Credit where it’s due: Chris Lester was ahead of the game when it came to abandoning ship at Kansas City’s paper-of-record.
His departure two years ago was celebrated with wonder and maybe a bit of envy by his colleagues. The announcement that he was moving to the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce as Senior Vice President For Business Growth was a bit of confirmation that The Kansas City Star was still a stalwart among the movers and shakers of this town.
Then, without any fanfare, Former Star Biz Editor Chris Lester was quietly “blown out” of his comfy new Chamber job last month.
Amid so many newspaper layoffs, Lester’s story is especially intriguing because it both acknowledges the decline of the industry and denotes the hardships that await former practitioners of this soon to be forgotten journalistic art.
Let’s start with Lester’s qualifications.
As business editor at The Star we hear that there was a great deal of internal debate regarding Lester’s ability to help develop any real business in Kansas City. Journalists like to think that because of the varied subject matter of the stories they cover they somehow have extensive knowledge of a great variety of disciplines. In reality, a former journalist like Lester was more qualified to take notes or a long afternoon lunch than actually work toward local business development.
Obviously, writing about business and working with businesses are two different things and the schmooze put on by great public relations people lets more naive newsies believe they really have a say in the stories they’re covering.
More often than not, stroking the egos of journalists is simply a byproduct of good spin.
The fact is that the Lester hire served a public relations purpose, but just like so many other newspaper hires in the “real” business world it was quickly over once the arrangement was no longer expedient.
Undoubtedly, the powers that be at The Chamber have now moved on to courting some other bright local biz writer. Heck, Greg Graves even smiled at me and made me all giddy at a recent victory party for the E-Tax.
Nowadays the leverage held by mainstream media is no longer so powerful. In fact, the best description that I’ve heard is that getting good press is kind of like prostitution – only the losers have to pay for it.
So where does all of this leave the many other newspaper journalists hoping for life after employment at The Kansas City Star? Let’s review: Dan Margolies journeyed to Reuters in Washington, D.C., family in tow, but then quickly departed. The rumor was that the work load required was simply far greater than what former The Star reporter expected. Our beloved DeAnn Smith tried to work behind the camera at two TV local news stations but that didn’t really work out. But she’s a go-getter, so expect to see her name again. During the political season she was an active campaign volunteer for Councilman Ed Ford.
And now that Lester’s out at The Chamber the word is that he was a candidate for the Communications Director Job with New Kansas Mayor Sly James. That didn’t work out either. Mayor ames chose Danny Rotert – a more seasoned political operative, despite a great many people making some serious recommendations for the former Star newspaper man.
What we can gather from all of this is that there are still are job opportunities for newspaper reporters leaving Kansas City’s biggest daily paper. However, the market is brutal, unstable and full of surprises. In short, it’s nothing at all like the comfortable life working for the former Kansas City paper-of-record during better times and before its current demise.