Former Dispatch City Editor Dies
By John W. Brewer, Pioneer Press, Tuesday, September 18, 2007
If it went down in St. Paul, newspaperman Thomas Matthews probably knew about it.
"It was an irritating thing for young reporters. He was one of those editors that would meet you at 7 a.m. and tell you that something had happened overnight. He already knew because people called him at home," said former St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Lee Egerstrom, one of Matthews' early hires.
The one-time city editor for the St. Paul Dispatch died Friday at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center due to complications from heart disease and diabetes, his son, Jeff Matthews, said.
He was 72.
Born in Minneapolis, Matthews attended Central High School and the University of Minnesota.
He left the U after his first year and joined the Navy, his son said, but went back to school for journalism. He was honored at graduation as the top journalism student.
Matthews' first job was with the Minneapolis Star, the same newspaper his dad had worked for.
His family moved to Chicago in 1965 so Matthews could cover the Illinois Legislature for the state's chamber of commerce, but the clan came back to Minnesota in 1967 when Matthews got a job at St. Paul's afternoon paper, the Dispatch.
Matthews covered the Minnesota Legislature and created Action Line, a consumer advocacy column, at the paper. At 33, he became the Dispatch's city editor - the youngest person to have gotten the job at that point.
Jeff Matthews said his father was in the news business during a period when local politicians and power brokers would go out drinking with reporters and editors. He remembered visiting the Pioneer Press' newsroom and seeing men pounding on typewriters - and sometimes taking a swig of hooch. His dad might have gotten into the business when hard drinking was the norm, Jeff Matthews said, but he sobered up in the early 1970s and became a proponent of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Egerstrom said the Dispatch - a flippant and hard-charging paper compared to the more staid Pioneer Press - was a fun place to work, especially with a "fun-loving" mentor like Matthews.
The editor also wrote investigative pieces, including an expose on the hiring practices at the Pig's Eye sewage treatment plant.
One of Matthews' former reporters, longtime Pioneer Press columnist Don Boxmeyer, recalled that in the Pig's Eye series the editor "discovered that the place was full of nepotism, among other things. Two and even three generations of some well-connected families showed up on the employment rolls, and Tom's investigative story was thorough and even contained a niftily hidden little swear word. Tom wrote, 'The roster was filled with the names of political habitués and also lots of sons of habitués.' "
"The story had you howling," Egerstrom said, "unless you were being skewered by him."
Matthews left the paper in the late 1970s to become the first investigative reporter at KSTP-TV. He exited television about five years later when his contract wasn't renewed, according to Jeff Matthews.
He spent the rest of his career writing and consulting, but his son considered him "a newspaperman his whole life."
Matthews is survived by his wife JoAnne, of Woodbury, and six children: Jeff Matthews, Michele Jepson and Jason Matthews, of Woodbury; Maureen Mariano, of St. Paul; Marcia Fick, of Chatham, N.J.; and Melanie Leary, of Blaine.
Funeral arrangements are pending with Wulff Funeral Home in Woodbury.
Published with the permission of the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper.