire from turkeys to an NBA franchise, is politically active, having served in the state Senate as a Republican.

Unmentioned, however: Between 2016 and 2020 he gave nearly $120,000 to political causes.

Taylor is one of Mankato’s most prominent citizens. Walz taught school there before representing the 1st District in Congress for a dozen years.

Grove worked at The Boston Globe and ABC News before leaving for YouTube and then becoming founding director of Google News Lab, which sought to help journalists become more innovative.

For whatever help the Google iniative offered newsrooms and journalists, however, the assistance was paradoxical: Google’s advertising business helped send newspaper finances into a tailspin.

Grove distinguished himself as DEED commissioner early in the pandemic by adapting the state’s unemployment system to self-employment workers and independent contractors, while also acting as a key liaison between Walz and the business community during the uncertain first year of the pandemic.

He also highlights in the Star Tribune announcement article his work making Minnesota more hospitable to BIPOC businesses, quadrupling funding going to businesses led by people of color.

Grove will lead a news outlet devoted to openness in government after serving at an agency that has been challenged at least twice on public records issues in recent years.

While Grove was commissioner, DEED took an entire year to respond to a public records request from the Reformer. Once the records were delivered, a key email from Grove to a local business person was missing. Grove had upbraided the general manager of a local Hilton Hotel after the two disagreed on a conference call over the state’s pandemic policy. (The Hilton manager later apologized to Grove.)* DEED chalked up the omission of the email to a “technical error.”

Reformer contributor and public records advocate Tony Webster said Tuesday he recently reached a settlement with DEED over the agency blocking information about whom Grove blocks on Twitter. The state will pay $17,000 in Webster’s legal fees and release the handles of people Grove has blocked from seeing his tweets.

Correction: An earlier version of this story was mistaken about the apology to Grove. 

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children