First, I extend best wishes to reporter and columnist Debra Skodack, assistant business editor Donna Vestal and librarian Janelle Hopkins, who reportedly got laid off in the latest round of cuts at The Star. (A few other editorial staff members whom I do not know also got the ax.) Skodack, Vestal and Hopkins have contributed significantly to The Star’s editorial success over many years.
It’s too bad, and it shows again, in hindsight, what an unwise move the McClatchy Co. made four years ago when it purchased The Star and several other papers owned by Knight Ridder. The weakness of the McClatchy chain is dragging down The Star, which has always been profitable, primarily because it has been able to charge very high advertising rates.
Star officials had hoped that with the round of layoffs earlier this year, the bleeding had stopped. Turns out the tourniquet came loose again.
Meanwhile, the editorial staff members push ahead, putting out a lot of good work and a little shaky work.
~ “Saving young lives one law at a time” (A-1, Sunday, May 2) — Interesting story about Janette Fennell of Leawood, whose experience at the hands of a robber and subsequent perseverance in helping others has led to the development of many vehicle-safety improvements, including glow-in-the-dark trunk releases. Story by Grace Hobson.
~ ” ‘Russian roulette’ after data breaches” (A-1, Sunday, May 2) — Reporter Scott Canon continued his seemless transition from the National Desk to the Business Desk with a public-service piece about people’s exposure to computer credit-card theft. Canon’s move is paying dividends for the readers, as well as the beaten-down business desk.
~ “Renewal hasn’t come easy” (A-1, Monday, May 3) — Managing Editor Steve Shirk once told me he didn’t like anniversary stories, but it looks like Star readers are going to get one every year around this time about Greensburg, Kan., and its battle back from destruction by a tornado in 2007. Aaron Barnhart elevated this story by focusing on the friction that has come with rebuilding. Outstanding photos by Jill Toyoshiba.
~ “Fed up, and fighting for disabilities help” (A-1, Monday, May 3) — Kansas City, Mo., City Hall reporter Lynn Horsley took the time to delve deeply into a story that sometimes gets overlooked — governmental compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In this case, the city clearly is dropping the ball, and that’s not going to help Mayor Mark Funkhouser’s dim re-election prospects.
~ “Life changes for Gordon & Aviles” (C-1, tuesday, May 4) — Sam Mellinger continued to make strides as the successor to the inimitable Joe Posnanski with a trenchant column about the changing identity of the Royals, now that one-time hotshot prospect Alex Gordon has been shipped to the minors.
~ “Suspect captured in 53-hour drama” (A-1, Wednesday, May 5) — The Star got it right by making the arrest of terrorist Faisal Shahzad the centerpiece.
~ “KC police make arrest in Waldo rape inquiry” (A-1, Thursday, May 6) — Relative to the extensive coverage of the uproar over the rapes in Waldo, this four-column-wide spread by reporter Christine Vendel and photographers Keith Myers and Jill Toyoshiba was proportionate.
~ “Rape suspect charged” and “A past defined by rape, prison” (A-1, Friday, May 7) — Tandem stories about suspected Waldo rapist Bernard Jackson. One of the many things I liked about this package was that his mug shot and the sketch that police put together weeks ago were both on the front page, and the similarity between the sketch and the photo was unmistakable….Side note: Did it strike anyone else as odd that the first series of Waldo rapes, in 1983 and 1984, apparently did not generate an uproar like the most recent series?
~ “Bizarre day stuns Wall Street” (A-1, Friday, May 7) — This story undoubtedly would have been higher on the page were it not for Bernard Jackson. For Kansas City readers, his story was rightly bigger than a 998-point, intra-day drop in the Dow.
~ “Putting the brush to Bartle” (A-11, Friday, May 7) — This is one of those stories that made me want to thank the reporter — in this case Kevin Collison — personally. Like many other area residents, I’m sure, I have driven by Bartle Hall in recent months and wondered what the heck was happening to the exterior of the older section of the convention center. It looked like the paint was peeling and disintegrating, but how could I be sure? Collison confirmed and explained the situation in his story about the center getting a $152,000 paint job. Among the interesting details that Collison included: It takes about four days to paint each triangle.
#% Kentucky Derby coverage (Sunday, May 2) — A full story about the Kentucky Derby (136 years and counting) should run on the sports front of every major U.S. paper. Without fail, no excuses. The Star gave it a small photo at the top of the sports front and referred readers to story on Page 6.
#% “A load of economic optimism” (D-1, Tuesday, May 4) — Randolph Heaster’s schizophrenic Star Business Weekly centerpiece threw readers for a loop. It started out like it a story about housing starts but segued into a story about the rising sale of pickup trucks. In fairness, the overline — the words above the headline — cued readers with the words “pickup sales,” but it was still weird.