Archive for April, 2010

What a difference a couple of sentences can make.

Two reporters attend the same news conference; they report some of the same basic information, but one reporter includes a couple of pieces of information that the other reporter to chooses to omit. The result? One story leaves sharp-eyed readers with questions and concerns; the other has readers moving on to the next story with no second thoughts.

Such was the case with two accounts of the introduction of Robin Pingeton (pronounced PINCH-ton) last week as the new women’s basketball coach at the University of Missouri.

One account was by Mike DeArmond, long-time University of Missouri athletics reporter for The Kansas City Star; the other was by an Associated Press reporter, who didn’t get a “by-line” on the story, at least not in the ESPN.com version.

Both reporters included in their stories Pingeton’s age, new salary and her record at Illinois State University, where she had been coach. Both also quoted Pingeton as calling the Missouri job “a gold mine” of an opportunity.

Two-thirds of the way through the AP story, however, the reporter noted that Pingeton referred to herself at the news conference as “a Christian who happens to be a coach.” The reporter went on to say that Pingeton was accompanied by her husband and 3-year-old son, and then the reporter shared this piece of information: “She emphasized the theme of family throughout her remarks, noting that the three assistants who will follow from Illinois State are each married with children.” 

For whatever reason, DeArmond chose not to address the “Christian” and “family” issues. His story did not even mention Pingeton’s marital status.

To the casual reader, Pingeton’s reference to Christianity and her emphasis on family might not mean much. But in the world of women’s basketball, those points undoubtedly raised eyebrows. That’s largely because there is a significant gay dimension in women’s basketball. A multitude of gay women are fans; a lot of women coaches and their assistants are lesbians; and some players undoubtedly are gay. 

Without the gay dimension, women’s basketball would not be anywhere near as popular as it is. (An indicator of the popularity of the women’s game: More than 20,000 fans attended the women’s NCAA championship game, between Connecticut and Stanford, last Tuesday in San Antonio.)

As everyone in our sharply divided society realizes, the linkage of “Christian” and “family” values has political overtones that exacerbate the divisions, particularly for people who, while they might be Christian and have families, do not choose to envelop themselves in those values. That’s certainly the case with most gay people — men and women. When they hear the terms Christian and family values mentioned in close proximity, they head in the other direction.  

So, when Pingeton goes out of her way to talk about Christianity and family values, it raises all kinds of flags. And questions…like:

Does this mean that she wants everyone associated with the team, including players, to be practicing Christians? Does it mean she’s going to have prayer meetings and expect her players and coaches to attend services? (You can ask Kansas State Coach Deb Patterson about the wisdom of trying to cram Christianity down the throats of her players. She did just that several years ago and ended up alienating several players, including Kendra Wecker, the best player in team history.)

Does this mean that Pingeton disapproves of gay coaches and players? Does it mean that everyone who prospectively would be associated with the team must take an oath of heterosexuality before being admitted to the “Pingeton team”?

In short, does this mean that Pingeton intends to impose her religious and lifestyle preferences on the University of Missouri women’s program?  

Some of these questions might seem to be far-fetched, but I think that they are reasonable, given that Pingeton is the one who strayed from “basketball speak” the other day and made some strong points about her personal beliefs. Obviously, these things are important to her. But most coaches (and most people, for that matter) are smart enough to keep their personal beliefs out of their work environment. I’ve never heard of another women’s coach making comments along the lines of what Pingeton said, and, to me, it’s a sign of potential trouble. But back to those two accounts of the press conference. If you’d just read The Star’s account, you’d be likely to come away thinking, “OK, so the Robin Pingeton era is underway at MU. Looks good. Looks promising.”

But if you’d read the AP account — or both accounts — you might be wondering if Pingeton intends to steer a narrow course at MU and if, in so doing, she might end up alienating a significant part of the existing and potential fan base. That’s the last thing Missouri can afford: As it is, Missouri averaged fewer than 2,000 fans in 15,000-seat Mizzou Arena. 

As a former reporter and editor and as a keen newspaper reader, my main point is this: How events are covered — what information reporters choose to include in their coverage — is very important. I doubt if it was by accident that the AP reporter included Pingeton’s remarks about Christianity and family values. DeArmond should have reported them, too.

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Plums & Prunes (2)

Your local journalism policeman is On The Job, readers! Here’s Round 2 of the (already) wildly popular feature that had its inaugural run last week —Plums & Prunes, a periodic critique of recent editions of The Kansas City Star.   


~ “Families aghast at cremation scandal” (A-1, Friday, April 2) — Joe Lambe and Dawn Bormann scored a “holy crap!” story with their piece about a New Mexico man who allegedly sent body parts to a medical waste facility in KCK. The New Mexico man is charged with three felony fraud counts. As a friend of mine, a former Star reporter, put it: “It’s a story that has legs….and arms and…”   

~ April 2 centerpiece photo (above) of Jeanne Tiller, the widow of slain abortion doctor George Tiller, being hugged by a female family member at the sentencing of killer Scott Roeder. Both women’s eyes are closed, and the two are melded as one by hands, arms and gently touching heads. Photo by Jeff Tuttle of The Wichita Eagle.    

~ “Hey! That really gets my goat” (A-4, Friday, April 2) — That was the  “overline” above a priceless photo of a baby goat tugging at the shirttail of a 4-year-old boy at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead. Photographer John Sleezer not only caught the nibble but also the boy in the act of stepping off a tree stump to elude his pursuer.     

~ “Tragic loss highlights revoked driving toll” (A-1, Saturday, April 3) — Excellent follow-up by Christine Vendel on an earlier story about Clayton (Revoked and Dangerous) Dunlap, whose out-of-control SUV killed 12-year-old Damian Slayton and seriously injured his mother in a crash at Watkins Drive and Gregory. Vendel reported that Jackson County Court officials and Kansas City police intend to crack down on revoked drivers.  

~ “Model parole program collapses with budget” (Sunday, April 4) –Auspicious kick-off to a what promises to be an informative, occasional series about state budget cuts in Kansas and Missouri. Rick Montgomery wrote about the gutting of a program that provided broad treatment and support services to Kansas inmates about to re-enter society.   


~ “He’s the reason you’re not bored with the board” (B-2, Sunday, April 4) — In his weekly political column, Steve Kraske explained the presence of all those yard signs for Crispin Rea Jr., Kyleen Carroll and Joseph Jackson, Kansas City School Board candidates. (All three won last Tuesday.) Current board member, 30-year-old Airick Leonard West, who supported Superintendent John Covington’s school-contraction plan, stoked up a big effort on those candidates’ behalf. The caveat: The column would have benefitted from a photo of West, whom many people, including me, wouldn’t recognize on the street.   

~ “She saves at a speedy clip” (A-1, Tuesday, April 6) — Irrepressible story about “extreme couponer” Brandie Mavich of south Kansas City. James A. Fussell, of The Star’s features department, wrote colorfully that when the sales clerk started deducting the coupon savings from Ms. Mavich’s tab, “The register began to smoke, or at least it should have.”   

~ “No longer sold on real estate” (D-1, Tuesday, April 6) — Timely piece by Kevin Collison about the thinning ranks of real estate agents as the home-selling business has fallen on hard times. 

~ “”Power battle turns deadly in central Asian country” (A-1, Thursday, April 8) — An international story…out front. Hooray! 


#% Still no sighting of a Pope story on the front page. The Star had a good opportunity on Sunday, April 4, with an Associated Press story about two Arizona priest-abuse cases that languished under Benedict XVI before he became pope. That story, which ended up on A-9, could have substituted for Lee Hill Kavanaugh’s local story about a teen cancer patient’s visit to the U.S. Supreme Court. Once again, The Star cast the die with an “all-local” front. The result? Craps.  

#% “Desperate hunt for miners” (A-1, Tuesday, April 6). Well, at least the story made the front page. But, boy, was there a gaffe in this story. The overline (above the headline) and the story’s first sentence  both said, authoritatively and with finality, that the blast “killed 12.” At the bottom of the front page, before the story “jumped” to the inside, the article noted that “others were thought to be missing,” but it brushed past that point quickly. What a surprise, then — for Star readers, anyway — when, radio and TV reports on Tuesday morning reported that the death toll had jumped to 25.  The story should have said that “at least” 12 people were killed and should have emphasized that the death toll could rise. The story was still developing when The Star went to press Monday night, so enveloping the story in a tone of finality was a big mistake.  

#% “Finally, Tiger’s apology is right” (A-1, Tuesday, April 6) — Appearing on The New York Times’ front page this day were, among others, stories about the U.S. seeking a record $16 million fine against Toyota and President Obama revamping American nuclear strategy. Star readers got neither or those stories on A-1 but, instead, a Jason Whitlock column about Tiger Woods speaking to the media.     

#% “It’s a UConn job” (B-1, Wednesday, April 7) — This is a joke, right, sports editors? The UConn women completed a second consecutive perfect basketball season Tuesday night and it’s worth one paragraph on the sports front, guiding to an inside story? Wow. Pathetic. (By now, readers, you probably know I’m a diehard women’s basketball fan. Nevertheless….)            

Special category: ” ‘Personhood’ movement seeks end to abortion” (A-1, Tuesday, April 6) — This one probably had some readers scratching their heads. The story, by The Star’s Laura Bauer, is about several states in which anti-abortion activists are trying to extend the legal definition of “person” to cover the fertilized egg. The story measures 33 column inches, but less than three inches of that are on the front page. When a story is “buried” on the front page like this, it’s usually because the editors aren’t convinced of the strength of the story, but they are hesitant to consign it to the inside because a lot of time and effort has been invested. It usually leaves the reporter miffed about the placement (or “play,” as it’s called in the newsroom) but happy that it goes onto his or her A-1 count.

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I jumped a plane down to San Antone Tuesday to catch the final game of the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. Came back yesterday with a lot of great memories and a quick travelogue for you.

River Walk

Before the game between Stanford and Connecticut, fans jammed the unparalleled River Walk, a network of pathways, bordered by bars, restaurants and hotels, along the San Antonio River.  

Even though the River Walk is virtually right in front of your nose, it can be hard for first-time visitors to find. That’s because it’s below street level. While the traffic whizzes by above, there’s nothing but foot traffic, conversation and the sounds of commerce at river level.

Tower of the Americas (background)

There’s plenty to see above ground, too, including the 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas, built for the 1968 World’s Fair, HemisFair ’68. When it’s time to set off for an event at the Alamodome, the city’s major sports venue, the tower serves as guidepost. Just walk toward the tower and you can’t miss the stadium.

Below, fans streamed toward the Alamodome, and when they reached a plaza a few hundred yards from the entrance, a mariachi band was there to entertain them.


Inside the stadium, scores of military members got a rousing reception from the crowd..and from a special guest. The special guest was a big hit, too. Until, that is, air space over San Antonio was shut down for an hour or more yesterday afternoon while waiting for the special guest to fly out.

Then, pretty soon, the game was over, and Lone-Star-shaped confetti filled the air, as UConn players and fans celebrated  the team’s 53-47 victory.

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This month, a former Kansas City Star executive, Mark Contreras, became chairman of the Newspaper Association of America, a trade association that represents the country’s largest daily newspapers. Since 2006, Contreras, 48, has been senior vice president for newspapers at Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co., where he oversees 28 daily and community newspapers. 

Mark Contreras

Contreras worked at The Star for from 1989 to 1994, serving four years as metro circulation manager and one year as retail display advertising director.

In February, Contreras discussed various journalistic issues in a wide-ranging interview with Forbes magazine. Among other things, Contreras talked about the future of American newspapers and the deep staff cuts that many papers have made to keep from going out of business. Following are excerpts from that interview. (If you’d like to read the entire interview, here’s the link.) 

Newspapers have suffered three straight years of falling ad revenue. Will that decline be halted in 2010?

The ad declines are becoming smaller on a year over year basis. Will we get back to flat numbers this year? I don’t know. We’re being cautious on our outlook. The visibility of what the next two quarters bring has never been murkier.

Why is that?

You have continued economic uncertainty in the stock market and the economies of Florida and California aren’t out of the woods yet. Until we see some true flatness we’re going to be cautious.

Colossal staff reductions, along with the fact that some newspapers are the last men standing in their respective markets, would seem to put some papers on a sound footing for a cyclical rebound. True?

When you consider the expense cuts we’ve made since 2009–from cuts in pension plans, salaries, 401(k) matches, plus reductions in the workforce–that’s a lot. It all helps, but only for a short time. Until you get stability in the top line, there’s no reason to pop any champagne bottles.

As newspapers have faltered, citizen journalism has rushed in. Does this brand of reporting play a role at Scripps?

There will always be a need for well-trained, relatively well-paid, professional journalists to populate the pages of our newspapers and Web sites. But that’s not to say they have to be the sole source of news gathering. In the past three years we’ve expanded the use of stringers and correspondents, mostly to grow the footprint of our local news coverage. We’ve gone from less than 5% of our news budgets devoted to stringers to close to 12% now. Readers understand when you have to make financial sacrifices. But if the only way you do it is by cutting heads in the newsroom and depriving readers of a healthy diet of news, that’s a path to nowhere. Even as advertising pressures have driven the number of pages down, we’ve tried to expand our local news.

What do you think the future holds for the wave of nonprofit, foundation-backed journalism experiments like the Bay Area News Project and Texas Tribune?

I’m on the board of Cincinnati Public Radio, which gives me some sense of what it takes to run a radio station just on public donations. It’s not easy. Maintaining this model takes years of generating local donations. I admire the ambitions of folks starting these ventures, but I think they’re going to find that the reality of financing them is much more difficult than they bargained for.

Michael Eisner (former chairman of the Walt Disney Co.) said recently that the old media is on a “death march” and that Web content is an “explosion ready to happen.” Hasn’t it already pretty well exploded? As a member of the old media, what’s your reaction?

Here are a couple of factoids: Audience is up. Our subscriber churn (turnover) has never been lower. Today we have the most stable circulation base we’ve ever had…Newspaper revenue in the 1940s used to be composed of 60% advertising, 40% circulation. In the decades after that, classified ad revenue ballooned. In 2006 it had gotten so out of whack that we drew 83% from advertising, 17% from circulation. We’re now returning to that 60/40 model. Circulation is a much more stable source of revenue. As of the third quarter of last year, all of our newspapers were profitable. That will probably hold for the fourth quarter, too.

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Power of the pen

For years now, people all over the country have been canceling their daily-newspaper subscriptions and turning to the Internet for their news. The situation is somewhat understandable, what with people pressed for time and being able to get a lot of free information at the click of the mouse. But, over and over, newspapers continue to demonstrate their importance, impact and, to me, irreplaceability.

Here are two recent examples, one at the local level, one at the national level.

Local  __  On Tuesday, March 30, in the wake of the Watkins Drive crash that killed 12-year-old Damian Slayton and seriously injured his mother, Bri Kneisley, The Star’s Christine Vendel reported in a front-page story that the driver of the SUV, 30-year-old Clayton R. Dunlap, had, at the time of the crash, 16 convictions for driving without a valid license. Dunlap, 30, is now in custody, charged with second-degree murder and driving, again, with a revoked license.

The story struck a nerve with the public, and, by extension, with law enforcement officials.  The outrage, of course, was this: How in God’s name could a guy with 16 convictions for driving without a valid license be behind the wheel, posing a threat to innocent people?

There is no good answer, of course. Robert Beaird, the Jackson County Circuit Court judge who lowered Dunlap’s bond last month, enabling him to go free, cited a shortage of jail beds.  Although Vendel couldn’t make the public feel any better about the maddening loss of a 12-year-old innocent, she could tap into the anger. She came back with a front-page story on Saturday, April 3, in which court officials and police vowed to keep more revoked drivers behind bars. “The 16th Judicial Circuit Court is taking a strong look at how bonds are set in driving-while-revoked cases,” a court spokeswoman was quoted as saying. 

In addition, a police sergeant who leads the traffic investigations squad, said his unit was planning six driver’s license checkpoints, starting in May. “This will be the first time we’ve done this at such a large scale,” the sergeant said. 

Would the police and courts have initiated a crackdown in the absence of a strong, coal-stoking story from The Star? Maybe. But you can bet that the March 30 story had Judge Beaird twisting uncomfortably in his easy chair and buttonholing other judges about the need for action. And it had the police scurrying into meetings to plan a full-frontal assault on the idiots who have been revoked and continue to drive with impunity.

National __ On Thursday, April 1, The New York Times ran a front-page story under the headline, “Rushed from Haiti by U.S., only to be jailed for lacking visas.” The story told how, more than two months after the devastating Haitian earthquake, more than 30 survivors who boarded planes to the U.S. remained “prisoners of the United States immigration system.” Prisoners, literally. Locked up in detention centers in Florida.

How can that be, you ask? When they landed in the U.S. without visas, immigration authorities took them into custody and held them for deportation. But deportations to Haiti have been suspended since the earthquake. So, what to do with the new arrivals? Well, lock ’em up, immigration officials concluded. And they did, to the frustration and despair of the refugees’ relatives.

The uncle of two men — 20 and 25 years old — who had been in jail since they arrived in Orlando on Jan. 19, told The Times: “Every time I called immigration, they told me they will release them in two or three weeks, and now it’s almost three months.”

Even as The Times was assembling its story, immigration officials were all but acknowledging the stupidity of their actions. A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told a Times reporter that the  30 detainees “were being processed for release.”

In a departure from its sometimes-glacial pace, the federal government impersonated an accelerator-sticking Toyota: The Times was able to report the next day, April 12, that more than three dozen earthquake survivors had been released from immigration jails in Florida. Officials had decided that the refugees could be returned to Haiti when deportations resumed.

Now, why couldn’t the government have come to that logical conclusion in the first place? Well, that’s because The New York Times couldn’t point Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in the logical direction until the paper discovered the situation.

Would those refugees still be sitting in jails were it not for The Times’ reporting? I’d bet on it.

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Plums & Prunes

Today, a new feature begins. Called Plums & Prunes, it will be a periodic critique of material — stories, headlines, photos, graphics, etc. — appearing in The Star. (Articles can be seen by going to The Star’s Web site — kansascity.com — and entering key words in the upper-right search box.)        

With no further ado, away we go!  


~ “Less roadway repair, more snow removal” (A-1, Friday, March 26) — Eye-catching, solidly written centerpiece on the new Kansas City budget. Photo by David Eulitt; story by Lynn Horsley.  

~ “Martin’s Wildcats are toughest team alive” (B-1, Friday, March 26) — Whitlock column on K-State’s victory over Xavier featured this break-out-laughing line: “Every man, woman and child a Wildcat!”      

~ “Voice of a victim can’t be silenced” (A-1, Saturday, March 27) — Sara Shepherd’s haunting story about then-81-year-old Carol Cooper, who was raped in 1999 and psychologically tormented ever after. The final twist: In 2004, Cooper disappeared, never to be seen again, after leaving her south Kansas City residence for her daily walk.   

~ “Board election comes at a crucial moment” (A-1, Sunday, March 28) — Clean, comprehensive package previewing Tuesday’s Kansas City School Board elections. Written by Joe Robertson.    

~ “Vigilant boards keep organizations on track” (A-1, Monday, March 29) — Timely story by Diane Stafford on the importance of boards of directors. The peg: the Karen Pletz debacle at Kansas City University of Medicine and biosciences.  

~ “Campaign ad places hateful message on air” (A-1, Monday, March 29) — Slap-my-jaw piece by Dave Helling about a Springfield, Mo.,  U.S. Senate candidate’s racially biased, anti-Semitic radio ads.  

~ ” ‘Free’ a hard sell” (A-1, Tuesday, March 30) — Quirky, gotta-read-on piece, accompanied by storytelling cover photo, on some Kansas towns having trouble giving away home-site properties. Story by Laura Bauer; photos by Jill Toyoshiba.  

~ “Driver has long record of violations” (A-1, Tuesday March 30) — Infuriating story by Christine Vendel and Meredith Rodriguez about oft-convicted driver who killed a 12-year-old boy and seriously injured the boy’s mother in a gruesome crash at Gregory Boulevard and Bruce Watkins Drive.   

~ “Inmates get to look at private information” (A-1, Wednesday, March 31) — Holy cow! Kansas prisoners hone their computer skills by entering data that includes free people’s Social Security numbers. Thank you, Joe Lambe.   

~ “Carrying in the Capitol” (A-1, thursday, April 1) — Irresistible, double-take intro: “It’s been a quiet week in Jefferson City. Legislators writing laws. Debating the budget. Training with handguns.” Jason Noble and David Klepper wrote about a bill — seemingly on its way to passage — that would allow legislators, their aides and employees to carry concealed weapons in the Missouri statehouse. And guess what? It’s prohibited in Kansas. 


#% “A future of hope can heal the pain” (p. 1, Sunday, March 28) — Yet another front-page story about the Kansas State basketball team. At the same time, not one story about the chronic pain being generated by the the resurgent priest sex-abuse scandal has made it to The Star’s front page.    

#% “New KCK library in store” (p.1 headline, Monday, March 29) — This comes under the category of  “fails to live up to billing.” The headline had me scanning the story to see where the new library was housed. Turns out the story, by Lisa Gutierrez, was a hand wringer about the sorry state of the public library branch at Argentine Middle School. But what about that library moving into a store? Well, plans are for a move in 2012! The library won’t be in the store for a looong time.  

#% “Crackdown could be upshot” (A-9, Tuesday, March 30) — Embarrassing under-placement and inadequate treatment of the Moscow subway bombings, which killed 39 people. Topping off the embarrassment was a lame, please-overlook-me headline.  

#% “Will health law uncork bottleneck?” (A-1, Wednesday, March 31) — No beef with the story; nice piece of enterprise (meaning reporter or editor driven, as opposed to breaking news) by Steve Kraske and Dave Helling. But, like many journalists, especially reporters, I loathe the so-called “Boca jump,” in which a story is “teased” on the front and the reader is directed inside, where the story begins anew. Boca, you ask? So called because it reportedly got its start many years ago at a daily in Boca Raton, Fla. Unfortunately, the Boca just won’t seem to go away.

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The message was clear: We want immigration reform, and we want it now. 

The call was delivered in force Wednesday afternoon by about 75 people who gathered outside U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s Westport office,  Pennsylvania Avenue and Archibald Street. The people sang, prayed and listened to speeches before a handful went inside the office and presented more than 2,000 signatures to a McCaskill representative. 

Wednesday's rally in Westport

Bishop Robert Finn of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph told the crowd that, to be successful, immigration reform should be a federal initiative. Finn said state and local governments could not get the job done because elected representatives of those jurisdictions tended to be too easily swayed by emotionally driven protests. 

“It has to happen at the federal level,” Finn said, “so it can be applied fairly and evenly nationwide.” 

The activists support a bill that was introduced in Congress last year. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would provide, among other things, a path to U.S. citizenship for some immigrants. The first step toward becoming a legal resident would be for the individual to enroll in some type of higher education, such as a university, vocational school or apprenticeship program. Another option would be to enroll in the U.S. military. 

If certain requirements were met, the individual could apply for conditional residency. Then, after receiving an associate degree or a two-year equivalent within six years of the initial petition, the conditional status could be changed, allowing the individual to become a legal, permanent resident. 

To be eligible for permanent residency under the DREAM Act, the individual would have to have entered the U.S. before turning 16 and to have been in the country for at least five years without interruption. He or she also must be able to speak English. 

The reform measures that he and others support, Finn said, would “protect the integrity and unity of families.” 

Finn’s position on immigration stands in curious contrast to his stance on another “social justice” issue — health care reform. Last year, Finn and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas issued a “pastoral statement,” which, while not forthrightly opposing the bill that was working its way through Congress, took a very circumspect view of health care reform. 

“The right of every individual to access health care does not necessarily suppose an obligation on the part of the government to provide it,” the bishops’ statement said. 

Many observers believed the two bishops’ position was rooted in concerns that the legislation might loosen the prohibition on federal funds being be spent on abortions.     

Finn’s and Naumann’s position on health care reform was at odds with statements from other Catholic leaders, including the U.S. Conference of Bishops. A spokeswoman for the conference of bishops told The Star, “Our position is that we are supportive of health care reform that affirms life and dignity of all people, and that health care is a right that should be available to everyone.” 

The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas was represented at Wednesday’s event. Organizations that sent representatives included Communities Creating Opportunity, Metropolitan Organization for Racial Equality, Immigrant Justice and Advocacy Movement and El Centro Inc. 

Some of the same organizations — and people — plan to hold a similar event today in St. Joseph at the office of U.S. Rep. Sam Graves. Graves is a Republican; McCaskill is a Democrat.

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