Before heading into the garden, I have a big thank-you to send out. Yesterday was a huge day here at JimmyCsays. The month-old blog had nearly five times its previous high number of viewers, and it was all because of a fellow blogger named Alan D. Mutter, whom I contacted a few days ago about blogging advice.
In his blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur, Alan wrote about my Monday post, where I printed verbatim a 1994 speech by Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, then chairman of The New York Times Co. In the speech, given here in Kansas City, Sulzberger essentially dismissed the “information superhighway” as so much folderol.
Jim Romenesko, who runs a blog on the website of the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism school, then picked the story up from Mutter’s blog and linked to JimmyCsays. With that, the floodgates opened.
So, my head is bowed and hat off today to Alan Mutter and Jim Romenesko…and also to Julius Karash, a friend and fomer Kansas City Star colleague, who had the presence of mind 16 years ago to save a copy of the speech he covered that night at the Westin Crown Center hotel.
Now, as I waft slowly back to earth in my parachute, here’s this week’s edition of Plums & Prunes, a constructive critique of recent material in The Kansas City Star.
~ “He showed class for them; now they show class for him” (A-1, Friday, April 16) — If you can read Lisa Gutierrez’s story about cancer-stricken, wheelchair-bound Connor Olson and not choke up, you need to have your emotional meter checked. The school arranged a spur-of-the-moment graduation ceremony for Connor because his condition had worsened , and everyone was afraid he might not make it to the scheduled graduation. The last line struck like a head butt. Having made it through the ceremony, Connor was in pain. “We’re going home,” his Dad told him. “We’ll be there in a minute.” Tremendous photos by John Sleezer. The bad news: Connor died Wednesday night, surrounded by friends and family.
~ “To youths, the Plaza is no place like home” (A-4, Friday Aril 16) — Columnist Mike Hendricks forced the reader to stop and reflect on the Plaza situation: It’s more complicated than meets the eye. The long-term fix involves “making…neighborhoods safer, more prosperous and filled with more opportunities” for young people.
~ “A threat to children’s learning” (A-1, Saturday, April 17) — Another winner in the ongoing series about cuts to the Kansas and Missouri budgets. In this one, Jefferson City correspondent Jason Noble reported on reductions to the Parents as Teachers program in Missouri.
~ “Dancing with the stars” — (A-4 photo, Saturday, April 17) — Sleezer scored again with an energetic, effervescent photo of professional dancers leading Shawnee Mission West High School dancers in steps from “A Chorus Line.”
~ “Community of mourners meets online” (A-1, Sunday, April 18) — Mara Rose Williams wrote a compelling report on how people, hundreds of thousands of them each month, write to the dead on the website Legacy.com. Thomas Fahey, a 26-year-old Johnson County horse trainer who died in a plane crash in 2006, is one who gets a lot of “mail.”
~ “For kite fanciers, to live is to fly” (B-1 photo, Sunday, April 18) — Fetching, horizontal photo of huge “creature kites” being flown a day earlier at the Longview campus of Metropolitan Community Colleges. Photographer Fred Blocher captured the fanciful image.
~ “Health reform for the disabled” (A-1, Monday, April 19) — Business writer Diane Stafford, who serves up a regular regimen of reader-service stories, unveiled a little-known facet of the health care reform act — an insurance pool to help workers who become injured or ill pay for long-term care.
~ “A mission for music in KC” (A-8, Tuesday, April 20) — In a “tribute” obituary, Brian Burnes unveiled the interesting life path of former Kansas City Symphony cellist Norman Hollander, who died April 7 in Greenwich, Conn.
~ “Twin Cities’ pride is also KC’s” (D-3, Tuesday, April 20) — Business writer Kevin Collison took the readers behind the facade of the new Target Field, which looks inviting on TV. Designed by Kansas City-based Populous, the field has many environmental features, including “a massive cistern system buried under the warning track to contain storm water that will be filtered and reused to wash down the seating bowl and for irrigation.”
~ “Reform debate ropes in all sides” (A-1 Wednesday, April 21) — A good, explanatory story by Dave Helling on the financial reform package that Congress is grappling with. Helling gave it a “local” touch by quoting Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.
~ “Earth Day finds itself in a pickle, politically” (A-1, Thursday, April 22) — Winning headline and story about Earth Day turning 40. Reporter Matt Campbell applied a light and breezy touch to the political storm that is global warming. The story was accompanied by a snappy help box listing simple things people can do to help the environment…like giving up bottled water and driving less.
#% “Ire rises as fees hit new altitude” (A-1, Sunday, April 18) — Transportation writer Brad Cooper certainly had me worked up…until, that is, I looked behind the front wall of his story on Spirit Airlines announcing that it would charge $45 for carry-on luggage starting in August. If you go to Spirit’s website, you find that the $45 applies only if you check your carry-on at the gate. If you do it by phone or online, it’s $30, and if you become a member of the Spirit “club,” the fee is just $20. This is a case of selective reporting, presenting the readers with limited facts that make the story as dramatic as possible. Poor form. (Cooper also didn’t bother to tell readers whether Spirit charges for checked bags. It does.)
#% “Truman Medical puts the gourmet in hospital grub” (A-1, Tuesday, April 20) — Nothing wrong with this story about a Truman Medical Center pilot project to improve the quality of patient food; it just doesn’t deserve front-page “play,” at least not on this day. This is an attempt by the editors — often valid — to give readers some relief from the tide of heavy, serious stories that roll off the front page. However, some days, it doesn’t pay to put formula over function. A good substitute for this story would have been a New York Times offering about how hackers broke into Google’s password system that controls access by millions of users worldwide.
:: “Spark is lost” (B-1, Wednesday, April 21) — Sam Mellinger captured the perseverance, adventurousness and energetic spirit of former Kansas State quarterback Dylan Meier, who died Monday in a hiking accident in the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. But I, along with many others who have hiked in Newton County, would like to have had a better fix on the location. At the very least, the editors could have ordered up a locater map.
:: Congratulations to The Star for winning the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for its five-part series last year on human trafficking in the United States. Last month, Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. honored the series, which was reported and written by Laura Bauer, Mike McGraw and Mark Morris.