Happy Memorial Day, everyone! I hope you’re enjoying yourselves, whatever you’re doing.
Today, I’m going to take a different approach to Plums & Prunes. In the interests of saving myself — and you — some time, I’m going to consider just a handful of stories. Let me know what you think. The blog, of course, is a work in progress, and will be as long as it’s around.
~ “Ticket skimming scandal tops $1 million at Kansas” (A-1 and B-1, Thursday, May 27) — This is the story that rocked the region, and only The Star, with its resources and experience in big stories, was capable of doing it justice. And what a job it did.
There was the front page story, written by KU sports reporter J. Brady McCollough and criminal justice reporter Tony Rizzo under a five-column photo of a downcast Lew Perkins sitting beside his glacier-faced chancellor. There were thumbnail bios of the six principals in the ticket scam. There was Judy Thomas’ inside story about an outraged local businesswoman (how about that — a big-time female donor!) demanding answers. There was Sam Mellinger’s Sports Daily column, which said Perkins’ image had been forever damaged. And there was Jason Whitlock’s big-picture column, blaming the whole mess on the culture of greed and money that permeates college athletics.
It was a bravura performance that left talk radio and TV sports coverage barely visible in the rearview mirror. And look for more to come. The Star’s best bloodhounds, Mike McGraw and Mark Morris — both from the news side — were already out front on this story, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them drop another scoop at any time.
(For more on the fallout for Perkins, see my post from Friday, May 28.)
~ “High river, but low traffic” (D-1, Tuesday, may 25) — The front of Star Business Weekly, the weekly tabloid, offers a beautiful springboard for business reporters who want to cut loose with big “takeouts.” This story about much-diminished barge traffic on the Missouri River, started out with a soft step but ended up mashing down any hopes of a barge revival on the river. Writer Scott Canon, who several months ago moved from the National Desk to the Business Desk, has written about the Missouri river for years. His experience, along with his reportorial and writing agility, made this a seminal story on what has been an important dimension of Life on the Missouri.
~ “Why did the mayor punish Jan Marcason?” (B-2, Sunday, May 30) — This timely and gratifying column by Steve Kraske followed an earlier story reporting that Mayor Mark Funkhouser had stripped 4th District Councilwoman Jan Marcason’s of all her committee assignments — a move that could be unprecedented.
Kraske reported that Funkhouser’s lovely wife, Gloria Squitiro, once wrote a diary entry (made public as part of a lawsuit) that said: “I despise Jan Marcason with a vigor and energy that knows no bounds.” Whoa! That kid of hatred can — and probably will — cost a guy a chance at being re-elected.
#% “Bowe goes quiet route” (C-1, Tuesday, May 25) — The Star got started down the wrong path on the Curious Tale of Dwayne Bowe, a Chiefs receiver, when it rushed into print an earlier story about Bowe’s revelation to ESPN the Magazine that some Chiefs players had arranged for women to meet them at the team hotel in San Diego in 2007. The first story, on May 20, led to a second story, in which a former teammate of Bowe denied the assertion.
Then came this May 25 story, which essentially said Bowe ducked reporters. Well, sports editors, thanks for that important news! The whole, stupid thing culminated with a Q-and-A with Bowe, published Friday. In the interview, Bowe, as you would expect, made no sense whatsoever. For example: “My words was misunderstood and baseless and were said without malice.”
The hyperventilating story was a testament to how quickly an authoritative publication like The Star can get pulled into the deep water when it swims after everything that goes out on the Internet. The Star could have kept the snakes in the jar on this one by downplaying the first report and then following up appropriately.
#% “Boxer’s death was blow to KC” (A-1, Sunday, May 30) — This story was really a stretch. I barely remember Randie Carver, a local boxer who died two days after a match in 1999. And yet sports writer Kent Babb has people saying things like, “It broke the spirit of boxing” and “When that happened to him it was like boxing died.”
Let me be clear: I’m not diminishing the tragedy of Randie Carver’s death. It was a tremendous loss to his family and friends, of course, and to the “boxing community,” however large that is. But to say that the tragedy left a gaping hole in the city’s fabric, as the headline suggests, is hyperbole. And why would Carver’s death be the demise of boxing in Kansas City? Isn’t it possible that a future champion is skipping rope at a KC area gym right now?