On Wednesday, president and publisher of the Kansas City Star Tony Berg visited Kansas State. During his time on campus, he talked about his day-to-day duties, the behind the scenes of the Star and how he earned his job.
Early in the day, Berg spoke with associate professor Steven Smethers’s media management class about the planning and management behind the Star, specifically regarding the rise of digital media and video.
Berg said reporters at the Star work increasingly hard to keep a digital image and integrate video into everyday publications. He also gave students advice for their careers.
“I hope all of you will have the opportunity in your career to have someone that really supports you,” Berg said. “When I look back, there’s a lot of times I would have fired me. I mean, a lot of times. But they didn’t; they stuck with me and kept promoting me.”
Later in the day, Berg spoke again to students and faculty within the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
“When I tell people I work at the Star, they’ll look at me and make sure you’re okay,” Berg said. “They almost want to give you money. They’ll look at you kind of like ‘are you alright?'”
Berg, 39, said he has been the youngest person to hold the positions that he has had in recent years.
“Every job I have now, I’m the youngest person in that job,” Berg said. “Everyone looks at you and thinks you’re not smart enough, or know enough, you don’t have doctor behind your name or Ph.D.”
Berg is now living proof that life works in the funniest ways, showing that the least popular option you have can sometimes bring you to brighter horizons.
“I had the opportunity to work in beer, wine or paper,” Berg said. “I was super excited to come home to my fiancée at the time and tell her we were going to be in the beer or wine business. At that point in my life, it seemed like a really exciting thing to do. She’s from Cheney, Kansas, and she wanted to stay in Kansas. Low and behold, I got into the newspaper business.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my wife,” Berg continued. “She has given me two beautiful sons and has one more on the way. I laugh looking at it now, 39 years old and four media companies, and I wonder, ‘Man, how many cases of beer would I have sold by now to be able to do this?’ That woman has been there from the start. In a business that’s wildly unpredictable, it’s pretty fun to come home to someone for 20 years that’s been steering me in the right direction.”
The Star is currently owned by the McClatchy Company based in Sacramento, California. McClatchy operates 29 daily newspapers in 14 states. Berg joined McClatchy through the Wichita Eagle in 2012 as the vice president for advertising. In Jan. 2016, Berg was named the president and publisher of the Star. He currently oversees the Eagle, the Star, the Belleville News-Democrat and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Berg began his newspaper career in 2001 as director of territory sales for the Arizona Republic in Phoenix before becoming the advertising director for the Lawrence Journal-World.
Berg was adopted and then raised in Emporia, Kansas and holds two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Kansas.