It’s not exactly a mass exodus, but the Indianapolis Star sports department has lost its second seasoned reporter in less than a month.
The departure of former Indiana University beat writer Terry Hutchens earlier this month and Indiana Pacers beat writer Mike Wells last week comes on the heels of a major reorganization of the state’s largest daily newspaper’s sports department.
In late June, Star Editor Jeff Taylor sent out a staff memo announcing several major personnel changes in the sports department. The re-organization included moving Hutchens out of the position covering IU he had held for 15 years to handle “new efforts on recruiting, focusing primarily on college basketball,” according to Taylor’s memo.
Though Hutchens didn’t elaborate, he made it clear in postings on his Facebook page he was not pleased by the move. He subsequently left the Star to cover IU for Fox News/Scout.com.
When reached by the IBJ on Tuesday, Wells confirmed that he has left the Star but declined to say where he is headed.
“I’m just going to lay low for a week or so,” Wells said.
In the Star re-organization, Wells was moved from covering the Pacers to being the lead Indianapolis Colts beat writer. Covering the high-profile NFL and Colts could be considered a move up, but some in the industry speculated Wells was upset at not getting to cover the NBA.
Before joining the Star to cover the Pacers in 2005, Wells covered the Minnesota Timberwolves for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He credited his lengthy list of NBA contacts for helping him get the Star job.
Wells said his move had nothing to do with being unhappy at the Star, but rather said he’s moving to take advantage of another professional opportunity.
“I have no hard feelings and nothing bad to say about the Star,” Wells said. “They’ve been very good to me in my 8-1/2 years at the Star.”
There had been speculation in local sports circles that Wells had taken a job with ESPN.com covering an NBA beat. Wells denied that.
“I can tell you that is completely inaccurate,” he said.
With training camp starting Saturday, it’s not yet clear who the Star’s No. 1 Colts beat writer will be this season. The logical choice seems to be Mike Chappell, who has covered the team for the Star since 1989, but was bumped to the No. 2 Colts beat slot in lieu of Wells last month.
Phil B. Wilson, who has covered the Colts heavily for the paper the last few years, has been re-assigned as a video journalist, focusing on becoming the online host of the Star’s sports coverage. Veteran sports reporter Phil Richards, who also has covered the Colts for the Star in recent years, has shifted into a role focused on Sunday projects.
NOTE: Headline has been updated.