I don’t believe what The Kansas City Star didn’t do…
On Thursday evening, well before The Star’s deadline, the vaunted east-side political organization Freedom Inc. voted unanimously to oppose Jackson County’s proposed half-cent sales tax for “translational medical research.”
With the League of Women Voters and the local NAACP branch already on record as opposing the tax, Freedom loomed as a pivotal bellwether of which direction the tax would go.
And yet, Thursday night — and all day Friday — The Star was nowhere to be found.
All-purpose reporter Mike Hendricks, who has been “covering” the campaign, didn’t show up outside Freedom headquarters, 12th and Brooklyn, to wait and find out what the verdict was. And neither did any other Star reporter.
None of the city’s four TV stations bothered to send a reporter, and none had a story yesterday. But that’s no big surprise; local politics is about the last thing on their agendas.
But The Star? Geez. After Hendricks’ no-show Thursday night, I thought surely he or someone else would call Freedom yesterday morning and at least get a short story on the kansascity.com website.
But, no. Nothing. (See correction in comments section.)
Holy crap, when I covered City Hall from 1985 to 1995, I would wait hours for political organizations to make decisions and come out of their closed-door meetings and announce the results. I’d race back to the paper, crank out a story and hope for good “play” (placement) the next day. (Long ago, an editor once said to me: “Fitzpatrick, you eat those bylines for breakfast, don’t you?)
Of course, things have changed a lot since then. The news cycle for The Star and the local TV stations runs about 16 hours a day (there is some down time between about 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.). Also, partly because of the TV stations’ indifference, The Star is under less pressure to cover political developments.
All in all, there’s a more casual attitude at 18th and Grand about getting news — other than stories involving death and destruction — online or in print in a timely manner.
On Monday, for example, I beat The Star to the punch on the Charlie Wheeler story — that is, Wheeler’s home being sold on the courthouse steps and mortgage banker Jim Nutter Sr. (who foreclosed) taking steps to ensure that Wheeler and his wife Marjorie and son Graham have a smooth landing in a Waldo area duplex.
When the threat of foreclosure first arose several months ago, political reporter Steve Kraske wrote a Page 4 story about it. (Page 4 is now the equivalent of what used to be the Metro section front page…Another sorry story.) But now Kraske has gone off to teach at UMKC — joining four or five other former Star editorial employees at the university — and nobody bothered to cover the Wheeler story the day it happened.
A good friend and The Star’s best reporter, Mark Morris, called me Tuesday morning, in the wake of my post, and asked for Charlie’s phone number. I gave him the number, of course, and Mark’s story ran online that afternoon and in print on Wednesday, although it was buried on Page 13.
On Tuesday, The Star will have a chance to redeem itself, when the Citizens Association, the city’s most influential, nonpartisan political organization, will hear speakers on sides of the issue and perhaps take a position on the tax. (The proposal will be Jackson County Question 1 on the Nov. 5 ballot.)
That meeting starts at 5 p.m. and should be over by 7. Maybe Hendricks can tell his wife Roxie to hold dinner awhile so he can cover the meeting and get a story up.
…By the way, I’ll be one of the opposing speakers at the Citizens Association meeting…But don’t waste your time looking for quotes from me in the paper. I think I’ve earned a lifetime ban. The only time you’re likely to see me in the paper again is after my family pays for my obit.
Editor’s note: For much more news about the proposed sales-tax for “translational medical research,” see stopabadcure.org
Also, Mike Hendricks’ wife’s name is Roxie, not Rosie, as I had it originally.