Finally, The Kansas City Star is starting to “matriculate the ball down the field.” (Credit for that magical turn of phrase goes to the late Hank Stram, longtime KC Chiefs coach, who was taped saying it on Jan. 12, 1970, when the Chiefs soundly beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.)
Today, the paper announced in a story posted online it was adding four full-time people to the editorial page and one part-time person, which will boost the editorial board from two full-time employees to six full-time employees and one part-time.
The story also mentioned, without explanation, the pending hiring of an eighth board member.
Here’s the new editorial board line-up (minus the pending hire):
:: Tony Berg, publisher, who let the page to slide into near oblivion the last few months and now is largely responsible for restoring the editorial page’s relevance.
:: Colleen McCain Nelson, vice-president and editorial page editor, who began working late last year and will have day-to-day responsibility for reinvigorating the page and creating a collaborative atmosphere in which the new staff can flourish.
:: Dave Helling, chief political reporter, who joined The Star in 2005 after many years as a TV reporter.
:: Steve Kraske, once-a-week columnist who went to part-time status a few years ago and will continue dividing his time among The Star, his “Up to Date” program on KCUR-FM, and UMKC, where teaches.
:: Mary Sanchez, longtime Metro columnist. She has been with the paper nearly 32 years.
:: Melinda Henneberger, a newcomer who most recently was a columnist at USA Today. She was born and raised in southern Illinois, and her husband, Bill Turque, is a former KC Star reporter. Turque has been a reporter for The Washington Post the last 14 years. (The Star’s story does not say if Turque will continue at The Post but indicates both he and Henneberger are moving to the Kansas City area.)
:: Derek Donovan, who has been The Star’s readers’ representative the last 12 years.
To be sure, this is a bold strike for Berg and Nelson and should be welcome news to Star readers, who haven’t seen a locally written editorial in many weeks. (Today’s story said staff-written editorials would resume Jan. 22.)
I applaud Berg for loosening the purse strings to hire at least one additional employee (two, if the mysterious eighth editorial board member comes to fruition). Beyond that, here are the pluses and minuses of these moves, as I see it.
…As I said in a recent post, Helling and Kraske will bring a ton of experience and credibility to the editorial page. They’re both polished writers and have scores of contacts and sources.
Sanchez carries an almost equally high profile by dint of her weekly column. She is a plodding writer, however, and probably will have trouble arousing readers intellectually as an opinion writer…Here, for example is part of a paragraph she wrote last week about a teen leadership program, called Anytown, which is being revived:
“It demanded area teenagers to be deeply contemplative about their opinions. It guided them to understand influences involved with how they formed viewpoints and helped them assess if their thoughts could uphold to factual scrutiny.”
Really, when a professional writes a paragraph like that, he or she needs to go back, recognize it sucks and rewrite it.
Henneberger sounds like she could be a good hire, but, as far as job stability, she has been like a butterfly on the wing from one flower to the next. Her last job — writing a column at USA Today — lasted all of five months. (I hope she had a chance to introduce herself around before giving her notice.)
Previously, she worked for The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News, Bloomberg Politics and Roll Call (a paper published in Washington D.C. from Monday to Friday when Congress is in session and on Mondays during recess)…With her track record, I doubt she’ll ever qualify for a pizza and sheet-cake retirement party at 18th and Grand. If she does, bully for her.
From The Star’s story, it sounds like Derek Donovan will essentially replace Lewis Diuguid, who resigned as an editorial board member last year. One of Diuguid’s main jobs was editing the letters to the editor, and Donovan inherits that duty, which he had before becoming public editor in 2004. The Star’s story doesn’t expand on Donovan’s other duties, only to say, “He will end his role as the newspaper’s public editor.”
The story does not say if the paper will hire or name a new public editor — a position that calls for occasional critical evaluation of published stories that become controversial for one reason or another. I seriously doubt that Berg will authorize the hiring of a new public editor, and, to be frank, it won’t make much difference if he doesn’t because readers benefitted very little from Donovan’s scaredy-cat tap dancing around controversial stories.
…On the whole, though, this is a good, fresh start for The Star’s editorial page. For the sake of the employees and the readers, I hope the page becomes robust again, like it was before it stalled and began to spiral down a few years ago.