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Star's newsroom hit with high-profile departures

Chris O'Malley
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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  • These exits
    These exits are really no surprise! Mary Beth Schneider was "scooped" big-time by the recent Tony Bennetts recent actsof corruption and folks!---it is now even closer to the day that the Indy Star becomes a Thursday-Monday newspaper-thank you
  • The Star-the local ''National Enquirer''
    The Star has become a local gossip rag....and the dirtier the gossip the more they love it. It is too right wing for me to be interested in reading most things in it. But, even if it wasn't, it would not be worth reading as it is mostly seeing who can get into whose bedroom the fastest, or who gets under the table bribes, or whatever. They like killing off those with prominent names....deserving it or not.
    • Those changes at The Star
      The hits just keep on coming...I wish my former (and departing) colleagues well. My own career there was pretty much kicked to the side in 2002, but, hey, there are lights out there much brighter than The Star.
    • And so it goes
      Sadly, because the Star contains more fluff than substance these days, Cathy will probably be missed more than Mary Beth.
    • The Star
      You are so right Douglas. The Star is sinking faster than the Titanic. I don't read it. The only thing it is good for is to line my cat litter box. However, I will admit, my felines deserve better.
    • Good Riddance
      And yet, in their ultimate arrogance, their business reporters continue to attack those leaders in the community that are driving innovation, investment and growth. This while their ship continues to sink and folks jump ship. Good riddance.
      • Old Timers
        I am convinced the paper wants very much for the old timers to leave. The higher ups are making it next to impossible for long term employees to want work at The Star. I am looking forward to the publisher and the managers to hit their 60's. Then they will know what it feels like to be replaced, not because you can't do the job, simply because you hit 60.
      • typical
        It is typical that most of the comments here complain that the Star is left leaning, which makes me laugh out loud! Anything differing from their own extreme right leaning thinking is labeled "leftist". Get a life people.
      • Out of Touch with Reality
        Erika Smith should have been go a long time ago and sent back to Cleveland, Ohio. Her writings / 'rumblings' are totally out of touch with reality on all topics at all levels.
      • About to quit the paper
        I'm 71, delivered the paper (Star and Times) for 4 years, have always enjoyed getting up and reading the paper first thing in the morning. Every morning I think I'm going to cancel my subscription, enough is enough I called and canceled it today. Kravetz,Chappell,Tully and Varvel are the remaing "pros", too bad
      • What's an Indy Star?
        Who reads the star any more?
      • Too Bad
        Mary Beth's a surprise, though she may truly have personal reasons for taking off. Erika's relatively new and young, so they'll probably keep her since they can't be paying her much. Her pieces focus on Indy's cultural side, which is fine if you're not expecting heft. They've gotta keep Carpenter -- he's the token commie! On the other hand, if management figures out that panhandlers and homeless people don't buy papers, he could be toast too. They've gotta be at the bottom of the list by now.
      • Newmasthead suggestion
        "All The News That Fits We Print." ( that is, if it fits into a few anorexic ad-filled pages.
      • A Painful Lesson Learned?
        As the Gannett-run local continues it's death spiral, the last three survivors will likely be Dan Carpenter, Matt Tully and Erika Smith. Don't the most useless and out-of-touch employees seem to hang on the longest? Could it be that the newspaper reading public in Central Indiana is fed up with the 'progressive' party-line bloviating and is no longer willing to pay for it? One wonders if the IBJ ownership will get the message before it too slides off into the abyss. I am not optimistic about any impending epiphany, based on the commentary over the past year.
      • Thanks
        ^ Loved the tilt comment.
      • Tilt those heads!
        In other news, it's been announced that all artwork at the gallery in the Conrad will feature people tilting their heads at extreme angles.

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