Art critic Alice Thorson, business reporter Steve Everly out at the Star

Two longtime Kansas City Star writers were laid off this week. 

Steve Everly, who covered energy and utilities for the business desk, departs after 28 years at the Star. Reached by e-mail, Everly said, “It’s something I wanted and sought….What I made clear was that whether there would be a buyout or layoff, I wanted to be picked. In short, I wanted out.”

Of his future plans, he added: “This allows me to work on a pet project which requires a few weeks at the British National Archives. Spending a day reading documents, believe it or not, is something I enjoy. I’ll mull over my options beyond that. Journalism is a terrific craft, but the cutbacks and other changes have made it less so, at least for me.”

Alice Thorson, whose position as art critic was cut to part time in 2009, is also out. She had been at the Star for 23 years, following stints as an arts writer at the Washington Times and the Washington City Paper

“I came to the Star with a couple of art history degrees, and not much of a journalism background,” Thorson tells The Pitch. “My main interest is in arts and artists and ideas. However I end up working in those areas is fine with me.”

Does letting Thorson go signal an intention to reduce arts coverage at the paper? And does the Star believe that a handful of occasional arts contributors can adequately replace a continuous critical voice like Thorson’s?

“I think that you have to draw your own conclusion from their actions,” Thorson says. “To their credit, the Star, and Steve Paul particularly, built the A&E section into this fabulous thing that was very open to my ideas on what was important and what wasn’t, and took my authority seriously. Unfortunately, that great thing is sort of slowly being dismantled.”

Derek Donovan, the Star‘s public editor, said nobody at the paper could comment on the layoffs, citing private personnel matters. We e-mailed the Star‘s A&E editors Kathy Lu and David Frese with a few questions about the Star’s plan for arts coverage moving forward. We’ll update if we hear back. 

UPDATE: Lu says: “While Alice’s departure will mean less arts criticism, we are still committed to arts coverage and will have a reporter watching over the city’s vibrant arts scene. And yes, we do plan to keep using our freelancers.”

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