Well, our beloved hometown paper blew it today — not on one of its two front-page stories (that’s all we get now on the front page any more) but on both.
Let’s take the screw-ups in order of egregiousness…
“Kansas City board votes to close three schools”
This story was at the bottom of the page but, obviously, extremely important. It isn’t often that a school board votes to close schools, and it’s always big news, especially in the depleted Kansas City district.
So, look at that headline again and prepare yourselves for a pop quiz:
What’s the first thing you would be looking for as you jumped into that story?
A) What time the sun sets in Kansas City these days?
B) Which three schools are closing?
You all get an “A” on the quiz because the answer is “B.”
How long did it take, then, for reporter Mara Rose Williams to tell the readers which schools are closing?
The story takes up part of six columns, two on A1 and four on 11A. Williams doesn’t name any of the three schools on the front page, and it’s not until the first column of the “jump” that she names one of the three.
She doesn’t name the other two until the sixth and last column, and those are included in a throw-away series of “bullets” that wrap up the story.
Not only does Williams fail to give the readers the “news” in straightforward fashion but she gives no other information about any of the three schools, such as where they are located and how long they’ve been open.
Ok, ok…I know many of you are wondering by now which schools are closing and where they are. Here you go:
— Wendell Phillips Elementary School, on 24th Terrace just west of Woodland Avenue
— Southwest Early College Campus, 65th and Wornall
— Satchel Paige Elementary School, on 75th Street just west of Indiana
…I have no idea what Williams was thinking here, but she could not have been very focused on the task at hand. And more surprising is the fact that Williams is one of The Star’s top reporters. In July 2014, for example, she and Mike Hendricks collaborated in exposing the UMKC business school’s lofty rankings as the result of orchestrated fraud and misrepresentation.
But good reporters sometimes lose their way; it happens to the best. And that’s why there are editors…So, where were the editors on this story?
Sadly, they, too, were in a coma.
Another thing about that story…Williams says in the second paragraph that school board members Amy Hartsfield and Marisol Montero voted no. That begs the question who voted yes? Do all readers know the names of the other school board members? Hell, no! It drives me crazy when, on big votes — whether it be school boards, city councils or state legislatures — The Star doesn’t tell the readers who voted “yes” and who voted “no.”
…I tell you, this kind of reporting is unacceptable in a major metropolitan newspaper. It cheats the readers and makes the paper look amateurish.
“Bernie Sanders rallies his faithful fans in KC”
This was the lead story in the paper — the centerpiece — with good reason. Sanders’ campaign has generated tremendous enthusiasm, particularly among young people.
The story itself — written by Scott Canon and Dave Helling — was good as far as it went, but the event cried out for a sidebar story. There should have been a second story, inside the paper, about the size of the crowd; how crowd flow was handled; and who controlled access to the convention center.
Crowd size was an important element of this story because, obviously, it reflects the depth of local interest in the Sanders campaign. And access was important because thousands of people were stacked up outside the convention center waiting patiently to get in.
As I said in yesterday’s post, the size of the crowd was amazing. When my daughter Brooks and I arrived on the scene about 11:30, Bartle Hall was completely surrounded on all four sides. That’s four blocks of people — thousands.
When we first arrived, it didn’t look like the crowd was moving, but later we could see people advancing slowly through the entrance on 13th Street and then through metal detectors before going into the convention hall. I counted about five metal detectors — which seems like a very small number relative to the crowd size — but there could have been more.
Brooks and I gave up shortly after noon, and when we left Bartle Hall was still completely encircled by people.
In their online story, Canon and Helling said, “Sanders took the stage about 1:15 p.m., 15 minutes late but with still scores outside trying to clear security and crowd in with the upstairs throng.”
In today’s print edition, the only reference to a crowd estimate of 7,500. Gone was any reference to the outside line.
In a phone conversation this morning with Kansas City’s top convention center officials — executive director Oscar McGaskey Jr. and deputy director Michael C. Young — I learned a lot more about how the event was handled.
First, the Convention and Entertainment Facilities Department was not in charge of anything; all it did was host the event for the Sanders team. From there, the Secret Service was in charge of security and access. “The Secret Service managed the entry point from start to finish,” Young said. “Our staff and our subcontractors were not involved.”
Young would not say how many metal detectors were in use. (Naturally, that’s why it’s called the “Secret” Service.)
Surprising to me, Young said it appeared that almost everyone who was waiting outside got in for most or all the candidate’s speech. The lobby was empty, Young said, when he arrived 15 minutes after Sanders had started speaking.
Young said the size of the crowd exceeded the Sanders team’s expectations, and he admitted that he, too, was impressed.
“It was something to see,” he said.
Yes, and it would have been something for The Star to write about…if the editors had planned properly.
I want to add a quick, personal anecdote here…On Tuesday, Patty and I observed our 31st wedding anniversary. Feeling pretty giddy about that, I approached her at one point, put my arm around her and said, “Tell me, do you think I’m about the best damn husband who ever came along?”
She paused for a moment and said, “For me…yes.”