Introducing The Star's Editorial Board

Colleen McCain Nelson, Dave Helling, Derek Donovan, Mary Sanchez, Steve Kraske, Lee Judge and Melinda Henneberger discuss the role of an editorial board.

The Kansas City Star editorial board is committed to leading a community conversation focused on issues that affect the city and our region. Board members aim to deliver insightful commentary and a unique perspective on public-policy questions.

Meet the writers, editors and cartoonist who appear on the opinion pages.

Editorial page editorColleen McCain Nelson


Colleen McCain Nelson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a former political reporter who has chronicled three presidential campaigns. She joined The Kansas City Star in December 2016 after working as a White House correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and as an editorial writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News.

In 2016, she criss-crossed the country with Hillary Clinton and also spent time on the campaign trail with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. As a White House reporter for The Wall Street Journal, she wrote about the policies, politics and personalities in President Barack Obama’s administration, traveling the world with the president and vice president. Before joining The Wall Street Journal, Nelson worked at The Dallas Morning News as a political reporter and later as an editorial writer and a columnist.

In 2010, Nelson and two of her colleagues were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing, recognition for a series of editorials that condemned the economic and social disparity separating Dallas’ thriving northern half and struggling southern half.

Nelson also wrote about local and state politics as a reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas and at the Wichita Eagle. Nelson, a loyal Jayhawk, was raised in Salina, Kan.

Community engagement editorDerek Donovan


When Derek Donovan started at The Kansas City Star in 1995, he worked the overnight shift coordinating the electronic archiving of the paper’s content. With the technology of the time, this was a painstakingly manual process, requiring a staff of as many as six people staring down a strict deadline of 6 a.m., seven days a week.

In 1998, Donovan was appointed to oversee the newsroom’s research operations. That included looking up background material for reporters and editors, both in databases such as LexisNexis and with The Star’s massive collection of millions of newspaper clippings and paper photos, organized by name and subject.

In 2004, he was named readers’ representative, later to be called public editor. Sometimes known as an ombudsman, the job’s purpose was to give voice to readers’ concerns about accuracy and fairness in news coverage. As the dialogue between journalists and their audience has evolved online, the role expanded to include oversight of The Star’s primary social media accounts.

In 2001, Donovan published the book, “Lest the Ages Forget: Kansas City’s Liberty Memorial.” He enjoys outdoor activities such as boating, though he doesn’t get his kayak out as often as he should. He also has a music studio in his home in Weatherby Lake.

Opinion writerDave Helling


Dave Helling has spent nearly 40 years covering politics in the Midwest and the Kansas City region. After reporting stints in Nebraska and Wichita in the late 1970s, Helling opened a Washington bureau for Kansas television stations in 1981. His first assignment: Cover Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration.

Helling returned to his hometown, Kansas City, in 1984. He covered politics for WDAF-TV, then anchored the news for WDAF and KCTV. He left television in 2005, coming to The Kansas City Star to help establish the newspaper’s video presence on the internet, as well as write stories and columns for the printed paper.

He’s a familiar face — and voice — on television and radio stations in the area, as well as on national cable news outlets such as Fox News and MSNBC. He appears regularly on “Kansas City Week in Review” on KCPT in Kansas City.

In 2016, Helling was named best Missouri columnist by the Missouri Press Association.

He lives in Lenexa with his wife, Teri. There are two Helling children — Jaclyn and Rachel — and a son-in-law, Kyle.

Opinion writerMelinda Henneberger


Melinda Henneberger is joining The Kansas City Star editorial board after working at some of the nation’s top news organizations. Most recently, she worked as a columnist for USA Today and served as a visiting fellow at the Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.

Previously, Henneberger was a reporter and editor for publications including Bloomberg Politics, The Dallas Morning News, The Washington Post and The New York Times, where she spent 10 years as a Washington correspondent and Rome bureau chief.

Her work has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Readers Digest, Slate, Time, Newsweek, Commonweal, the National Catholic Reporter, Politico Magazine and the Washington Monthly.

An Illinois native and graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Henneberger earned a graduate degree in European Studies from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, and she has also been a fellow at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

Editorial board memberSteve Kraske


Steve Kraske has worked at The Kansas City Star since 1986 — first as a police reporter, then as a statehouse reporter in both Missouri and Kansas. He was named the newspaper’s chief political correspondent and columnist in the mid-1990s.

Kraske has covered 11 national political conventions, including last summer’s back-to-back gatherings in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

He is host of “Up to Date,” a daily public-affairs radio program on KCUR, 89.3. He teaches journalism at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Last fall, Kraske was a fellow at the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.

Kraske is a journalism graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University.

He has won numerous awards for his print and broadcast work. He lives in Westwood with his wife, Kady. The couple has two college-age sons.

Opinion writerMary Sanchez


Mary Sanchez is a nationally syndicated columnist with Tribune Content Agency, specializing in Latin American issues; immigration, race, politics, education and culture. Her columns appear in publications across the nation and internationally. She also has been a metro columnist for The Kansas City Star.

Sanchez received the National Clarion Award in 2007 for column writing, and she was a finalist that year for The American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished Writing Awards, having her columns included in “Best Newspaper Writing 2007,” published by The Poynter Institute.

Sanchez has also written a column for Poynter focusing on how journalists can cover racial issues with more depth, and she has been a correspondent for EFE, a wire service based in Madrid, Spain.

Sanchez has lived in Mexico and traveled extensively in Central America. She is a native of Kansas City.

Also contributing to the editorial page:

Editorial cartoonistLee Judge


Lee Judge has served as The Kansas City Star’s political cartoonist since 1981. Before that, he drew cartoons for both the Sacramento Union and San Diego Union.

He is nationally syndicated, and his cartoons have appeared in hundreds of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Boston Globe, Washington Monthly and National Review. His cartoons have also been featured on Good Morning America, PBS and C-Span.

Judge’s work has been honored with dozens of awards, including two Fischetti Awards given by Columbia College in Chicago. From 1989 to 1990, he served as the president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

Judge has sold thousands of cartoon originals and donates the proceeds to Project Warmth, a Kansas City charity.

In 2010, he also started covering the Kansas City Royals on his baseball blog, “Judging the Royals.”

Judge has published two books: “The Stuff They Wouldn’t Print: A Collection of Rejected Political Cartoons” and “Throwback: A Big-League Catcher Tells How the Game Is Really Played,” which he wrote with former Royals catcher Jason Kendall.