Indianapolis Star sports department getting major overhaul

June 27, 2013
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The Indianapolis Star sports department is undergoing a major shakeup, including reassignments for some of the paper’s most tenured beat writers—covering the Indiana Pacers, Indianapolis Colts, IU and Butler.

The newspaper's management said it will be looking for outside help to fill two of the department’s biggest beats: Indiana University and its top-ranked men’s basketball team; and the Pacers, who this year proved they are an NBA title contender.

Star Editor Jeff Taylor said in a memo to staffers this week and obtained by IBJ that the changes are about beefing up the newspaper’s offering to readers. He added that the IU and Pacers beat positions would be posted soon.

Among the changes Star readers can expect are a weekly online sports show, a digital magazine for online subscribers, and expanded recruiting coverage, Taylor said.

“We’re working to create a new kind of experience for sports fans in our market—adding resources and offering new digital products," he wrote in the memo.

Among the major changes in the staff overhaul is Mike Wells' leaving his position covering the Pacers to become the lead writer covering the Indianapolis Colts. Longtime staffer Mike Chappell, previously the lead Colts writer, will cover the Colts alongside Wells. Star staffers told IBJ that Chappell now will be in a secondary role to Wells.

Longtime IU beat writer Terry Hutchens has been bumped out of that position and will head up “new efforts on recruiting, focusing primarily on college basketball,” according to Taylor’s memo.

The Star is looking to outside hires to fill the Pacers and IU beats, Taylor said, adding that the IU reporter would be based in Bloomington.

Another longtime staffer, David Woods, is being moved off his beat covering Butler University men’s basketball. Woods will be replaced by 20-something Zak Keefer, who has steadily filed supplemental Pacers and Colts stories over the last year. As part of his new position, Keefer will also handle digital general assignment work during Butler’s off-season.

Woods will help cover the area pro teams while continuing to cover Olympic sports and the Fever, Taylor said in the memo. Taylor did not return a call seeking additional comment.

Phil Richards has shifted into a role focused on Sunday projects and Phil B. Wilson will move into a role as a video journalist, focusing on becoming the online host of the Star’s sports coverage.

Wilson has been a popular voice with the paper, but the Star and other newspapers have had difficulty gaining traction with online videos.

Of course, not everyone involved is happy about the changes.

“It has been a long couple of days here but I think it’s time to share with you, my friends, the shakeup this week in the Indianapolis Star Sports Department,” Hutchens wrote on his Facebook page. “Bottom line for me: As of Monday, I am no longer the Indiana University beat writer for The Star. After 15 years on the beat, I was informed that management has decided to go another direction."

Hutchens called the reorganization “a blow to a lot of good people who have done some great work as the top guys on their respective beats.”

“I’m not really sure what to say and in trying to take the high road through all of this I’ll continue to keep my deepest feelings to myself,” Hutchens wrote. “To say I'm disappointed would be a huge understatement though.”

It’s safe to say Hutchens is not alone.

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  • Star Demise
    Just another example of poor decisions at the "Indy Gannett" Sure print media must change, but I know Hutch for IU and Cavin for Indycar were to two largest online traffic drivers before the pay wall. A beat writer is someone fans identify with. No way I would accept a "recruiting" position if I were Hutch. The Star will continue to learn their mistakes by smaller readership.
  • Gee thanks
    The only parts of the paper remotely worth reading were the beat offerings of Hutch, Mike Wells, and the Colts tandem (esp. PB's blog.) Plus Curt Cavin, who hopefully they are not dumb enough to mess with. So, sure makes sense to blow that up... yeah. Note to Star, I'm really not interested in watching videos. I want text I can scan and absorb, not some 3 minute video that I have to sit through. Couldn't the Star create some extra sports capacity by dropping the columnist who only writes about bike lanes?
  • Reorg
    They are doing all this and Kravitz gets to stay? That guy is horrible.
    • Connections lost
      All of those years of making connections and getting comfortable with players and staff are lost when the new beat writers move in. Best of luck...
    • Sports Changes
      Chappell and Hutchens have been excellent writers and we appreciate them. As the Star continues it's disintegration by bringing in rotating outside staffers the paper is now known for it's left wing editorial writers and lack of real local reporting excellence...what a fall since the Pullian days.
    • I'm gone
      That's it.....I'm cancelling.
    • Disappointing
      News media, papers, they just don't get it. A lot of people don't read the news papaer anymore, especially young people...you can make all the changes you want, it won't make any difference. Chap and Hutch are class guys, and good writers, and I feel for them. I like Wells too, so I guess I am happy for him, but I would warn him that he's just the next guy they demote if he doesn't drive more traffic for a product where the market is shrinking daily. Wells and Kravitz, who appears to be unaffected by all this, have one thing in common...they are a little more critical of the players and organizations, and might say or write something to stir controversy. Unfortunate...way to go Terry for taking the high road after the kick in the teeth. By the way, I like PB Wilson, but I am not going to watch their video content...
    • Huh?
      I don't get the big deal being made of these changes. They're all fine writers and, honestly, there is very little to differentiate their styles. It's not as though they're NYT Best Selling authors. They write articles. About sports.
    • Still another nail in the Indy Star coffin
      Why do the rapidly dwindling list of subscribers read the Indy Star. It sure isn't for national news or in-depth local news. The Sports page is our only connection to local sports teams. Marshall posts it's no big deal but Terry Hutchens is a multi-award winning sports writer who had the connections, experience and contacts to report the real story on all IU sports. Losing Hutch's Hoosier coverage (both his articles and his Hoosier Insider blog) after 14 years is another reason to quit reading the Star.
    • Quix
      The dwindling list of subscribers has MUCH more to do with people no longer wanting to pay for something they've come to expect online for FREE than any changes made to the writing staff. I recognize that Hutchens is an award winning writer.... most of the names mentioned in the article, in fact, are award winning writers.
    • Sports Dept.
      Covering local events is such a drag. I anticipate the coming announcement that the IU basketball beat reporter will be based in McLean, VA.
    • What about Purdue
      No mention whatsoever about Purdue Coverage. I am going to cancel my Star subscription and get one to the Ft Wayne paper who does cover the Boilers.
      • What news coverage?
        Luckily for the IBJ, the Star believes there is never more than 1/2 page of business-related news worth reporting in a given day.
      • What did they expect?
        I understand most commenter's angst about these changes, and I'm not saying I like them, either. But change is inevitable and if these guys thought they were going to spend the rest of their professional lives doing the same job, they're not living in reality. Those relationships with teams and players that one commenter above mentioned can be a good thing; they can also make the reporter lazy and complacent. Change can be good, people ! Embrace it !
      • Purdue coverage
        In fairness, the memo from Star editor Jeff Taylor did say: "Meantime, we're exploring how we can enhance coverage of other colleges, including Purdue, and high schools." I have heard that Star honchos are looking to bring Lafayette Journal and Courier sports reporter Jeff Washburn onto the Star staff to cover Purdue. Lafayette, like the Star, is a Gannett Co.-owned newspaper.
      • Right On
        I had the same thought as Randy about Kravitz. David Woods is Butler Basketball when it comes to local coverage. He even wrote a best selling book about Butler. This is crazy. I'd love to hear Robin Miller's thoughts on these changes.
      • Indianapolis Star
        That paper is a train-wreck. The leftist nut-jobs in the editorial department are bad enough but sports was a strength. Lost me as a customer some time back - would not allow my money to help pay Dan Carpenter and Mathew Tully's paycheck!
      • Really?
        A weak big city daily sports section just got weaker. By taking the experts off the beats, the Star has just severed the only connection that differentiates it from the many other sources for news about local sports teams. David Woods not covering Butler? Gimme a break, Star. Oh, and cancel my subscription. P.S.: Here's a question for the brainiacs at the Star: why did views on the Boston Globe's website skyrocket after the Marathon bombings? Answer: because people were looking for the most informative news - from the beat reporters who had the best sources on the ground and the experience to tell the story in a compelling and informative way.
      • What are they thinking?
        Horrible moves across the board. David Woods wrote the book(s) on Butler Basketball...literally. And now he moves to Fever coverage the same year Butler moves to the Big East. Ain't that a kick in the head... Same goes for Terry Hutchens. Admittedly I only enjoy reading about an IU loss, but this move is equally wrong.
      • I AGREE
        I agree with all of the above, not necessary to change for the sake of changing !
      • sports changes.
        I am currently a star subscriber until the end of July then that's it. This decision makes Robin Miller look like a genius, leaving when he did and making a new, successful career for himself. Cost of the paper continues to go up while coverage goes down as reflected by the changes in the sports department !!
      • Booooooo!
        I am beyond disappointed to learn that David Woods has been removed from the Butler beat. He has been a passionate advocate for the Bulldogs long before they became a "Cinderella" team. His years of experience on the beat give him the advantage of history and backstories that your youthful replacement writer will be sorely lacking. Butler's move to the Big East promises to be the biggest season in Bulldogs basketball history, and you choose this moment to reassign your most experienced Butler writer? Not sure whether that is shameful or just plain stupid.
      • Start and Finish
        I had the first comment lamenting these changes, and all but one poster agrees. The Indy Gannett is a business and they should listen to feedback from customers......I agree too that they can dump Tully and the female writer who left Cleveland for Indy and then complains about everything that is not exactly like the "mistake by the lake", worthless.
      • Purdue Coverage????
        Living outside the State of Indiana, I love the Star's Coverage of the Hoosiers. They are the only school which has brought real glory to Indiana. This doesn't mean that every four year university in the State needs coverage. I don't care much what happens at Ancila, Anderson University, Purdue or Franklin College. Most people outside of the state don't even know where they are.
        • Washburn?
          This "journalist" used to show his disdain and jealousy for IU by calling Crean "Clappy." Hiring him might pick up a few PU readers -- but would alienate the Hoosiers. I do understand the shakeup -- Star was not competing well against blanket IU coverage provided by Rivals (Peegs.com) and the H-T.
          • A win-win for iu
            You iu fans should not be so quick to complain about this. First off, a new iu beat writer will become just as biased and manipulated by the university as Hutch was, and it will happen quickly. Second, if he accepts the recruiting beat, Hutch will become an active recruiter for iu that does not cost the athletic department a dime, and he will not be beholden to those pesky NCAA recruiting rules. I do find it funny that bloomington is 60 miles away from INDIANAPOLIS, yet it is treated as local news in pretty much every department. That is the stuff that makes the Star small-time, IMHO.
          • the H-T...
            The H-T SHOULD be the paper for blanket coverage of iu. It is the local paper. The Star is not a local paper in bloomington in any sense of the word. No Purdue fan that I have ever met likes Hutch - not sure where you get that he would get Purdue readers for the Star. As far as I know, there are not Purdue fans reading the Star any more. Why should or would they?
          • Bad Star
            not only sports and business but obits too. if you die on weekend that dept is closed. i just missed the funeral of a friend whose obit was in tues morn and service was at ten. not fair business for what they charge these days.
          • Paywall
            I quit reading the Star when the paywall was installed. Nonetheless I missed Hutch because of his unique perspective and insight, even though I felt he was afraid to call out obvious incompetence. All newspapers, including the Star, would be better served by keeping their best writers focused on what they do best, while developing new and interesting ways of delivering their content. It's the only way to justify asking folks to pay for online news and sports coverage in an age where access to information abounds.
            • Local or Loco?
              I see many, many spokes shooting off of this "story within the story." Another way of saying "read between the lines." Yet another chapter written of realizing how and why I long ago found the IBJ and select neighborhood papers, along with internet blogs and TV, to have evolved as my base of both news, trust and loyalty. The Star ironically mirrors Congress to me...dependent upon "local" supporters yet controlled by the powers that be inside and nearby the D.C. beltway. I may sound paranoid, at the least disillusioned, yet I sense Americans are more and more sensing their votes (i.e. paid newspaper subscriptions) count for nothing and thereby increasingly feel the pain of "taxation without representation." What an ironic posting for the 4th of July! But any more ironical than seeing the Star's "local" advertising banner show logos of all national stores with the lone exception being Super 8 groceries? Can't the Star find advertisers based in the metro area? Or even Bloomington!
            • Purdue / Butler
              So Woods, who was excellent with the Butler beat is gone, and there will still probably not be any Purdue coverage that isn't sarcastic. The IU writer, who was also pretty good is in a new position. At least they're ticking everyone off equally.
            • Terry Hutchenss
              I sure miss the work of Terry Hutchens as sports reporter. He was outstanding and far better than his boss Kravitz. What a shame! And what a poor decision by the Star!
            • Irish
              Indiana's the only school that brought glory. I seem to recall that tiny Catholic school up north. I think they play football, but I could be wrong.

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