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.”

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Gallery: Spring football game

Jeremiah Booker, a junior wide receiver, gets ready run past a player on Team Jayhawks during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
D’Andre Thomas, a junior safety, runs onto the field after halftime during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Joe Dineen Jr., a redshirt junior linebacker, gets ready to tackle a player on the other team during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Kyle Mayberry, a sophomore cornerback, prepares to run during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Daylon Charlot, a sophomore wide reciever, tries to run past sophomore cornerback Julian Chandler during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Carter Stanley passes the football to junior runningback Taylor Martin during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Carter Stanley prepares to pass the football during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Tyrone Miller Jr., a junior safety, sprints on the field during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Runningback Taylor Martin looks for the ball during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Junior linebacker Denzel Feaster tackles junior runningback Taylor Martin during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Sophomore wide reciever Daylon Charlot attempts to run past a player on the other team during the spring football game at Memorial Stadium on April 14. Team Jayhawks won, 14-7.
Sophomore cornerback Julian Chandler prepares to run across the field during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Freshman offensive lineman Chris Hughes blocks players on the other team during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Kellen Ash, a senior defensive tackle, tackles a player on Team KU during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Carter Stanley passes the football during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Jacob Bragg, a junior offensive lineman, gets ready for a snap during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
J.J. Holmes, a junior defensive tackle, blocks junior offensive lineman Larry Hughes during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Bryce Torneden, a sophomore safety, gets ready for the play during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Tyriek Starks catches the football during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji blocks a player during the spring football game at Memorial Stadium on April 14. Team Jayhawks won, 14-7.
Coach David Beaty makes a call during the spring football game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium. Team Jayhawks won 14-7.

Kansas Board of Regents Picture

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The Kansas Board of Regents is the governing board of the state’s 32 public higher education institutions. The Kansas Board of Regents building is located in Topeka. Ashley Hocking/KANSAN

I am a photographer for the University Daily Kansan. I took this picture of Kansas’ Board of Regents building on Nov. 19, 2016. It was published on the Kansan’s website.

Geography students images

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Freshmen Brianna Mears from Austin, Texas and Lauren Enos from Springfield, Missouri work on completing a lab about orographic uplift in GEOG 105. Mears and Enos are students in geography teaching assistant Morgan Okeson’s introduction to geography lab in Lindley Hall. Ashley Hocking/KANSAN
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Freshman Claire Hessenflow from Leawood, sophomore Jordan Nicoll from London and sophomore Neil McCarthy from Omaha, Nebraska work together on a geography lab about orographic uplift in room 418 of Lindley Hall. The students are enrolled in geography teaching assistant Morgan Okeson’s introduction to geography lab. Ashley Hocking/KANSAN
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Geography teaching assistant and Master’s student Morgan Okeson helps freshmen Tess Pereira from Lake Quivira, Ethan Freud from Newton and You Fu from China with a problem on a geography lab about orographic uplift in Lindley Hall. Okeson does research on the implications of climate change on the environment. Ashley Hocking/KANSAN

I am a photographer for the University Daily Kansan. I took these pictures during a geography lab in Lindley Hall on Feb. 9, 2017. The pictures were published on the Kansan’s website.