Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor says he tends to support moderate candidates from either party whose views are similar to his.
Mankato billionaire Glen Taylor’s likely purchase of the Star Tribune will put one of the state’s biggest political donors at the helm of Minnesota’s largest news organization.
The printing magnate and owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves has given more than $1 million to candidates and causes, favoring Republicans like U.S. Reps. Erik Paulsen and John Kline and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, according to a Star Tribune analysis of Taylor’s political contributions since 2001.
The former GOP legislator also has supported a handful of Democrats, though to a far lesser extent financially, and his donations show a propensity toward the least divisive candidates from either party.
“I look at people who are closer to my viewpoint,” Taylor said in a Star Tribune interview. “It is kind of a group that represents the 60 percent in the middle of the population, in either party, that I relate to pretty easily.”
Taylor’s political leanings and contributions are expected to face increasing scrutiny once the sale of the Star Tribune is completed, either later this month or in early July.
Kelly McBride, an ethics specialist at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla., said that while there is a trend toward wealthy individuals purchasing newspapers, Taylor has an unusual profile.
“Obviously, this guy is a political player, which puts him outside the standards for newspaper owners,” she said.
The media landscape has become more diffuse in recent years, McBride said, and newspapers no longer have a monopolistic grip “on the marketplace of ideas.”
Owners of news organizations do not have to be politically neutral in such an environment, she said, but “it is crucial that they are committed to the standards of accuracy and good journalism.” The question, she said, is not “does the person have political bias, but is he willing to distort the truth to advance his agenda? That’s where we get into a dangerous place in this democracy.”
Taylor said he has no intention of coming into the Star Tribune and directing news coverage.
“My expectations of the paper are my principles of accuracy, consistency and that both sides of the picture are there; let’s show both sides,” he said.
Taylor also believes the Star Tribune’s columnists and its editorial board, which is separate from the company’s newsgathering operations, have staked out more moderate editorial positions than in past decades, when the newspaper had a more liberal reputation.
“That is consistent with the direction I would go,” he said.
For someone who has never been a media mogul, Taylor is wrestling with the idea of political endorsements on the editorial page.
“I think there are cases that they shouldn’t, and I think there are cases that they should” make candidate endorsements, he said.
An editorial distance
On big races, such as governor, the editorial board should definitely weigh in, Taylor said. But when stakes are lower and both candidates appear solid, he said, the editorial board should lay out candidates’ strengths and weaknesses and say, “Here’s how we see them.” Taylor said he might even offer his own opinion to the editorial board if he felt strongly about a candidate.
Taylor said he does not expect the opinion page to mirror his own views or beliefs. He still expects to read things he does not agree with.