Kent Babb, who was just named to the prestigious sports columnist position at the Kansas City Star in June, will be leaving the McClatchy-owned newspaper to be a sports enterprise (longer-form features) writer with the Washington Post, reliable sources have told Bottom Line Communications exclusively.
He will start at the Post October 1.
Three months ago, Babb was named to join Sam Mellinger as the Star’s second sports columnist. For years the Star’s one-two sports columnist punch was Jason Whitlock and Joe Posnanski. However, Posnanski departed the paper in 2009, and a year later, Whitlock left after 16 years.
The Post is generally regarded as one of the leading American newspapers with a daily circulation of about 500,000 subscribers and about 850,000 on Sunday. (The Star’s circulation is about 260,000 daily/360,00 Sunday.)
“I have wanted to work for the Washington Post since I was a teenager, and this chance really came out of nowhere,” Babb told Bottom Line. “There’s a mystique there that, as a journalist, is difficult to ignore.
“But, really, it boils down to this: It’s what I want to do, where I want to do it, and I have found that it’s rare in this business to get a shot at that combination. Plus, my wife has family in DC and northern Virginia, so this makes some sense on professional and personal levels.”
Still, leaving the Star after five years was not an easy decision for Babb, but the Post should be a more stable environment. In just the past few years the Star’s sports staff has gone from 19 sportswriters to just eight after he leaves. In fact, Babb was the last full-time sports hire from outside the paper.
“It is, of course, incredibly difficult to leave Kansas City and The Star, where I have been granted numerous opportunities to tell big stories, with the faith, backing and guidance of some of the best editors in journalism,” he says. “They took a chance on me as an NFL beat writer (with no NFL experience) and a columnist (with no column experience), and for that I’m very grateful.
“I’m not nearly good enough at telling them often enough how much I appreciate their trust. Through my nearly five years there, I’m lucky to count most every coworker as a friend, and that’s not easy to leave behind.”
Babb stresses he is not leaving a sinking ship, and he has nothing but positive things to say about the Star.
“Despite cutbacks and strains common in this business, The Star still has a commitment to in-depth, meaningful journalism that some other papers have, in a panic, left behind,” he says. “There are challenges here, but the passion and talent in that sports department and newsroom are incredible.”
Babb graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2004 and his career has been in high gear since then, including winning numerous journo awards. He joined the Star in December 2007 after three years with the State Newspaper in South Carolina and was the Kansas City Chiefs’ beat writer before being named sports columnist three months ago.
A few of the honors Babb has garnered include: five Associated Press awards, three Hearst Foundation awards and eight South Carolina Press awards.