Oct 19, 2023 - News

Indianapolis news nonprofit raids IndyStar's staff

Illustration of a repeating pattern of notepads and pens.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

The Indianapolis Star is bleeding staff to a news nonprofit that has only just begun its hiring spree.

Why it matters: Gannett-owned IndyStar faces perhaps the most competition for staff, readers and advertisers since it combined operations with the Indianapolis News, a newspaper that closed in 1999.

Driving the news: Free Press Indiana, a nonprofit with $10 million, has hired away three IndyStar editors as it builds a news site called Mirror Indy.

  • Bro Krift, IndyStar's former executive editor, is CEO.
  • Oseye Boyd, former public engagement editor, is editor-in-chief.
  • Chris Sikich, former enterprise editor overseeing politics and government, is managing editor.

State of play: Mirror Indy is joining the Indiana Capital Chronicle, State Affairs and Axios as newcomers to the Indianapolis media scene.

💭 James' thought bubble: Free Press Indiana has a formal partnership with IndyStar, but it's looking more like a hostile takeover as it raids staff for job openings listed at six figures for editors and up to $80,000 for reporters.

  • Gannett has immediately severed employment ties with the last two editors who've accepted jobs at Mirror Indy, suggesting the company sees those defectors as competitors.
  • Disclosure: I worked for IndyStar before joining Axios.

What they're saying: Krift emphasized Mirror Indy and IndyStar have a content-sharing agreement and the two sides plan to meet Friday to discuss their partnership.

  • "We're open and eager to collaborate with everybody in the news community," Krift told Axios. "I think this is the way you grow more news consumers. It's the way you grow a better democracy. It's the way you make this community better."

Meanwhile, the management vacancies have thrust IndyStar into rebuilding mode as it seeks a sixth executive editor since 2018 (including one interim) and braces for more departures.

The other side: "We are actively recruiting for all open positions at The Indianapolis Star, including the role of executive editor, and across the USA TODAY Network," Gannett told Axios in a statement.

Between the lines: Gannett's 2019 merger with Gatehouse created a massive company intended to position 200-plus newspapers, including IndyStar, as dominant forces for local news and advertising.

  • The proliferation of local news outlets has eroded IndyStar's market power even beyond the already dire trends for newspapers.

The big picture: Gannett has shed about half its workers since that merger, Axios' Sara Fischer Kerry Flynn report, and CEO Mike Reed said earlier this year he "would entertain bids on any of our markets."

The bottom line: Mirror Indy is siphoning IndyStar's staff without the troubles or costs of an acquisition.

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