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Steve Paul Reflects On 41 Years At The Kansas City Star

Courtesy Barbara Shelly
Steve Paul left The Kansas City Star this week after more than four decades with the paper.

More veteran journalists are leaving The Kansas City Star in the latest round of buyouts and layoffs.

Among those departing is Steve Paul, who for the past several years has overseen The Star’s editorial pages.

Paul says The Star plans to replace him and fellow editorial page writer Barbara Shelly, who also took a voluntary buyout. His immediate plans for retirement include finishing a book he's worked on for a while, about Ernest Hemingway's Kansas City.

Paul's long career included a stint at KCUR 89.3 in the 1970s. He stopped by the newsroom Thursday, his first day of his retirement.

Interview highlights

On his move to the editorial page:

“It might have seemed a little out of left field because I'd been so identified with the arts and with features for such a long time. But what most of them don't really don't know or may not remember is a long time ago in the early '80s I was on the city desk. I was responsible for political coverage, federal courts. Every job I've had has been – I've learned, I've grown and this last one feels like the culmination of my career.”

On why he took a buyout:

“Frankly, a year ago when a voluntary buyout was offered I took a very serious look at it. When it came up this year, I was pretty clear I was going to go ahead and take it and retire. ... It came at a very difficult time because in addition to some voluntary buyouts we also had some involuntary layoffs this week, and so it creates a great mix of emotions."

On the loss of institutional knowledge at The Star:

“That always happens when people leave, whether they leave on their own or get laid off. Yeah, somebody calculated that we just lost 328 years of collective experience.”

On the unique role of the newspaper editorial page:

“Historically, it's the place where the newspaper with a collective voice can argue for progress in the community, can argue for campaigns that are worthy things to do, can argue or speak truth to power. I know some people like to think that we and I and the editorial page for too long has been this left-leaning organ, which in fact it is editorially. It's meant to be a lively place for serious discussion about issues of importance to our community.”

On the rise of news commentary:

“The whole radio chatter industry has created this – I don't want to say discussion because that's too polite – but this public space of argument. I think what newspaper editorial pages do and what we try to do online is to kind of bring the heat down on those arguments and really offer an opportunity for community conversation.”

On the future of the hometown newspaper:

“Everybody's going through this kind of upheaval. I also have this maybe naive expectation that the younger demographic we all like to talk about, whether it's LPs or manual typewriters or flannel shirts, there's a possibility they might be discovering – maybe it's the New York Times, maybe it's us, maybe it's elsewhere – that there's a virtue in reading the newspaper.”

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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