Many Well-Known Journalists Are Leaving The Kansas City Star | KCUR

Many Well-Known Journalists Are Leaving The Kansas City Star

Feb 19, 2019

This story has been updated to include additional names of employees who accepted buyout offers.

More than half a dozen marquee reporters at The Kansas City Star have accepted buyouts from the newspaper’s parent company.

Today was the deadline for accepting the offers, which were extended by McClatchy Co., the Sacramento, California-based owner of The Star, a few weeks ago.

The offers were made to employees who are at least 55 years old and have worked at The Star for 10 or more years. The employees' last day at the paper will be Feb. 28.

KCUR has confirmed that the following newsroom employees have accepted the offers:

  • Political columnist and editorial writer Steve Kraske
  • Johnson County government and business development reporter Lynn Horsley
  • Courts reporter Tony Rizzo
  • Long-form reporter Rick Montgomery
  • Social justice and crime reporter Joe Robertson
  • Business reporter Mark Davis
  • Metro reporter Matt Campbell
  • Feature writer Lisa Gutierrez
  • Photographer John Sleezer
  • Photographer Keith Myers

Between them, the employees accepting the buyouts have well over 200 years of combined experience at The Star.

Coupled with the recent departures of Hunter Woodall for the Associated Press in New Hampshire and Aaron Randle for a New York Times newsroom fellowship, The Star’s newsroom is down to no more than several score employees. Before the paper started reducing its newsroom staff more than a decade ago, the newsroom at its peak boasted more than 300 reporters, photographers, editors and other employees.

The buyouts are the latest effort by McClatchy, which owns 30 newspapers nationwide, to trim its workforce in the face of declining advertising and circulation revenues and focus on the digital side of its operations. The company, which also owns the Wichita Eagle, offered buyouts to 10 percent of its workforce, or about 450 employees nationwide.

A source said that McClatchy offered buyouts to 50 Star employees and that 24 accepted.

The last round of reductions at The Star occurred in August, when McClatchy cut 3.5 percent of its workforce companywide. Just a few months earlier, in May, The Star laid off 10 newsroom employees. The Star's Metro desk is now down to 13 reporters.  

Kraske, who was a political reporter for The Star for many years before he became a columnist and later joined the editorial board, hosts a daily talk show, Up to Date, on KCUR and also teaches journalism at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. KCUR is licensed to the university. 

“I can't tell you how difficult it is to leave such a dedicated band of committed journalists,” Kraske said about accepting the buyout offer. “Journalism has never been more important, and The Star performs vital work that I've been proud to be associated with for 32 years. I will, of course, continue hosting Up to Date, and will be involved in expanding the scope and reach of KCUR and its newsroom.”

Horsley covered Kansas City schools for many years before going on to cover City Hall in Kansas City for 19 years. She was reassigned about a year-and-a-half ago to cover Johnson County government, politics and development.  

Rizzo, a reporter at The Star for more than 30 years, is one of its most experienced courthouse hands and has covered some of Kansas City’s most infamous crimes.

Montgomery, also a three-decade-plus veteran, specializes in long-form journalism and has covered topics as wide ranging as crime, kids, the World Series and automobile airbags.  

Davis, another three-decade veteran, is the Star’s last remaining business reporter (although reporter Joyce Smith also reports on business-related matters) and has focused recently on Sprint, the economy and business scams.

Robertson, another multi-decade veteran, for many years covered Kansas City schools. He now reports on criminal and social justice topics.

Campbell has reported on a wide range of subjects as a longtime reporter on the Metro desk. He joined The Star in 1982.  

Gutierrez has been a feature writer at The Star for 19 years. For the last several years, her official title has been am real-time reporter for McClatchy, based in Kansas City.

Sleezer is a longtime photographer at The Star who has covered the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs.

Myers has been a photographer at The Star for more than 35 years. In 1987 he won first-place feature in the 45th annual Pictures of the Year contest for a photograph of prisoners with HIV/AIDS.

Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.