Zach and Evan Dunkin: Slam Dunk!

Dateline: Thu 19 Nov 2009

One of my happier memories at the Indianapolis Star was sharing the stage with Zach Dunkin when the News and the Star merged. Zach came from the smaller paper, but the News was definitely guttier than the Star, as No. 2 papers often are -- and Zach had that free-wheeling fun spirit that sometimes comes with being an entertainment/rock writer, editor, reviewer, sports guy etc.  -- in other words, a man of many talents.

We became buds when he was named the arts and entertainment editor for the newly merged Star/News, and I was his counterpart as the lifestyle editor. What I loved from the get-go was his exuberance: he was so happy when the announcement was made about his new role, he confided, that he was literally shaking with joy. In an industry that prides itself on cynicism, such admissions are refreshing...

Zach left Gannett recently (picked off) but now he's got his own brand-new bag: Slam Dunk Communications, of which he is co-owner with his son Evan Dunkin, a graphic designer/artist. Zach is the go-to word guy who, as he says on his web site, "knows the difference between a good press release and a bad one...and how to go about getting an event publicized or ignored." So with his nearly 40 years experience in the news business, he says, he can get the job done.

Here's wishing Zach and Evan every success. 

Here's the website for the new venture:

CORRECTION: for those who read an earlier version of this which stated that The Indianapolis Star is a client of Slam Dunk, not so. Evan Dunkin, Zach explains, had listed the Star under the client roster since some of the money the newspaper is paying Zach (severance) went into the operation. Says Dunkin Senior: "I told him to delete it before we got a call from them. It's gone."

With the Star's circulation undergoing a 17 percent dip for the daily, the paper probably couldn't afford decent PR anyhow...









Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I am also a Zach admirer. Had no idea he had a talented graphic artist son.

May fortune smile on them. Regardless who their clients are.

You too, Ruthie.

2009-11-19 14:38:18

StarStruck [unverified] said:

I found it odd that, after a 6-minute video explaining why Chris Lloyd gave his Star severance check to charity (a video copied in this blog), that he goes back to Gannett for a freelance gig. I'm not the only one who was puzzled by that.

2009-11-19 14:55:27

Ada Wollocott [unverified] said:

I heard that the pittance check Chris got for his freelance gig he signed over to a charity in another grand gesture. I heard too that he filmed the sign-over -- this time the film went 12 minutes (Chris apparently has graduated from one- to two reelers in the film parlance he so loves)-- but the camera malfunctioned so it didn't get posted on every blog in town.

2009-11-19 15:01:41

hendy [Member] said:

Here's wishing Zach success working in the Dark Side. As for Chris, the explanation is simple: you have to eat. One day, the IndyStar won't be a monopoly anymore, just one more web address with a mortgage.

2009-11-19 15:27:36

zach [unverified] said:

Thanks for the support, Ruthie. I've got more news for you later. Slam Dunk is only scratching the surface. It's the home base for other projects Evan and I have been involved with. If you're interested I will fill you in.


2009-11-19 16:03:29

Steve [unverified] said:

Great post on Zach Dunkin, Ruthie! I hope you're well. I've been thinking about telling you about how he has made our Current in Noblesville the strongest, in terms of content, of any of our papers. He is the managing editor as an "agent" of Slam Dunk. We're thrilled to have him! Want more? Happy to provide.

2009-11-19 16:48:40

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Being of a naturally cynical nature, I was not impressed when Mr Lloyd took so long (and so many words!) to salute his Good Deed with a video.

The Star is further lessened without Zach. May he do what he enjoys, and prosper. It is nice when you can do both.

2009-11-19 18:57:59

Beyond it now [unverified] said:

Here's my two cents on the Chris and Zach thing.

I started my professional life in newspapers and then went off and for 12 years worked as a copywriter in New York PR and advertising agencies, including some bigs ones.

After I returned to Indiana, circumstances and a certain misbegotten romantic impulse led me to take a big pay cut to get out of the corporate game to freelance for the Star and then join the staff where I stayed as a writer for a year or so.

It didn't take long until some editors made it apparent that the expectation was that I drop the hard-line editorial approach I'd learned in my first newspaper jobs in favor of what amounted to PR copywriting masquerading as journalism.

At the Star I was doing PR copywriting, largely, for about a third of what I made in the agency world for doing the same thing.

The bloom wore off on the Star gig and I moved on and now I'm much back making a reasonable living -- and much happier, as many of us are who leave the paper.

As much as I like and respect Chris and Zach, both of whom I worked with, I can't help wonder about the rationale of their decisions to remain involved with the Star as a freelancer and what I guess amounts to a PR agency.

I mean, the paper, which had presumably been paying these guys far less than what they would have made slinging words at at PR agency or in a corporate gig, lays them off, stripping them of their salary and benefits (and in Chris' case, thanks to the Guild, his legitimate grievance)and THEN they go to work for the Star as contractors for probably what is a fraction of what they made as employees.....?

If those who get screwed by the paper willing return to the fold as what I'm assuming are ill-paid contractors, what incentive does the paper have to not continue to do what they've been doing -- laying people off and continuing to enjoy the fruits of their talents for far less compensation?

Yes, folks have to eat, but I don't imagine either Chris or Zach are living very large on the crumbs the Star is throwing their way. And is a by-line really worth it?

The thought of "From Rock Pile Zach to PR flack" and the Captain Critic who's really riding steerage in the Star's ballast, as far as I can see, is depressing indeed.

We can only hope I am wrong and they are making enough money to justify happiness in their new-found status with the Star.

2009-11-20 07:44:24

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

When The Star and The News merged, Zach's ascension to AE editor was probably the best thing that came out of it. I was in DC at the time, so I never really got to know Zach well personally, but I sure liked his writing. I think I have a clipping of his somewhere in my files of an interview he did with John Mellencamp. I wish him and son the best of luck.

Finally, I don't understand all the second-guessing and judgments tossed at Chris and Zach because here is the deal:

Few of us reporters EVER did it for any other reason than love -- love for the printed word and the sheer delight in seeing our own names above what we'd written.

If new ventures of Chris or Zach or any of us rekindle that joy then it's worth it regardless of the hourly rate or the client.

That's kinda the way I see it.

2009-11-20 08:56:43

Christopher Lloyd [unverified] said:

Jeez, how did I get sucked into a post about Zach?

Sorry to those who didn't like my overlong video about donating the severance check. I didn't make it because I wanted attaboys; I did it because I'd been so vocal on the issue of the new contract, and was simply reporting the final outcome.

As for why I took the (single) Indy Star freelancing gig: I actually gave the answer on my blog, which I'm sorry you missed.

Oh, and congratulations to Zach and Evan on their new venture -- which is what this thread was supposed to be about in the first place.

2009-11-20 11:08:58

Zach Dunkin [unverified] said:

Sorry about that Chris. By the way, everyone you can still find Chris' fine work as our DVD critic in the Current of Noblesville, a relatively new weekly newspaper, of which I am managing editor, thanks to Steve Greenberg of Current Publications. You'll also find ex-Star veteran Martha Allan writing for me, and she's doing a wonderful job. The incredible work of one of the best writers I ever got to supervise, Mike Redmond, is in there, too. We try to take care of our own.

2009-11-20 23:00:41

Rita Rose [unverified] said:

I don't think I've seen any freelance work by Zach in the Star --where did you get that info, Beyond It Now? Zach was a fair and fun boss to work for, and we were stunned when the paper got rid of him. He was supposed to be protected by the contract -- so much for that. I hope Slam Dunk will be a success, Zach! BTW, are you hiring? :)

2009-11-22 08:49:55

Michael Ehret [unverified] said:

So glad to see Zach rising ... he is a great writer, a fine editor, and was always a nice guy, too. Not something one could always say of the news business. Zach was willing to let me have my shot at some entertainment things -- and I always appreciated it. That was where I WANTED to write, but it wasn't in the cards...

2009-11-22 20:16:18

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