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2012 WOMAN OF INFLUENCE: Karen Crotchfelt

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Publisher, The Indianapolis Star

Sphere of Influence: The newspaper industry veteran is responsible for steering the state’s largest daily through a tumultuous time for media properties.
 

crotchfelt-karen-15col.jpg(IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

When The Indianapolis Star named Karen Crotchfelt publisher in December 2010, an anonymous commenter wrote on the Gannett Blog website: “Karen is … [s]mart, poised, visionary, articulate and a rock-solid manager who knows marketing, advertising, circulation and the business side very, very well. Tough as nails and can be a real nut cutter, but you won’t find a smarter more passionate individual. Work hard for her and reap big rewards. Say and do stupid stuff...then stand back ’cause you’re going to get skewered.”

Crotchfelt laughed when the comment was read to her.

“I would have to characterize that as fairly accurate,” she said.

She said she’s learned to keep her skewering to a minimum and those kinds of conversations private.

“But I set high expectations because I believe in what we do,” she added.

Crotchfelt’s passion for newspapers started in high school, and she went to Northwestern University to study journalism. But during an internship, when she had to interview a woman whose child had died, she went back to school and asked: Is there something besides journalism that happens at a newspaper?

They steered her to the business side. “I’m sure back in the day, I thought what many people think: That newspapers are non-profits,” she said with a laugh.

She began her career in Gary, where she worked her way up from junior account executive to circulation sales manager. She met representatives of the newspaper chain Gannett at a conference, and they offered her a job in Nashville, where she ran the circulation sales department.

That led her to Gannett papers in Palm Springs, Calif., to Reno, Nev. (as ad director), and then to Phoenix, where she finished as senior vice president for strategy and development.

The Star is her first publisher job, and it’s been eventful for her and the newspaper. In July, she announced that after giving away its content for years on the Internet, the newspaper would allow readers access to 20 stories a month before they had to pay.

“Our model always has been and will continue to be reliant on consumers to be engaged fiscally,” she said. “We believe we have strong content, that our customers will pay for it—and that is happening—and we are going to change what we do.”

The same month Crotchfelt announced plans to sell the building at 307 N. Pennsylvania St. that has been the Star’s home since 1907. It wasn’t an easy decision, she said, but it was a necessary one to reposition the organization, serve the employees and make the operation cost effective.

“I wake up every day with a goal in mind of how do we preserve journalism for my kids when they grow up so there is an organization like ours protecting and serving the community,” she said.

Crotchfelt’s children are 5-year-old Kaela and 4-year-old Kyle. Her husband, Kevin, is an entrepreneur she met and married in Reno, despite his last name.

“I clearly loved my husband when I took his last name,” she said. “I thought if he could deal with the name, I could deal with the name. And nobody ever forgets my last name.”•

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  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim

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