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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

More High-Profile Departures Hit Post-Dispatch

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 7:10 AM


Last month, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch got a rare piece of good news — its series on the toxic stress facing children in Ferguson, "The Crisis Within," had won the coveted James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.

But before reporter Nancy Cambria gets her award next week, she'll be clearing out her desk after more than a dozen years at the paper. Cambria recently announced her departure to take a job with Washington University. She'll be the director of communications for For the Sake of All, a project focusing on improving health and well-being for African-Americans in St. Louis, based within its Brown School of Social Work.

She's not the only high-profile name to quit the daily in recent days. Koran Addo, the P-D's well-respected City Hall reporter, accepted a job last week as the press secretary for Mayor Lyda Krewson, who was sworn in yesterday. And Walker Moskop, the paper's data journalist and the man behind some of its most interesting analysis and mapping projects, informed editors that he'll be leaving for Milwaukee in July after his wife accepted a three-year fellowship in pediatric hematology oncology at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Deputy Managing Editor Adam Goodman says that a general assignment position and a job as a "data reporting specialist" are being posted internally and externally. Because the City Hall job has triggered interest within the building, Goodman says the paper intends to interview internal candidates before posting it; in the mean time, veteran reporter Kevin McDermott will tend the beat.

But the departures follow a series of other losses in what reporters say has been a demoralizing 2017. News editor Ronald Wade died in January after a battle with pancreatic cancer, while buyouts mandated by the paper's corporate office in Iowa led to the February departure of Steve Giegerich, Tim Bryant, Tim O'Neil, Jim Gallagher, Pat Gauen and Dan O'Neill.

It was in the wake of those buyouts that editors announced to Cambria and fashion editor Debra Bass that they were being reassigned — Bass to the business desk and Cambria to breaking news. Both took to Twitter to make their unhappiness clear, Cambria noting that editors were killing the "children and families" beat entirely.

That beat has been one of its most high-profile in recent years. In addition to the Aronson award, "the Crisis Within" was a finalist for a Dart Award, putting Cambria's package in the company of many of this year's Pulitzer Prize winners. Her previous series focusing on deadly daycares led to policy changes on a federal level.

Reached Monday, Cambria writes only that she's excited about the new opportunity — "I had a great run at the Post-Dispatch. It was hard to leave. But this is a wonderful opportunity to use my knowledge, my community contacts and my passions to help make critical changes happen for the St. Louis community."

People in the communities she covered, as well as readers, may not be quite so philosophical. When Cambria's husband, Jeremy Kohler, posted on his public Facebook page about her Aronson victory, at least one-third of the responses were focused on the injustice of the paper eliminating her beat.

"Bring back the beat! Bring back the beat!" one woman wrote.

Kohler responded by thanking their friends, and then added, "I think this is the definition of bittersweet."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story referred incorrectly to Cambria's new position. She'll be working with a group based at the Brown School, For the Sake of All.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected]

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