The Rapidian

On the Record: Chris Knape

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About On The Record

This periodic feature for The Rapidian will spotlight media personalities behind the byline, camera and mic.

Chris Knape

Chris Knape

A Q&A with a Grand Rapids Press business reporter

WHAT DOES GRAND RAPIDS NEED?

Grand Rapids has been really lucky and I’ve been lucky just to be here in the last seven years because I’ve seen so much of what I thought it needed come to pass.

Right now, the thing Grand Rapids needs most is solid jobs. We have so many good colleges around here and so many really interesting and talented young people. I think a lot of them are forced to move because we don’t have the number of jobs here needed to keep them. And, there aren’t enough jobs for the people that have already lost their jobs – there’s a big gap there.

I was at a job fair [recently] – mostly 40 and 50 somethings that have gone from job to job at different factories in West Michigan.  There were over 1,000 people there for about 100 jobs. There’s a need for jobs across the board – for just about everyone.

WHAT PROJECT IN GRAND RAPIDS ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT?

This is a hard question for me. I’m excited to see how some of the reforms in state government are going to shake out. I like to think things have gotten so bad that people in Lansing are finally starting to realize there needs to be a more holistic look at how the state operates, what’s wrong with it and how those problems get addressed.

On an individual basis, I love to see the neighborhood business districts coming back and small businesses starting up. Wealthy Street is one of the great success stories. Nationally, it has to be one of the best stories to tell. There’s still work to be done but it’s an amazing transformation. It shows what entrepreneurs and good measured incentive programs can do to bring an area back.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT WORKING IN THE MEDIA?

I get paid to do things I like and meet really interesting people, some whom I’d never otherwise meet. I get to tell their stories to people. I get to see things that I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to and meet people in all different circumstances.

I get to ask questions that people may not feel comfortable asking in other positions. One of the most unusual questions was when I asked Rich DeVos what he thought of people who believe he bought his heart when he had his heart transplant. What surprised me about it was that he said no one had ever asked him about that before. It gives you an idea of how insulated people like him can be.

Mr. DeVos said he be dead right now if he wasn’t rich. He was fortunate to be able to leave the country to get the transplant. He says he got lucky. The kind of heart he needed became available and he was the best candidate for it.

The fact that he’s alive has meant a lot to Grand Rapids in the years since his transplant.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WORKING IN THE MEDIA?

My biggest frustration is people not realizing how stories get started. They may hear about it from a friend or on TV or radio. But, reporting on a story is oftentimes done first by a print reporter.

I hear people talk all the time about how they are not seeing any value in buying the newspaper. When you buy that newspaper you are placing value in what we do. We’ve dug our own grave in some ways because we give our content away for free. People devalue the content because they get it for free. So, it’s a balancing act for the newspaper industry – how do you regain the value based on what you did in the past.

Most of what’s passed around on social networks is from people getting paid to ask questions and do all the leg work. It’s frustrating because no one has the answer to maintain the good paying jobs for people who bring the news to you every day.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK IN GRAND RAPIDS?

The Winchester on Wealthy St. is one my favorite places to go. I love going to XO and Seoul Garden. Seoul Garden has good sushi, Korean and Japanese. Marie Catribe’s is awesome.

Madcap and Sparrows are the two coffee shops I like best. Occasionally, I still go to Starbucks.

WHAT KIND OF MUSIC IS ON YOUR PLAYLIST?

Wilco, Replacements, REM, and Brian VanderArk. A lot of 80s and 90s stuff.

 WHAT ARE THREE THINGS MANY PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?

  • I’m a Mac nerd.
     
  • I drive an electric car in the summertime. It looks like a parking service car with a top speed of 25 mph. I got it as a gift for my 30th birthday from dad. He never really bought me a car. So, for my 30th he said that he’d buy me a car and he ended up getting me a glorified golf cart.  It’s fun to drive around in but took time getting used to. I can only drive it legally on streets that are 35 mph or less. My kids love it.
     
  • My biggest pet peeve is when people want something in the paper and they proceed to tell you that they don’t even read the paper. 

IF YOU WON THE LOTTERY, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH THE MONEY?

My wife has always wanted to have a foundation to be able to give away money. The area of focus might be cultural institutions. We have an appreciation for the cultural attractions in Grand Rapids. We’re members of children’s museum, art museum, public museum, Meijer Gardens and the zoo – we are so lucky to have places like those to go. These are the things that make Grand Rapids such a great place for families to live.

IF YOU COULD TRADE PLACES WITH ANY OTHER PERSON FOR A WEEK, WITH WHOM WOULD IT BE?

Steve Jobs. I’m a total Apple dork. I’ve used Apple computers since I was in elementary school. It’s what I learned on.

I like the fact that Macs are a holistic design – the hardware and software are made by the same company. It helps them run better.

BIO

Grand Rapids Press business reporter Chris Knape has covered the development beat for the paper since 2003. The Western Michigan University graduate launched his career in Northern Michigan when he was named editor of the Traverse City Record Eagle’s weekly summer tourism magazine.

In 1995, he joined the Kalamazoo Gazette where his first beat included covering schools, county government, courts and “chicken dinner news” in rural Van Buren County. He later moved to the Gazette’s business news desk.

The Birmingham native has always liked Grand Rapids and welcomed the opportunity to work in a bigger town and at a larger paper when he joined the Press seven years ago. 

Chris and his wife, Amy, live in East Grand Rapids with their three sons, ages 3, 7 and 9.

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Comments

It's nice to see things from this angle. Good story Kate and good job on finding a great subject!

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