The Star was founded in 1903 by businessman George F. McCulloch, who hired a balloonist to drop half a million red paper stars over the city as a publicity stunt. A cartoonist in the Star’s early years, Johnny Gruelle, was the creator of the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls.
Later, after a half century under the ownership of the Pulliam family, the newspaper was sold to the Gannett chain in 2000. It is the winner of two Pulitzers for investigative reporting.
Though business trends have been ominous for some local news outlets, Executive Editor Ramos says the Star has grown its audience.
I don’t subscribe that we’re fully in a crisis as an industry, Ramos says.
We think we are in a – I call it a new age of journalism, and so we’re trying to create and innovate given the new set of tools and the new ways our readers are consuming content.
Hard-hitting local stories are a priority.
We’ve grown and improved our investigations team, he says,
most notably USA Gymnastics. The Star’s investigation of the Indianapolis-based organization revealed major failures in oversight of Larry Nasser, the team doctor accused of sexual abuse by more than 150 women.
The USA Gymnastics reporting had so much impact that Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis praised it in court:
What finally started this reckoning and ended this decades-long cycle of abuse was investigative reporting, she said.
Ramos also notes a 2016 exclusive:
We were the paper that broke that Donald Trump was going to name Mike Pence as his running mate.
Another aspect of the Star’s strategy is playing to its customers’ passion for sports.
We over-index in sports, says Ramos.
A bigger percentage of our total traffic comes from sports compared to other major metro sites.
This has inspired the Star to try new approaches in sports coverage, including live-streaming a high school football game every Friday night.
Sports tends to innovate first in a newsroom, Ramos says.
So they were the earliest and best adaptors to Twitter, for example. And so it’s easier to innovate in sports because you also can plan better – you know when the major sports events are going to happen. … You can take chances and experiment. … We know when the games start, we know when we want the stuff in and we know when we can post it. So it gives us the ability to try stuff. … You don’t have that luxury in news because so much more of news is reactive.