If you’ve ever thought about writing a “letter to the editor” for possible publication in The Kansas City Star — but for some reason didn’t act on the impulse — now’s the time to do so.
This is a very strange period as far as The Star’s editorial page is concerned. For the past three days — Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — the editorial page (not the Op-Ed page, just the editorial page) has contained only letters to the editor and political cartoons.
The editorial page has been devoid of editorials, staff produced or commissioned. It looks and feels downright weird.
The last editorial to appear was on Monday, and it was a boring piece — obviously not staff written — about an Internet conspiracy theory that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz harbors.
The reason for this strange period, of course, is that the editorial board is down to one person, Publisher Tony Berg, who took charge of the paper last January. Berg recently fired the paper’s longtime lead-editorial writer, Yael Abouhalkah. Several days later, Lewis Diuguid, the only other editorial writer, resigned. Both men’s last day was last Friday, and since Monday, the only name under the words “Editorial Board” on the masthead has been Tony Berg.
Only at small-town papers do publishers routinely write editorials, and, as a result, Berg is a supervisor with no one to supervise, at least as far as the editorial page is concerned.
…From a few e-mail exchanges and the fact that Berg has reduced newspaper delivery problems (the level of complaints I’ve heard is way down), I have the impression Berg is a smart man and will pull the editorial page back together. A few months ago he hired a new editorial page editor, Colleen McCain Nelson, who has excellent credentials, but she won’t be coming for at least another month. She currently is covering Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Wall Street Journal.
So we’re in an interregnum of sorts, between the Abouhalkah and McCain Nelson eras, and it’s a bit ugly right now. A friend pointed out that in addition to running loads of letters to the editor, the political cartoons are being sized much larger than they had been…I would think that would please only editorial cartoonist Lee Judge.
I have heard (and reported this recently) that former editorial page editor Rich Hood might be returning as an editorial writer. I have also heard that Miriam Pepper, another former editorial page editor, might be returning for a while. But I have no knowledge if either of those moves is happening.
All that being said, I haven’t received a lot of complaints about the lack of editorials, other than from a couple of friends who have repeatedly bemoaned the fact that The Star is without opinion writers at a time when the paper would normally be analyzing political races and running editorial endorsements.
As a dedicated reader and former Star employee, I certainly hope this situation gets turned around soon.
One other thing…I would like to see the editorial page returned to its rightful place on the last inside-facing page of the A section. It should be there every day, in the same place.
Currently, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the editorial page is on the second page of the four-page “In Depth” insert. But where the “In Depth” insert starts varies from day to day, making it difficult for readers to turn quickly to the editorial page.
“In Depth” has been a good addition to the paper, giving it more meat than it used to have. But hiding the editorial page four days a week is a big mistake. Tony Berg needs to fix that, and I suggest he start when Colleen McCain Nelson arrives.
For now, the king is dead. Long live the queen. She can’t be crowned soon enough.