I have a quick anecdote to relate. Recently, I judged high school debates at Shawnee Mission North High School. The “bullpen,” where we waited for assignments, was the school library.
In the morning, at one point, about 70 or more people were sitting at tables in the library, killing time while waiting. I knew that there would be some dead time, so I had brought The Star and The New York Times. It struck me early on that very few people were reading newspapers, even though stacks of the Thursday and Friday Wall Street Journal sat atop the library check-out desk (still wrapped in plastic until I ripped the stacks open).
I decided to do some reconnaissance. I walked around the room and checked out what the judges-in-waiting were doing. Many (probably teachers) were doing paperwork; some were reading paperback and hardback books; some were playing with their cell phones; a few were listening to iPods; and some passed the time chatting. Only four people, including me, were either reading newspapers or had one nearby.
This was my reaction: If you flashed back 30 years — same setting, same number of people — more than half probably would be reading a newspaper.
Left me with an empty sort of feeling.
But, as keen observers all over the U.S. now like to say, it is what it is. I can’t change it, and neither can KC Star Editor Mike Fannin nor my many current and former journalistic friends and colleagues. All we can do is enjoy print journalism here in Kansas City for as long as it lasts and hope that’s many years to come.
This week’s edition is truncated, due to the fact that I’m in Louisville, Ky., my hometown, for Derby Week activities. In fact, in putting the hurry-up on this week’s edition, I didn’t come across any obvious prunes. So, rejoice, Star staffers, my magnifying glass caught no blemishes.
~ “Little rest for West” (A-1, Friday, April 23) — Timely and in-depth profile of Kansas City’s foremost up-and-coming politician, Airick Leonard West, who recently was elected president of the Kansas City school board. This guy might be running for mayor in four or eight years. Story by Joe Robertson. Photos by Jill Toyoshiba.
~ “Connection revealed in KU ticket controversy) — (A-1, Friday, April 23) — Investigative reporters Mike McGraw and Mark Morris made sense out of the puzzling state of affairs surrounding the ticket-sale situation in Lawrence. McGraw and Morris relied on anonymous sources, but they cited sound reasons for granting anonymity: “speaking publicly about the matter could affect (the sources”) long-standing friendships and business relationships, or could disrupt the criminal investigation.”
~ “Surprise! Downtown is back at the trough” (A-4, Friday, April 23) — Mike Hendricks made a case for not building a new downtown hotel: It would sap vital funds that otherwise could be used to improve neighborhoods in disrepair. He makes a good point, but this sure is a tough call because, to remain competitive as a convention and tourist destination (think Big 12 basketball tournament, among other things), Kansas City badly needs more close-in hotel rooms. With the Power & Light District, we crawled within striking distance of Denver and Indianapolis, and now the challenge is to remain competitive.
~ “It’s RIP for MAST in KC area” (A-1, Saturday, April 24) — Sara Shepherd brought the readers up to speed on the K.C. Fire Department’s takeover of Metropolitan Ambulance Services Trust, which had operated the ambulance service the last 30 years. Good photo by Mike Ransdell of “KCFD” letters being applied to the side of an ambulance.
~ “Campaign maneuver lets donors stay secret” (A-1, Saturday, April 24) — Reporter Dave Helling did his best to unravel the spaghetti junction of nonprofit organizations that are legally circumventing campaign disclosure laws in a bid to change the law to have Missouri judges elected rather than appointed by the governor. In this case, both the bad guys (those pushing for election of judges) and the good guys (who want to keep Missouri’s nonpartisan court plan) are taking advantage of the legal loopholes.
~ “Arizona enacts stricter measure” (A-1, Saturday, April 24) — Good call by the editors to lead the page with the story about Arizona enacting a controversial law that comes down hard on illegal immigrants. Arizona’s action could accelerate Congress’s consideration of immigration reform.
~ “Stagnant government stalls quest to save pond” (A-1, Sunday, April 25) — Environmental (and investigative) reporter Karen Dillon recounted the maddening story of Sharon Berten of Gallatin, Mo., whose farm pond has been polluted by a nearby livestock sale barn. (For “the story behind the story,” see post from Tuesday, April 27.)
~ “He put KC’s art museum on the map” — (A-1, Sunday, April 25) — Fitting and well-written retrospective on Marc Wilson’s 28-year tenure as director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art…One caveat: Writer Alice Thorson should have told the readers how old Wilson is. In a “bio box” accompanying the story, she said he was born in 1941, which would make him either 68 or 69. But, as an editor told me long ago, “never make the reader do the math.”
P.S. In the story, Wilson gave a very fitting tip of the hat to the late Donald D. “Casey” Jones, a long-time Star editor and member. Wilson said the museum’s American Indian gallery would not be what it is without a generous bequest of art works and money from Jones, who died several years ago. Like the Nelson, I’m indebted to Casey: He hired me 1969,when I was a 23-year-old cub reporter.