On any given news day for more than 35 years, John Oslund has been at the center of the Star Tribune’s daily business coverage.
As assistant business editor, he often came in relatively late in the morning and then worked well past print deadlines to make sure the nightly production team had all the elements to put together the business section.
Oslund, 70, died Saturday of the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in Bloomington.
Oslund was born in Austin, Texas to parents John Oslund Sr. and wife Catherine while his father served in the Air Force. Soon the family moved to Minneapolis.
Oslund, who retired in 2014, attended the University of Minnesota but dropped out in 1977 a few credits in to become a copywriter at the Minneapolis Star. Years later, he completed those credits and then went on in 1996 to earn a master’s degree in business journalism as a Knight-Bagehot Scholar at Columbia University.
Oslund was a business reporter and assistant business editor at a time when news about business and personal finance was becoming increasingly important to newspapers and readers.
Öslund was a constant in the department as top editors and reporters came in and out.
“He was stable, smart, curious, kind, witty and a workhorse. “In addition to being a good journalist, he was a really good person who cared a lot about his colleagues,” said Duchesne Drew, who was assistant managing editor for business from 2005-2007 and is now president of Minnesota Public Radio. “I loved working with Oz because he did a lot of things well and took the work, not himself, seriously.”
Colleagues said they enjoyed his dry sense of humor and sage advice, as evidenced by a steady stream of news assistants to senior executives who regularly stopped by his desk seeking advice on story ideas and tips for writing as well as personal advice about their life situations or who to call to fix something.
“John was always calm under pressure,” said retired business columnist Neil St. Anthony, who was a friend and colleague for more than 30 years. “He was very good with the copy and always emphasized collaboration to create the best possible story for tomorrow or next month.”
Fred Zimmerman, retired professor of engineering and management at the University of St. Thomas, wrote numerous feature articles that Oslund edited for the paper.
“John Oslund was a motivating editor with a compass. He had an instinctive knack for spotting important issues versus “yawners,” Zimmerman said. “He would then encourage the many people he mentored to use justice and dignity in the works presented.”
Former Star Tribune reporter and editor Dave Hage recalled Oslund as one of the top aviation reporters in the country in the 1980s, regularly beating out larger national news organizations on major airline stories, including the 1986 Northwest-Republic merger .
“Like few other business writers in the United States, he anticipated the wave of airline consolidation that would follow deregulation,” Hage said.
John Austin, a senior partner at communications consulting firm J Austin & Associates who worked at Northwest Airlines in the 1990s, called Oslund one of the most thoughtful and insightful journalists he’s worked with.
“Occasionally – though much less often than people think – I’ve had reason to question a journalist’s objectivity or whether they want to confirm a conclusion they’ve already reached, but never once did that happen with John . Or with any reporter he was supervising,” Austin said.
Oslund was a recreational pilot and an avid sailor. He and his wife Bonnie, whom he married in 1978, enjoy traveling, especially to visit their two children and three grandchildren.
He is survived by children Abigail (Brian) Axelrod and Jonathan (Christy) Oslund; his sisters, Jane Oslund (Mike Wiley), Patricia Bremer and Ducie (David) Van Hoven; and a brother, Thomas (Nancy) Oslund.
A celebration of his life will be held on March 16.