A former Kansas City Star colleague, Joe Keenan, posted a comment this morning, saying that effective next month, The Star would no longer have a business desk, as such.
That got my attention, of course, and I put out some feelers.
Turns out Joe was right on the money: The Star’s three remaining business-desk reporters and its three editors are getting new assignments under the Metro umbrella.
The changes are part of a reorganization and redesign that editor Mike Fannin announced to the newsroom a few months ago. One of the main thrusts of the redesign is to push more readers to The Star’s website and wean them away from the printed edition, which has been flagging for years. (That’s true at nearly every major metropolitan newspaper in the country, by the way.)
We have already seen strong evidence of the push to the web. The printed edition of the sports section, for example, no longer carries the results and game stories for Royals’ games that end after about 10 p.m. A text box urges readers to go to the website.
Other changes, besides the business-desk demise — are probably in the works, but so far I’m not privy to them. I also want to emphasize that The Star will continue to report business stories; they just won’t be coming from a business desk. Anyway, here’s what I’ve got. (Thanks to Joe for the tip and to everyone who provided information.)
:: The Star will no longer have a managing editor. Steve Shirk, the last person to hold that title, retired a (when). Several years before that, The Star’s co-equal managing editor, Jeanne Meyer, was cut loose. (By the way, she is married to Keith Chrostowski, who has been the business editor.) As Metro editor, Greg Farmer will be the big dog in the newsroom, under Fannin.
:: Business reporters Diane Stafford and Mark Davis are becoming part of a news team that Chrostowski apparently will head. Chrostowski will oversee several other current Metro reporters as well.
:: The third business reporter, Joyce Smith, who does a great job tracking restaurant and retail comings and goings, will take her portfolio to FYI, the features desk. (I don’t know if FYI will be under Metro or remain separate…Perhaps some of our commenters will clarify.)
:: Assistant business editor Steve Rosen will be a news-team editor, along with Donna McGuire, who has been an assignment editor for many years.
:: Assistant business editor Greg Hack will be a trouble-shooting, news-team assistant, producing graphics and suggesting “different ways of telling stories.”
:: Ed Eveld, a former Metro desk reporter who has been an FYI writer for many years, will return to Metro as the Kansas statehouse reporter…This is a key appointment because former statehouse reporter Brad Cooper left the paper recently, and some reporters feared that he would not be replaced. For the last few weeks of the recently concluded legislative session, The Star relied on the Wichita Eagle-Beacon for statehouse coverage. The Star would have bathed itself in ignominy had it continued to rely on Wichita, which, of course, is significantly farther from Topeka than Kansas City.
:: FYI reporter/gossip columnist Lisa Gutierrez will expand her sphere of writing to include, as one insider put it, “anything clickable.”
I’m told that all other current Metro reporters will continue doing what they have been doing — in other words, working their asses off to keep up with all significant developments in a metro area of 2.75 million people.
Several weeks ago, The Star was down to under 20 full-time Metro reporters. I would estimate that it had about 50 reporters in 2005, the year before I retired. That does not include Neighborhood News reporters, who were buzzing around everywhere, when the newspaper’s “center of gravity” appeared to be tilting toward Johnson County. (Fortunately for us all, The Star went back to its roots, covering KCMO relentlessly, as its bureau system disintegrated.)
With this change — along with what appears to be the recent hire of a couple of new hands (or maybe they’re summer interns) — Metro will be up to about 25 reporters, for the time being. All the editors, reporters and other hands left on this wayward but still-strong ship are doing great work, and we should be thankful for their dedication to bringing us the news.
Whether they are being ably guided by Fannin and Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish is another matter. The newsroom certainly isn’t getting much support from HQ in Sacramento…That would be the McClatchy Co., which paid way too much — $4.5 billion — for The Star and a couple dozen other Knight Ridder papers in 2006 and has been paying the price ever since.