Somebody toss the editors and corporate decision-makers at the Indianapolis Star a towel. They got egg on their faces.
Roughly four weeks after relegating 29-year veteran Mike Chappell to a secondary role on the Indianapolis Colts beat - a move seen by many in the industry as blatant ageism, especially considering some of the other internal reshuffling done at the Star in recent weeks - the man who the Star promoted to Chappell's old job has now bolted for ESPN.
Word hit the Twitterverse yesterday (I got my first head's up from Michael Pointer) that new Colts beat writer Mike Wells had taken a job with ESPN. It is presumed that the job he took was the open Colts beat writer position at the "World Wide Leader," but that is not confirmed.
Wells (no relation, and if you don't believe me, look at a picture of both of us) spent the last 13 years of his career covering the Indiana Pacers and the NBA for the Star, a beat he was well-known for. For reasons that still haven't been fully and completely explained, the Star took Wells off the Pacers beat and gave him Chappell's old job covering the Colts. The last time Wells covered the NFL was in 2001, and while many in local Indianapolis media consider Wells a very good reporter, some view him as a guy who "doesn't know anything about football."
The move to slap down Chappell - who is highly respected by readers and national media who cover the NFL - and to promote an NBA guy to the prime NFL beat was not well-received. "Ageism" was the word many used to describe the reasoning privately, with the Star demoting the older Chappell and promoting the younger Wells.
It was the Star's plan to replace Wells's Pacers coverage with an outside hire, but currently no new hire has been made. Instead, the Star has assigned Michael Pointer as "interim" Pacers beat writer. Meanwhile, just last week, the Star had shot and posted promo videos of Wells, columnist Bob Kravitz, and Colts punter Pat McAfee kicking goofy field goals and punting in an effort to drum up interest for a web series featuring all three of them.
Now, Wells is gone ESPN and the Star is without a primary Pacers or Colts beat writer with training camp starting in just one week.
As for Mike Wells, the new gig at ESPN is likely more money, and they'll probably let him work from anywhere. Personally, I'm glad he got the gig, and I think he'll do a great job. The "doesn't know anything about football" stuff is overblown. A reporter doesn't need to know the game in order to do his job. It helps, but it isn't a requirement.
If I'm in Mike Chappell's shoes today, I walk into work and continue my job as "secondary" Colts beat writer. If the powers-that-be would like me to return to my old job, I'd be willing to negotiate the salary increase that would ABSOLUTELY be necessary to take on the new tasks associated with that job.
And during those negotiations, I'd have a big, fat, smarmy grin spread across my face.