For the first time in its history, Indianapolis Star hires Black executive editor

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The award-winning executive editor of South Carolina’s Greenville News will become the first African American and the first woman to serve as executive editor of The Indianapolis Star, parent company Gannett announced Wednesday.

Katrice Hardy, who joined Gannett in 2016, also has served as the USA TODAY Network’s regional editor for the South, overseeing newsrooms in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina and her native Louisiana. She came to Greenville after more than two decades at the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, where she held a variety of positions before becoming managing editor.

In her new role in Indianapolis, she will oversee more than two dozen Gannett newsrooms throughout Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky as the Midwest regional editor.

At a meeting Wednesday afternoon where Hardy was introduced to the IndyStar newsroom, she said she would encourage the paper to be “big, bold, ambitious and innovative.”

“We have to come in here every day and think nontraditionally,” she said.

Hardy herself is a nontraditional choice, breaking two previous barriers for the organization’s top newsroom position.

The choice of an African American woman to lead Indiana’s largest newsroom is nothing short of “huge,” said Steve Jefferson, president of the Indianapolis Association of Black Journalists.

“It changes the face of who is usually in charge when it comes to editorial decisions in our community,” he said. “It also has the potential to make sure that there is more coverage considered when it comes to the African American community, and I think it also lends to having someone in the position that can also help with gender sensitive coverage as well.”

Those who know Hardy personally say she was an excellent choice for the job.

Alison Bethel McKenzie, director of corps excellence for Report for America and a former executive director of the Indianapolis-based Society of Professional Journalists, said that she and Hardy travel in the same circle of African Americans who are newsroom leaders.

“Katrice Hardy is the real deal,” she said. “She is tough, empathetic, has a great nose for news and has her thumb on the pulse of a rapidly changing industry. This is such a significant appointment on another level because we have seen such a decline in the number of minorities in newsroom leadership across the country.”

Hardy said that she sees one of her biggest challenges in Indianapolis as increasing diversity in coverage, and, to her, diversity is not just about race but also can include other often overlooked communities, such as parents raising autistic children.

Often, she said, her energy stems from exchanges with others, and she plans to bring that approach to her new job, listening to and learning from a wide range of voices.

Such an approach, she said, can help IndyStar reach a broader, more diverse audience.

“How do you better connect with your communities so they find you indispensable?” she said.

While in Greenville, Hardy helped grow the paper’s digital readership. She focused on watchdog and investigative journalism and launched a new print and online magazine, the “American South,” which examines politics and culture in the region as well as race.

Under her leadership, the paper won Editor & Publisher magazine’s 2019 award for Best Community Service for “Taken,” a yearlong investigation into South Carolina’s civil asset forfeiture practices, which disproportionately affected black males.

Her experience positions her well to lead IndyStar, which has won numerous awards for its investigations, from its work on real estate scams to a multiyear investigation of how USA Gymnastics failed to report sexual abuse of athletes, Gannett executives said.

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