Taps for features....

Dateline: Sun 28 Dec 2008

I worked in features during much of my time at the Star. The sections historically have been the red-headed stepchild of the newspaper industry, but to those who produce and read features, they are the bread and butter, with lingonberry jam, yet: special, relaxing, nutritious, and, when done well, with creative leadership, the best reading in any paper.

But the shabby corporation Gannett never saw that vision. One of the best writers ever to grace the pages, Kathy Jesse, left shortly after Gannett came to town. She knew, she told friends, that she would not be permitted to do the sort of story-telling she loved. Under Gannett, the features formula was a transparent news you can use.

Star feature writer Bill Shaw also boogied, to write a book, and Gannett never had the good sense to hire him back. His stories were elegant escapes that took readers throughout Indiana and down many lanes of glad memory.

Most of the best of "the features years" took place under some remarkable editors: Shirley Roberts at the News, later on Nancy Comiskey at both News and the Star, Ted Daniels, Dick Cady, Dennis Royalty, Shari Finnell, Lynn Ford. No disrespect to current and/or recently departed features editors not mentioned, because frankly, Gannett made it very hard for them to bloom.

At any rate, it is personally heart-rending to watch features in its death throes.

But I have to keep reminding myself of what buddy Hendy says: the business model no longer works. Still, for a good cup of coffee, a good morning paper and an excellent features section...some of us would rejoice.

Alas, adieu...


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