Star's newsroom hit with high-profile departures

August 8, 2013
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In the wake of a recent round of layoffs at The Indianapolis Star, two seasoned reporters have set sail for new endeavors—on their own accord, that is.

Among them is the paper’s senior politics reporter, Mary Beth Schneider, who is taking a three-month leave of absence to care for her parents.

Schneider is one of the Star’s few veteran reporters remaining since Gannett Co. Inc. bought the paper in 2000. Several rounds of layoffs have thinned the ranks of its older, higher-paid employees.

Schneider is a veritable encyclopedia on state politics, having covered the Statehouse since the second term of former Gov. Evan Bayh in the early 1990s.

Schneider has commented extensively on her leave and caring for her parents on her Twitter feed. A tweet posted by Schneider on Aug. 1 leaves one wondering whether she’ll return to her role as political reporter, or to the paper.

“Odds are that even if I return it may not be to the Statehouse beat. Just covered what could be my last Statehouse news conference,” Schneider tweeted. Her last day of work at the Star was Aug. 1, according to the feed.

Schneider told IBJ on Thursday that her uncertainty was due to the amount of care her parents might need in the future, and whether she also could shoulder the time commitment of being a statehouse reporter.

Meanwhile, “Talk of Our Town” columnist Cathy Kightlinger is leaving the Star to take a job as director of community and public relations at the Long-Sharp Gallery at the Conrad Indianapolis luxury hotel.

Kightlinger, 43, worked for the state’s largest daily newspaper for 12 years but said she couldn’t turn down the opportunity at the gallery. “My mom’s an artist. I grew up with art. I love art,” said Kightlinger, set to take her new gig later this month.

The Long-Sharp Gallery, owned by former Indianapolis death row attorney Rhonda Long-Sharp, has earned a national reputation for its exhibits, such as one on Picasso last year that generated notices in The Washington Post and on CBS News.

Columnist Kightlinger is a fixture in social circles. She took over the column following the dismissal in 2008 of former columnist Susan Guyett, who later filed an age discrimination suit against the paper.

The Star filed a motion to dismiss the suit in federal court, although a judge denied the request. The Star later settled with Guyett for undisclosed terms.

Last month, the Star conducted its fifth round of layoffs in five years. The cuts involved three copy editors, three clerks, two custodians, a part-time photographer, a part-time graphic artist and an assistant calendar editor.

Two longtime managers in the newsroom also were cut: News Administrative Editor D. Todd Moore and Breaking News Editor Kevin Morgan.

In 2011, the Star laid off 62 employees, including more than 15 percent of its newsroom staff. That left 136 newsroom employees, down from 230 in 2007.

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