The New Kid in Town: Kraske takes on more responsibilities at UMKC

Kate Baxendale

Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star has been named an associate professor in the communication studies department at UMKC. Kraske, host of “Up to Date” on KCUR-FM, will teach journalism classes beginning this semester.

 “I saw it as an opportunity to go toward something rather than I am fleeing something,” Kraske said. “I just saw a terrific opportunity to do something different at this point in my career. I’m 55 now, so I thought if I’m going to make a jump I’d better do it.”

The university approached Kraske about an opportunity to teach about five years ago, but Kraske wanted to make sure he was right for the job. Kraske taught The Art of the Interview for a few semesters and decided teaching was something he could do.

 “I really enjoyed seeing my students improve and to see them grasp some of the ideas of what journalism is really about,” Kraske said. “I just thought that was terrific fun.”

Kraske will continue to write his political blog and weekly column at the Star, in addition to contributing to occasional projects. The Star asked Kraske if he was still interested in “keeping his foot in the door” and Kraske said, “Absolutely.”

 “I’m a political junkie, I’m a news junkie by nature, and I’m going to be reading the blogs anyway,” Kraske said. “And obviously I form thoughts, and there are things I’d like to convey about our politics in Missouri and Kansas and locally that I’ve been following so closely. It’s just something I would like to continue anyway.”

Kraske said the Star is home to him in so many ways.

 “Those folks are my brothers and sisters,” Kraske said. “I’ve been in the trenches with some of them for 15 years. I respect so greatly those people who are so committed to the craft and committed to the cause and want to keep the flag up in the air. I admire that in people so much that they still find the importance of journalism and its place in society.”

Kraske is taking over for Dr. Robert Unger, a former reporter for the Kansas City Star and a longtime member of the UMKC communication studies department. Kraske said he has some huge shoes to fill since he accepted the position.

 “Bob [Unger] was one of the great writers that the Star had going back a few decades,” Kraske said. “He is a superlative writer, and he grasped things in such a powerful way. I admired Bob when I was a young reporter and he was a veteran reporter at the newspaper.”

Kraske said Unger has been helpful during his transition period, even offering Kraske old syllabi for his courses.

“We went to lunch and chatted about how we’re going to do this, and I’ve taken to heart a lot of what he said to me,” Kraske said. “Bob is, and I think he would say this, he’s just an old-school journalist. I love that about Bob, and I think we are similar in a lot of ways.”

Kraske said his schedule is a bit crazy right now as he is transitioning from political correspondent to associate professor.

 “Since I’ve been in college, I have been someone who gets off on juggling balls,” Kraske said. “I like to be very heavily engaged, and the idea of doing more than one thing is something I sort of embrace. That’s just how I roll.”

Kraske knew since he was in middle school he wanted to pursue a career in journalism. Kraske said he never waivered from this path. He wrote sports for the city newspaper in Stillwater, Minn., as a junior in high school and he wrote for the student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

“I was really lucky,” Kraske said. “There was never a struggle with me about what I wanted to do with my career. My father is an author of children’s books and a magazine editor. My mother was very active in fair housing issues in Detroit when I was a little kid. I think her activism and my dad’s writing sort of just produced someone who wanted to be a journalist and be someone to help shape the dialogue, someone who ended up going into politics in a sense, being a political journalist.”

Kraske said there is an important place in society for journalism, but he questions how the information is going to be delivered in the future.

“I see the need for, in my career more than ever, good, solid journalism based on the foundations that have been around for decades,” Kraske said. “So the idea of training young people to go out and do the work that needs to be done is really appealing to me.”