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Canned Star reporter firing up foodie website

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Indianapolis Star food writer Jolene Ketzenberger has been dismissed by the state’s largest newspaper for operating a personal website featuring “back of the notebook” snippets of information about the local food scene.

Jolene Ketzenberger mugKetzenberger

Ketzenberger, 50, was fired in late December after refusing to give up EatDrinkIndy.com, a site she has been working on sporadically for more than a year.

Although the site has not accepted advertising, Ketzenberger said Star management perceived it as a conflict of interest and asked her to disable it. She declined.

“Apparently I broke a lot of rules, so they had to let me go,” she said.

Star Editor Jeff Taylor declined to comment on her departure, calling it a personnel matter. In an email, he said the newspaper plans to hire a food and dining writer to complement "Wine Dude" columnist Bob Scheer.

Ketzenberger, meanwhile, is “forging on into what’s next”—a full-fledged launch likely next month of EatDrinkIndy.com, which she hopes will begin to produce revenue.

“I’m going to continue to build the site and cover the heck out of local food,” she said.

On the surface, not much has changed on the site since early October. Ketzenberger has been making her rounds, gathering information and conducting interviews. But she also has been lining up contributors who will help produce content for the site.

“I really want to reflect the breadth and depth of what’s going on in the local food community,” she said, citing plans to engage everyone from farmers to chefs. “I’m very excited to be able to write as much as I want and post it all.”

A paycheck would be nice, too. Ketzenberger has been working with a business adviser and talking with potential investors who can help turn her website from pastime to profession. She’s looking for sponsors, and advertising remains a possibility.

Ketzenberger has no plans for a print publication, but she hopes to offer fee-based special events such as cooking classes or food-related field trips.

“I think support will be there,” she said.

Married and the mother of three, Ketzenberger joined the Star six years ago after about 18 months of free-lancing for the newspaper. (She had another website then, but let foodiemom.com languish due to the demands of a full-time job.)

Her husband is John Ketzenberger, a former Star staffer and IBJ editor, and currently the president of the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute.

Jolene freelanced for other publications for about 15 years while raising her family, breaking into food writing after pitching a cooking column to Nuvo Newsweekly. Editor Harrison Ullmann assigned her to write restaurant reviews instead, and her path was set.

“I’m so excited about what’s going on with local food,” she said this week. “I just have to write more about it. And now I will.”

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  • P.S.
    H.A H.A
  • James
    FYI: putting a period in words likely to be flagged by automated moderators allows those words to clear some moderators. I have no idea if the IBJ uses such a system, so I erred on the side of caution. You must be an amateur.
    • Hit. ler?
      Pardon?
    • Ah yes
      Claiming I must be the writer in question because you have no better response. Now, if you'll just call me Hit.ler, we'll have all of the basic Internet debate cliches covered.
    • A new nom de plume?
      You're welcome Jolene.
      • Okay, Miss James
        That's exactly as I expected. Thanks!
        • Miss August
          Although amateurs, The Star typists are much better than bloggers. It is always appropriate to critique the paid critics.
        • To James
          I'm sure the lack of a link to your blog or writing portfolio was simple oversight on your part.
          • Amateurs fill the Star's pages
            When you buy a paper you are paying for professionals with something to say of interest, and for writers who can write. The local section of The Star has only amateur birds and Jolene was just one of the flock. They hunt and peck, but they don't write. Like the rest she had nothing of interest to say, and no interesting way to say it.
          • Best of Luck
            I am sure her web site will be very successful. I have had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jolene and the experience was awesome and great for my business. I am sure there are many other local Chefs that feel the same way. I did not see on her new site where one could e mail her- I might just have missed it. Best of luck, bumpy rides can be a blast!
          • Also funny
            Here's an Internet pro tip: If you're going to crow because a "bad" writer was fired, make sure your own posts are completely free of sophomoric spelling and grammar errors. She may not have been a stellar food writer, but it's not like Indianapolis is a hotbed of foodie news fodder. Bacon and brussels sprouts is big news in those parts.
          • Smart Move
            Good move, her palette was weak at best. Indy restaurants deserve a solid food person.
          • Fire Erika D. Smith next please
            Seriously, does Erika Smith ever think something that she doesn't say? What a useless column that is.
          • it's about time!
            payback for all of restaurants she vowed never to review because of friendships with dismissed employees/managers. restaurants that weren't frequented by trendy, urban hipsters. that weren't owned by Martha. that weren't named yat's....
          • Bring back Patty
            Bring back Patty Denton. I have always considered Jolene second-rate compared to Patty.
          • Star rightly dumped Jolene
            The Star needs to continue cleaning house. They haven't had any good columnists since Keating & Collins. The food section is bland and filled with foodie sycophants. The USA Today section is kindling. Boy are the Pulliams sorely missed.
          • What a shame
            I really enjoyed reading Jolene's coverage on the Indy food scene. I can't wait to see the formal launch of EatDrinkIndy.com
          • Finally!
            While I feel bad for Ms. Ketzenberger personally, this is a decision the Star should have made years ago. I've always found her writing to be mediocre and her "knowledge" to be underwhelming. Her articles always seemed provincial and woefully behind the times. Sorry folks - bacon and brussels sprouts were great trends about 5 years ago. I wish her the best personally and sadly doubt that the Star will manage to find any type of replacement. I'm sure Gannett can find another clueless writer who is syndicated and therefore cheaper.
          • Always funny
            When old media has no idea how to capitalize on the audience-multiplying power of new (or, in this case, not all that new) media. P.S. Fred works at the Star.
          • sauce for goose vs gander?
            what about the star male writer who plugged local book store (which turned out to be rip off by convicted felon) which was in turn taking on his new book? And, a few others those in the in still chat about? Jolene one of dwindling few at Star with 20-20 institutional memory. No local columns anymore, doesn't Star ever realize that dropped when local news was displaced for cookie cutter USA stuff? IBJ consistently breaks local news they overlook and under report
          • Unbelievable
            Leave it to the Star to make yet another boneheaded decision. I, too, wonder if it is an excuse to hire a younger writer. Please IBJ, hire Jolene!
          • Really?
            So Jolene wasn't allowed to have a blog but other Star writers can write books about the beats they cover? Apparently 'conflict of interest' is in the eye of the beholder.
          • Conflict of Interest...
            Plain and simple, nothing to be angry about. Representing the Star is a nice position, clearly she didn't care about it, so best of luck to her, she can now blend in with the rest of the internet blogs.
          • Hmmm
            I wonder if the person to compliment the wine guy will be much younger? Jolene should have been supported and Indystar should have picked up the website if they were a good employer. It is all about the almight dollar and not the quality of what they give readers any longer. I look forward to EatDrinkIndy.com.
          • I can haz news in my newspaper.
            Is the Star's strategy to stop the bleeding firing or letting go everyone at the paper who actually knows something about what they cover?
          • Another reason to quit the Star
            Star management is dumb. Jolene personifies what an editor should want in a reporter: someone who knows so much that it doesn't all fit in the paper! This is a big blow to the Star--Jolene's food coverage is one of the few reasons I even read the paper anymore. The IBJ should hire her to cover the food and drink industry in Indiana.

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