KC Star editor gives a voice to community members

Derek Donovan.

Derek Donovan, a Kansas City native, has worked at the Kansas City Star for over 21 years. In his current role as the Community Engagement Editor, Donovan strives to provide a voice to members of the community on the opinion pages of the newspaper.

“I really like trying to balance a variety of viewpoints,” Donovan said. “I like trying to let people see their own points of view in the paper and on the website.”

As Community Engagement Editor, Donovan coordinates the opinion editorial page and the letters to the editor, solicits guest columns and letters, chooses the syndicated columns that are published in the newspaper, manages social media accounts for the editorial board, serves on the editorial board and writes editorials.

“I’ve talked to thousands of people who cared enough about The Kansas City Star to make their voices heard,” Donovan wrote in an article for the Kansas City Star.

Donovan has called Kansas City home not only for the past two decades, but for nearly his entire life. He grew up all over the Midwest, but calls Kansas City his home.

Donovan has been the Community Engagement Editor for the past four months. Before that, Donovan held a number of different positions at the Kansas City Star, including library researcher, project researcher, public editor, ombudsman and newsroom social media director.

“I actually wanted to be a professional researcher and an academic,” Donovan said. “That was really where I thought my career was headed. There’s a lot of overlap between research and journalism obviously.”

When Donovan served as the Kansas City Star ombudsman, he was able to give a voice to readers by printing their opinions and concerns in the newspaper. As ombudsman, he also learned to hold the organization he worked for accountable for what it publishes.

“I always said in my old role as ombudsman that it was my job to point out when readers were right about when the Star was wrong,” Donovan said. “Nobody ever told me not to do that. If I went to work for Apple or Kraft or something, what I would have to do for a living would be to explain why my employer is always right … Journalism is the opposite of that, and I really like that.”

Donovan uses his past experiences as an ombudsman and a researcher to hold the publication he works for accountable and to shape his moral compass.

“Every day I come to work, and the only directives that we ever really have are to try to publish the truth and to try to be fair,” Donovan said.

Donovan had not always planned on becoming a journalist. He originally planned to become an art and theater professor.

“At the last minute, I decided not to do my Ph.D.,” Donovan said. “Instead, I found a job working in the library here at the Star, in the research library for the newsroom. One thing lead to another, and eventually, I started running the research library. And that’s how I ended up in the current role.”

He studied communications and French at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. He also earned his Master’s of Arts from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Donovan advises journalism students to do an internship during their collegiate years.

“I was just having this conversation with one of my colleagues yesterday that getting an internship is going to help you get clips,” Donovan said. “Having clips is by far the most important thing in getting a job in journalism.”

After spending the past 21 years working in the newsroom at the Kansas City Star, Donovan’s drive to fairly report news as well as to represent community voices in the op-ed section of the newspaper has not faltered.

“This industry has changed so vastly much over the past 20 years,” Donovan said. “I have always been committed to trying to find the best fit of what I can do to be the best part of this newsroom.”