On The Rachel Maddow Show last night, an investigative reporter for the Miami Herald delivered the most succinct and skillful condemnation of social media I have seen or heard.

Maddow’s guest was Julie K. Brown, who co-reported and co-wrote a three part series — Perversion of Justice — that helped break the Jeffrey Epstein case wide open late last year.

For their series, Brown and fellow reporter Emily Michot won a Polk Award — one of journalism’s highest awards. Surprisingly, the series was not even a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. (Just as former Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta minimized Epstein’s abominable crimes, the Pulitzer board underestimated the Herald’s series.)

Julie K. BrownBrown’s felicitous skewering of social media came during an interview with Maddow, who had been asking Brown about the Epstein case and where it might go from here.

At the end of the interview, Maddow asked Brown for her reaction to President Donald Trump “promoting this conspiracy theory about Epstein’s death on Twitter.” (Within hours of Epstein’s death, Trump retweeted a post by Terrence Williams, a comedian and Trump supporter, saying that Epstein “had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead.”)

Here’s how Brown answered Maddow’s question…

“I don’t like to talk about conspiracy theories because I don’t like to perpetuate them, and I think it’s just sad that people are getting their news primarily from Twitter and Facebook and not by reading a newspaper or reading a digital website like The New York Times or the Miami Herald.

“I think people need to pay more attention to reading books and reading real news rather than getting their news off Twitter, quite frankly.”

Maddow replied:

“You are a living example for why everybody within shouting distance of the Miami Herald ought to subscribe to that paper.”


I tell you, it warmed my heart to hear that exchange, and it should warm the hearts of everyone who is disturbed and concerned about the millions of people who have forsaken reliable, tried-and-true news sources and jumped into bed with information sources that are 99 percent gossip and rubbish.

…In fairness, I should note that the Herald is a leading paper in the McClatchy chain, which I often bash. As troubled as McClatchy is, any of its 29 daily papers is 100 times more reliable than the vast bulk of the stuff being passed off as news on Twitter and Facebook.

I presume most of you are aware of the recent announcement that GateHouse Media and Gannett are seeking to merge, with the lesser-known GateHouse being the majority owner and the new entity operating under the highly identifiable Gannett name.

If shareholders approve the deal, the new Gannett would have more than 260 daily papers in the U.S. along with more than 300 weeklies.

By comparison, McClatchy, owner of The Kansas City Star since 2006, owns 29 daily papers.

Analysts, as well as leaders of GateHouse and Gannett, say the main motivation for the merger is for the combined companies to save hundreds of millions of dollars a year by reducing overlapping costs and buying time to implement the long-sought plan of a “digital transformation.”

(GateHouse C.E.O. Mike Reed said he expected the bulk of the savings to come from reducing business-side headcount and buying out duplicative vendor contracts, but with all the editorial-side layoffs that have taken place the last 15 years, it would not be surprising to see many more reporters, editors, photographers and graphic artists getting axed.)

All the big chains, including McClatchy, have been banking on “digital transformation,” but it is really working for only three papers — The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. It’s no coincidence that those papers are dedicated primarily to national (and, in the case of The Times, international) news and business. I know of only one major metropolitan paper, The Boston Globe, that has had any significant success in the realm of “digital only” sales.

Chain executives’ dreams of “going digital” are now going on 20 years old, and yet all the chains have been losing more and more money. As leading newspaper industry analyst Ken Doctor said in a story on the Newsonomics website, “In a deal that is all about cash flow, the merger partners face the fact that, on an operating basis, too much cash is flowing… backward.”

It’s been my contention that while chasing the elusive, and perhaps apparitional, dream of digital transformation, some chains — with McClatchy being the ignominious industry leader on this front– have let their print products go to seed.

The Star is a prime example. The print edition is treated almost as an afterthought, even though it probably continues to generate a majority of revenue. With a few exceptions, the reporting is now more superficial than ever; weekday papers are embarrassingly thin and unstructured; and virtually no effort is being made to augment stories with photos and graphics. (A Star photographer who got laid off last year wrote on this website recently that the paper is down to four photographers, from a peak of more than 20.)


I believe turning its back on print has been a big mistake by McClatchy. The hoped-for digital transformation at the local level is looking more and more like a pipe dream, not just here but in almost every metro area. There are simply too many other ways for people to get whatever information — not necessarily news — they are interested in.

Is McClatchy too far down the “digital transformation” road to turn back now? Maybe. But I wish McClatchy or some other chain would re-dedicate itself to putting out quality print products. I believe McClatchy, or whatever chain it might be, would find that tens of thousands of people in a given community — maybe hundreds of thousands, even — would pay premium rates for high-quality print products.

Of course, that also means McClatchy (or whatever chain it might be) would have to commit itself to reconnecting with the communities it serves. That’s the biggest tragedy of corporate journalism — the loss of the proprietary feeling that people used to have about their local papers.

As Bernie Lunzer, president of the national union that represents journalists, told The Washington Post, “Creating real ties to the community — that’s the only way these things (local papers) are going to work.”

So, let me put the question I wrote above a different way:

Is McClatchy too far down the “digital transformation” road to double back and recommit itself to publishing quality print products?

The answer is “no.” But it won’t happen for two reasons. First, McClatchy leadership is rigidly flailing at the digital transformation that is not happening, and, second, McClatchy executives are not the least bit interested in reconnecting with the communities they serve. (And “serve” is putting it loosely.)


So, looking into the crystal ball, I see McClatchy being acquired by another chain headed down the road of false hopes and idle dreams, with its print products dribbling to a halt and its websites focusing on crime, weather and sports (more Kansas City Chiefs news!) leading the way.

Oh, my, what a mess.

In recent years, I’ve written about two god-awful car crashes that took lives — crashes that were a direct result of motorists driving not just irresponsibly but with I-don’t-give-a-shit-what-happens abandon.

In one case, a guy driving a Cadillac Escalade plowed into the back of a car near the Adams Dairy Parkway exit on I-70 and killed the two children of a couple who were headed home to Warrenton, MO, after a vacation. The father of the two children was left paralyzed from the waist down.

In the other case, a guy in a pickup was driving 90 miles an hour down the 23rd Street ramp in eastern Kansas City and caused a chain-reaction crash that killed a 3-year-old girl, a 16-year-old girl and left the father of the 16-year-old with a serious brain injury.

In both cases, the worms in their big, heavy steel cocoons walked away uninjured. The guy driving the Escalade is now doing 25 years in prison, and the other guy died of cancer before he could be tried or plead guilty.

Now we’ve got an equally egregious case — the then-Kansas City police officer who was going 76 miles an hour one second before plowing into the rear of a much smaller vehicle in his Ford E350 police van on northbound I-435 near the Truman Sports Complex.

Terrell E. Watkins

Terrell E. Watkins, 34, was headed to an off-duty assignment at Arrowhead Stadium last October 21. (He resigned from the police force last month.) Late for his game-day assignment, he was weaving in and out of traffic, using his cellphone and not the least bit concerned about public safety — which was his sworn duty to protect as an officer.

Possibly without hitting the brakes, Watkins hurtled into the rear of a Mitsubishi Lancer being driven by 17-year-old Chandan Rajanna, a senior at Shawnee Mission South. Chandan was killed, and his father and sister were seriously injured. As in the 23rd Street ramp wreck, a couple of other vehicles were involved, but no one in those vehicles was seriously injured.

And, once again, predictably, the worm in his big, steel cocoon was not seriously injured.

Earlier this week, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office charged Watkins with first-degree involuntary manslaughter, two counts of second-degree assault and a misdemeanor count of careless and imprudent driving. If convicted, he could be sentenced to several years in prison.

…After the crash, I wondered if Watkins would get preferential treatment because of his status as a lawman.

Yesterday, we learned that, unfortunately, he did.

Longtime police reporter Glenn Rice reported on The Star’s website that Watkins got preferential treatment in three ways. First, he wasn’t arrested; he was, instead, served with charging documents. Second, because he wasn’t arrested, he didn’t have his mugshot taken. And third (and most maddeningly to me) Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker decided not to put his home address on charging documents but instead let her staff use the address of the police station where he once worked — 5301 E. 27th Street.

What a sham! Not only did Baker allow her staff to plug in a bogus address, the address they used is for a station that closed three years and eight months ago after East Patrol moved to a new building at 27th and Prospect.

When Rice asked Mike Mansur, Baker’s spokesman, if Watkins had been treated differently because he had been a police officer, Mansur said, “We have given him no special consideration.”

Utter balderdash.

Wisely, Rice put the same question to a well-known, local defense attorney, John Picerno, who said: “They gave him a break on that one. It is obvious they did that because he’s a police officer.”

The whole thing — Watkins driving with complete disregard for his fellow human beings and then getting special treatment for having been a cop (a horrible cop, as it turns out) makes me want to break some boards over one of my replaced knees.

I can understand if a driver screws up, gets distracted for a moment or two and plows into somebody. That’s a tragedy. But these guys — the Escalade driver, the pickup driver and Watkins — who feel invulnerable in their big hogs and just don’t give a shit about anybody else — they are dangerous criminals.

I would like to see Watkins go to jail for a long time, like eight to 10 years. That’s what he deserves. Unfortunately, he’ll be out in a few years at the most. He might even get probation…And we may never know exactly where he lives.

:: Was Dennis Carpenter out of his depth as Lee’s Summit School District superintendent? Or are a majority of school district parents wearing blinders and simply dead set against district employees being trained to do a better job of helping to even the academic scales?

And while we’re on that subject…Why hasn’t The Star’s longtime education reporter Mara Rose Williams written a news analysis about Carpenter’s departure? It’s not enough to recount months of roiling over the issue of “equity training” (as Williams did Wednesday). And it’s not enough to quote opposing “tweets” various people posted (as Williams did Thursday)…What this situation calls for is enlightenment from one of the the leading education reporters in town. So far, we haven’t gotten it.

:: Why would an ICE agent break out the car window of illegal immigrant Florencio Millan while his two children were sitting in the car? He was not a felon or someone posing a threat to anyone; he was just guilty of re-entering the United States illegally. Aren’t ICE agents on salaries? If so, what’s the problem with waiting a while, until Millan realized he had no option?

:: Why would a member of the Manhattan (Kansas) City Commission — Usha Reddi — think that revealing her father had raped her boost her chances of winning a U.S. Senate seat?

:: Why would a 31-year-old Independence man — Larry R. McQueen — not be wearing a seat belt while driving on I-44 near Springfield, MO? He died after his Dodge Ram pickup went off the road, struck a rock and overturned.

:: Why would a man be recklessly driving a Dodge Challenger on Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard at 11:30 in the morning while carrying five passengers, including four children in the back seat and a woman up front, with no one in the car wearing a seat belt or in a child booster seat? After the driver ran off the roadway and struck a tree in the median, the woman died; the man was seriously injured, and the children were being treated for broken bones and other injuries.

:: Why would The Star run a ridiculous “Google Street View” photo of a Lee’s Summit middle school on the front page? Don’t they have enough photographers to send one on a 90-minute round trip to a Kansas City suburb to snap a decent photo?

These things I would like to know. If I had some answers that made sense, I’d never have to go to my pencil bag and reporter’s notebook again.

Media experts have been predicting for a year or more that consolidation was on the way for the nation’s five or six leading newspaper companies, including McClatchy, which owns The Kansas City Star.

The first big move appears close to being announced, according to Ken Doctor, media analyst with the NiemanLab, a subset of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Ken Doctor of NiemanLab

Doctor wrote last week he expects an announcement by the end of summer heralding a merger between Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain, and GateHouse, the second-largest chain. (GateHouse owns more papers than Gannett, but Gannett is larger in terms of market capitalization, cash flow and revenue.)

The big surprise in this deal, if it happens, is that GateHouse, which has a much lower profile than Gannett, would be the buyer.

Just six years ago, GateHouse found itself with such a large debt that it filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Since emerging from bankruptcy, it has been on an acquisition tear. It got a big boost two years ago after SoftBank, the Japanese company that has a large stake in Sprint, acquired the company that manages GateHouse. GateHouse now owns more than 150 daily papers and more than 300 weeklies.

Gannett ended up on the weak side of the proposition partly because it was the object of a hostile takeover attempt last year by another chain, Alden Global Capital. Even though Gannett was able to beat back the bid, “Alden had pushed Gannett into play,” as Doctor put it.

…Although a Gannett-GateHouse merger would not directly affect Kansas City or The Star, it would significantly alter the newspaper-industry playing field.

McClatchy, as is well known, has been struggling under a big debt — now about $745 million — since it acquired the Knight Ridder chain in 2006. Nevertheless, it remains a major player: If Gannett and GateHouse merged, McClatchy would be the second-largest chain in terms of print circulation (although dwarfed by G-G).

McClatchy suffered a setback last year when it made an unsuccessful bid to buy Tribune Publishing, which owns, among other papers, the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel and the Hartford Courant.

Currently, McClatchy and Tribune remain unmoored, and a Gannett-GateHouse merger probably would leave them and a few other chains looking to team up.

All the chains are struggling financially, and the idea behind any mergers is for the participants to buy time until they might succeed at making a profitable transition from print to digital.

Doctor described it this way…

“Gannett and GateHouse, like all their industry brethren, look at ever-bleaker numbers every quarter; the biggest motivation here is really survival, which in business terms means the ability to maintain some degree of profitability somewhere into the early 2020s.”

So far, McClatchy has been lagging on the print-to-digital transformation, but in the first quarter of 2019 it had its biggest-ever percentage jump in digital subscriptions, with nearly 60 percent more digital-only subscribers than in the first quarter of 2018.

That is one sign of hope for McClatchy. Another is the turnaround GateHouse made after emerging from bankruptcy in 2016. Could it also catch a big wind through a bankruptcy?

In any event, it’s very hard to see McClatchy surviving without either teaming up with another chain or going into bankruptcy and reorganizing. And with its huge debt, it seems unlikely McClatchy would end up as the big dog in any merger.

In the meantime, the clock is ticking, and the monetary losses keep mounting.

Should Kansas City, KS, police have charged into Edwards Corner Market & Deli after the July 10 shooting?

That is a huge and difficult question. Members of the families of Lachell Day and Dennis Edwards obviously believe police should have gone in and tried to save the two after they had been shot by 39-year-old Jermelle Andre-Lamont Byers, who had been dating Day about four months.

We can all understand the families’ frustration, especially in light of recent revelations, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Dennis Edwards

I certainly don’t have a ready answer to the question, but I do know this: This is another example of KCKPD demonstrating that it is a second-rate law-enforcement organization. There are enough red flags surrounding this tragedy to make reasonable people skeptical of the police department’s competency.

Consider four curious aspects of this case:

:: Police originally put out a release saying they had found Day and Edwards dead inside the store. But police came back the next day, Thursday the 11th, saying Day was still alive.

Which leads me to say…WTF? It didn’t take 24 hours (or about that) to determine that Day was still alive. That should have been corrected within hours. Moreover, I’ve never heard of a police department announcing a victim is dead and later announcing he or she is actually alive. That’s appalling.

:: Police said the victims died of gunshot wounds but apparently did not tell the Edwards family — not to mention the public — that he had also been stabbed several times. A niece of Edwards, Christina Bennett-Smith, told The Star the family didn’t learn that Edwards had been stabbed until they saw his body at the funeral home.

Why would police have held back the fact Edwards was stabbed? The unavoidable answer is it would have would given credence to the family’s belief — and public speculation — that Edwards was alive during at least part of the two-hour period police negotiated with Byers, trying to get him to surrender. Relatives of Day and Edwards believe the two victims “bled out” during that period.

:: At one point, early on, one or more officers apparently went inside the store and confronted Byers. An officer fired once, striking Byers but not seriously wounding him. When Byers pointed a gun at them, they withdrew, according to The Star.

I don’t understand that at all. We’ve heard of numerous cases where police have shot and killed people who either have pointed guns at officers or whom officers believed, right or wrong, presented an immediate threat. Without question, Byers presented a threat, so why didn’t the officers who initially went inside open up with their guns and blow him away? 

:: Outgoing Chief Terry Zeigler, whose integrity has been in question because of a sweetheart house-rental deal The Star exposed, has not addressed the situation, other than to issue a tweet the day of the incident, calling it a “horrific event.”

As head of the department, Zeigler should be front and center in an incident of this gravity and with so many loose ends. The fact that he’s hiding in his office tells me he either doesn’t have the confidence or courage to tackle the toughest aspects of the chief’s job — or he knows his officers botched the job.


KCKPD spokesman Jonathan Westbrook told The Star officers carrying shields made at least two attempts to get inside the store. He said: “This guy, our suspect, was standing over the victim, who had sustained a mortal wound. We’re not going to put our officers in harm’s way for what we see is a deceased individual.”

Lachell Day

It’s not clear which victim Westbrook was talking about. But at least one of them, Day, was alive.

It just seems odd, doesn’t it — cops so willing and quick to kill people presenting perceived threats but these cops retreating in the case of a guy they knew had seriously wounded or killed at least one person?

As The Star’s editorial board and I have said, the next chief should come from outside the KCKPD. The place needs a major shake-up and attitude reset. It would be at least a good start if the department could get its facts straight and be upfront with the public and victims’ families.

In his first courtroom appearance in eight months, David Jungerman played the “woe is me” card as hard as he could today, unleashing a desperate attempt to get out of jail until his first-degree murder case goes to trial.

I’m 81 and can’t get the medical care I need in jail; all my assets have been frozen and I don’t have access to any money; the jail is crowded and it’s hard to have one-on-one conversations with my attorney. But more than anything else...The media has convicted me of a crime I didn’t commit; I’m innocent!

Those words are paraphrased. Here are the exact words he used in court today to describe what he views as the Kansas City Police Department’s and Jackson County Prosecutor Office’s obsession with seeing him convicted:

“These people are evil. They lie, and they lie, and they lie, and they’re trying to convict an innocent man…They just want to nail it all on me.”

But Judge John M. Torrence of Jackson County Circuit Court wasn’t hearing any of it.

Prosecutors, he said, had established “sufficient concern” that Jungerman presented a threat to the community and should not be given the chance to go free while his case is pending.

“Motion denied,” Torrence said flatly and with finality.

David Jungerman, today

Several people in the courtroom, including a possible witness and the two lead prosecutors in the case, undoubtedly breathed more easily after hearing those words. That’s because, as one of the prosecutors, Dan Nelson, said during the hearing, Jungerman has clearly demonstrated “a propensity for intense personal violence.”

In two separate incidents he shot and wounded a total of four people he has said were trespassing on his business. In another incident, at a recycling center, he fired a warning shot in the direction of a man he accused of stealing iron piping from his business. And, finally, he probably shot and killed Kansas City attorney Thomas Pickert the morning of Oct. 25, 2017, as Pickert stood in the front yard of his Brookside home, talking on his cellphone.

He has been in the Jackson County jail since March 2018, when the incident at the recycling center took place. He was first held on $1 million bond in that case but has been held without bond since being charged in April 2018 with Pickert’s murder.

The murder trial is now scheduled to start Sept. 3.

Prosecutors contend Jungerman killed Pickert because Pickert had won a $5.75 million civil judgment against Jungerman while representing a man who had been shot by Jungerman. In a court filing last December, prosecutors said they believe Jungerman, a multi-millionaire, is obsessed with money and willing to go to “abnormally extensive lengths” to protect it.

Jungerman has admitted to shooting trespassers at his baby-furniture manufacturing plant in northeast Kansas City, but he was never charged with a crime in either of those incidents.

In addition to the murder charge, though, he is facing a gun-related felony charge in the recycling-center incident.

…Outside a courthouse in southwest Missouri, he once told me he believed in “the castle doctrine” — “You come in my house, I’m going to blow your ass away.”

In court yesterday, he used milder language: “Am I a violent person? No. I protect my property, yes.”


Jungerman looked about the same yesterday as he did at his last hearing, in November. Before the hearing, he sat beside a Jackson County sheriff’s deputy and fiddled with his hearing aids. His face was a bit red and his features slightly drawn. A couple of times before his case was called, he stood up, apparently thinking his hearing was about to begin.

At one point in the hearing, he shuffled papers as he spoke to the judge. Momentarily losing his place, he muttered, “Son of a gun.”

Dan ross

At another point he seemed to complain about his attorney, Dan Ross, saying Ross’s only progress had been deposing one police officer.

“That’s not correct,” Ross replied. Then, looking at the judge, he said, “I’m not going to respond to my client.”

Before the hearing began, Ross had told Jungerman, “We’ve had some really good depositions this week.”

He told Jungerman he would be giving him 4,000 pages of “discovery” documents and that another 2,000 would be coming later. “I know you’ll read it,” he said.

And now he’s going to have at least six weeks of quiet time, in jail, to pore over the documents.