I was glad to see this afternoon that The Star has hired a new editorial board vice president.
Colleen McCain Nelson looks like a good catch. Along with two colleagues, Nelson won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for a series of editorials comparing an affluent part of Dallas with a low-income area. She’s been a reporter at the Wall Street Journal since 2012 and currently is covering Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
She probably won’t start at The Star until late this year at the earliest.
Here’s another wrinkle: The Star also hired her husband, Eric Nelson, to lead its digital news operations. Nelson currently is head of digital content for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington.
(As an aside, I’d like to suggest that anyone who is looking for a high-profile job at The Star be sure to first tie the marital knot with a relatively strong journalistic partner. Three years ago, as you might recall, The Star hired Vahe Gregorian as a sports columnist and also hired his wife Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian as a reporter for the Sunday House & Home section. The Gregorians came from St. Louis, where they both worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I’m sure there have been other conjugal hires at The Star, but I can’t think of any offhand; maybe you commenters will help me out there.)
The Nelsons are coming from Washington, D.C., but they’ve got roots in the area — always a good sign for the prospect of long-term employment in Kansas City. Both graduated from the University of Kansas and have family in the area. Eric Nelson grew up in Omaha and Colleen (pronounced co-leen) in Salina. She also worked as a summer intern at The Star in 1995. (I don’t remember her. Guess I should have taken notice.)
A few other interesting elements to this move:
:: It reflects a continuation of a youth movement in leadership at The Star. Early this year, McClatchy, The Star’s owner, named 38-year-old Tony Berg as publisher. Now, The Star will have a 42-year-old editorial page editor and a 46-year-old digital editor (Eric Nelson).
:: The editorial page editor’s job was not advertised, to the best of my knowledge. All indications are that Berg scouted the landscape and interviewed candidates. The Star’s story on the hires, written by Mark Davis, says in part, “Then came a call from Kansas City and a chance to move back to their roots.”
:: A few months ago, The Star advertised two editorial-writing positions on the website http://www.journalismjobs.com. From the way they were written, it sounded like the paper was looking for two relatively young and inexperienced people willing to work for a relatively modest salary. Those jobs are no longer being advertised. (The only job being advertised now, as far as I can tell, is digital editor/social editor, and I don’t know how that squares with Eric Nelson’s job.) It is not unusual, however, for job descriptions and goals to change along the way, especially when it comes to editorial-page posts, where the publisher has wide discretion…My guess is that somewhere along the line Berg decided to go for a big gun and bagged the person he wanted. Now, with Colleen Nelson coming in at what I would expect to be a very handsome salary, Berg might forgo one or both of the previously advertised, lower-level hires.
:: Even with Colleen Nelson and the indefatigable Yael Abouhalkah on the editorial page, it still has deadwood. I really don’t like to be critical of a former colleague, but the only-other current editorial board member, Lewis Diuguid, needs to go. He is an insipid writer and a lackluster manager of the Letters to the Editor. All KC Star readers know the letters “page” has gone down in quality as well as quantity in recent years. Maybe Colleen Nelson can help bring it back, but first she’s got to maneuver out the highest-ranking and most visible African-American employee at The Star.
Good luck on all fronts, Mrs. Nelson — and spouse.