The Star Tribune, one of the largest daily newspapers in America, has named Steve Grove — a former Google executive, consistent donor to Democrat politicians and often the right-hand man to Gov. Tim Walz — as its new publisher.
The Star Tribune, which announced the hiring on Tuesday, joins The Washington Post as the only two traditional print media outlets among the nation’s top 25 (measured by circulation) whose publisher or CEO has past political ties, according to a background search conducted by Alpha News.
When Grove takes the reins at Minnesota’s flagship newspaper in April he will also be the only active executive among the nation’s top newspapers hired directly from the administration of a statewide or federal elected official. Grove currently serves as Walz’s commissioner for the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.
“If you asked an AI to draw up a resume for a Star Tribune publisher, I don’t think they could do any better than Steve Grove,” said departing publisher Mike Klingensmith in a press release.
Grove, whose career includes short stints as a newspaper journalist, a staff member for Walz’s 2006 congressional campaign, a decade working for YouTube and Google in Silicon Valley, and most recently as Walz’s DEED commissioner, has exclusively donated to Democrat politicians dating back more than a decade, according to campaign donation records. That didn’t deter Star Tribune owner Glen Taylor, who once served as a Republican state legislator from Mankato, from hiring Grove from among 10 candidates considered for the position.
“I thought it was important to bring someone from the outside to look at things with a new view,” Taylor told a Star Tribune reporter charged with writing the story announcing Grove’s hire.
Walz, who first hired Grove to work on his congressional campaign in 2006, and then again when he ran for governor in 2018, praised Grove’s work for his administration over the last four years.
“As commissioner of (DEED), Steve Grove led our workers and businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, made our state’s economy one of the strongest in the country, and promoted Minnesota as a player on the global stage,” Walz said. “I’m thankful for his years of service to Minnesota.”
Grove sued by independent journalist over blocked data request
The announcement of Grove’s hire also came the same week that independent journalist and government transparency advocate Tony Webster reached a legal settlement with Grove and DEED after the state agency refused to provide lists of who Grove blocked on his Twitter account.
“During his administration, Commissioner Grove used his personal Twitter account as a means to communicate essential information with Minnesotans across the state,” said James Dickey, an attorney who represented Webster in his lawsuit seeking the requested records from DEED. “Through his work as a journalist, Mr. Webster discovered that the Commissioner had blocked multiple Minnesotans from viewing his Twitter posts. When Mr. Webster sought public transparency on Grove’s block list, his requests were rejected. That should never have happened — these block lists are public data. We are glad to have resolved this case, and we look forward to DEED’s future compliance with the Data Practices Act.”
Webster tweeted and blogged about the Star Tribune’s hiring of Grove in conjunction with his settlement over the data practices request.
“Newspaper CEOs should not have a track record of delaying public records requests in their government service,” Webster said Wednesday via tweet.
Even in the face of those concerns, Grove said in a press statement Wednesday that he’s honored to lead the Star Tribune, “an organization that is driven by a sense of purpose, a belief that quality journalism matters and is essential to a thriving society and democracy.”
Along for the ride in ‘a day in the life’ with Tim Walz
While Grove has often publicly expressed the importance of independent journalism for a well-informed society, his career has been marked by bouncing between employment in politics and the media.
Grove, who grew up in Northfield, attended college in southern California, then taught English and wrote abroad in Asia for two years before returning to Minnesota in 2004. He landed an internship with the Atlantic Monthly, and then the Boston Globe in 2005. After brief stints with east coast publications, Grove then worked on the congressional campaign of Tim Walz, a teacher and DFL activist in Mankato. Grove traveled with Walz along his southern Minnesota campaign trail and documented what would be Walz’s first of six successful bids for the U.S. House of Representatives serving Minnesota’s First Congressional District. Following the campaign, Grove was hired by YouTube in 2007 to lead its new “News & Politics” division, where he helped produce presidential primary debates in 2007 and 2008.
One of his career highlights working for Big Tech included a YouTube-sponsored interview Grove conducted with President Barack Obama at the White House. He then migrated to Google’s community partnerships and civic engagement divisions, where he worked until moving back to Minnesota in 2018 to consult for Walz’s gubernatorial campaign.
After Walz defeated Republican Jeff Johnson in the November 2018 election, he appointed Grove to serve as his DEED commissioner.
Grove’s responsibilities with the agency primarily focused on the state’s promotion of business recruitment and expansion, international trade, and workforce development. But during the pandemic Grove become one of the commissioners Walz leaned on most as Walz navigated through his emergency powers that allowed him to order businesses to close in a number of different capacities. Grove and Walz often faced backlash from businesses around the state who challenged Walz’s shutdown orders and “dial turn” provisions.
Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.