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Archive for September, 2018

Hand wringing and howls of protest have been customary the last decade or so every time The Star has laid off more veteran reporters.

With less fanfare, however, the revolving door has been working both ways at The Star, especially for young, talented sports writers, several of whom have built nice portfolios of “clips” and then parlayed them into bigger, better-paying jobs.

The latest to do so is Maria Torres, who early this year became the first Spanish-speaking reporter to be assigned to cover the Royals.

That was in February. Now, severn moths later, she’s gone. I’d noticed the last couple of weeks that other reporters had been writing about the Royals, and today regular reader Bill Hirt posted a comment on a recent JimmyCSays post, saying Torres had gone to work for the Los Angeles Times, covering the Los Angeles Angels.

Maria Torres

It’s a bit unusual for a baseball reporter to pick up and go to another paper, covering a new team, in mid-season, and I don’t know what precipitated the move. But I do know it was a great opportunity for Torres, who could still be in her 20s. She’ll be in the second largest metro area in the country; she’ll be making more money; she’ll be covering a team that is consistently more competitive than the Royals; and she’ll be positioning herself for perhaps bigger and better career moves down the road.

Sam McDowell

The Star’s new Royals’ reporter is Sam McDowell, who has been covering Sporting Kansas City, as well as some prep sports. McDowell, who is in his early 30s, has gone in short order from covering high school sports to one of the three most important sports beats at The Star, the others being the Chiefs beat and the college sports analyst (Blair Kerkhoff).

Torres succeeded Rustin Dodd, who covered the Royals for a few seasons before jumping to a sports website called The Athletic. (I believe he is still in town and covering the Royals for that website.)

The Chiefs’ beat has also seen significant turnover in recent years.

Terez Paylor

Remember the name Terez Paylor? That young man covered the Chiefs for five years and earlier this year bolted to Yahoo Sports, as a “senior” NFL writer. (I put senior in quotation marks because Paylor is still in his 30s.) Like Dodd, he has continued to live in Kansas City.

Adam Teicher

The beat writer who preceded Paylor, Adam Teicher, also left for greener pastures when he accepted a job covering the Chiefs for ESPN in 2013.

What all this means is that even the biggest sports beats at The Star and most other major metropolitan papers are no longer the destination jobs they used to be. When newspapers were riding high, the people who made their way to those vaunted positions typically held them for many years. The late Bill Richardson, for example, was the Chiefs’ beat writer for 16 years and then wrote about them part time for another 16 years.

It’s much different now. The combination of the newspaper industry’s downward spiral and the proliferation of sports websites has opened up a multitude of opportunities for good sportswriters, especially women and non-white men. (Torres’ prospects are even better, being female and a Spanish speaker in a sport with many Latino players.)

The number of opportunities in sports seems to outnumber those in news. I think one reason for that is some of the big sports websites, like The Athletic and ESPN, want reporters in every city with an NFL and/or MLB team. On the other hand, very few news outlets, regardless of size, want or need news reporters in every major metropolitan area. News reporters can be “parachuted in” as needed.

**

Brooke Pryor and Lynn Worthy

This summer, The Star introduced with great fanfare its new two-member team that would be covering the Chiefs. They are Brooke Pryor and Lynn Worthy.

It will be interesting to see how long they hang around.

On the other hand, it could be a neck-and-neck race between how long they stay and how long it is before the paper’s corporate owner, McClatchy Co., is sold or declares bankruptcy.

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Dan, Dan the cigar man

The Star’s City Hall reporter, Bill Turque, reports this morning that the members of the Kansas City Council have spent more than $155,000 in taxpayer funds on travel between January 2016 through March of this year.

Council members have gone to Germany to promote the city’s jazz heritage; they’ve gone to sun-splashed places like Las Vegas, Hawaii and Palm Beach; and they’ve gone to big cities like Montreal, Charlotte and Dallas.

The headline on the front-page story asks this pivotal question about all that travel: “(W)as it worth it?”

Turque doesn’t answer the question himself, but high up in the story he quotes Councilman Scott Taylor, a minimalist when it comes to city-funded travel as saying…

“We have plenty of meetings to go to every night here in Kansas City that don’t cost a dime to go to and represent our constituents.”

I like Taylor’s reasoning, and that’s one reason I’ve contributed to his 2019 mayoral campaign.

Earlier this summer, Taylor introduced an ordinance that would have curtailed council travel, but his proposal got the wave-off. And so it died.

I’m hoping, though, that if Taylor is elected mayor and is able to resurrect that ordinance, he will make an exception on travel restrictions for a particular council member who has zeroed in on a particular country.

Counciman Dan Fowler

That’s Dan Fowler, 2nd District councilman, who has traveled to Cuba twice since 2016. Fowler’s goal, in Turque’s words, is to “make valuable ministry contacts to help connect Cuban and Kansas City markets.”

The first trip, Turque said, cost taxpayers $4,900 and was “the priciest trip by a single council member.”

Now, everybody knows the U.S. has had a trade embargo on Cuba for nearly 60 years, and, beyond that, President Trump imposed even tighter restrictions on trade and travel before Fowler’s most recent trip, last fall.

So, some people might wonder exactly what Fowler hopes to accomplish by spending thousands of dollars to make “valuable ministry contacts.”

…But, I’ll tell you, I think there’s more here than meets the eye.

I don’t have anything to back me up on this, but I suspect Fowler has a secret, beautiful agenda:

I think he’s trying to establish a back-channel conduit to get Cuban cigars from Havana to KC.

Not just a few cigars but lots and lots of cigars. Tens of thousands of cigars so that not only area residents but people who come to town to party in the Power & Light District or come to see Chiefs and Royals’ games, the Liberty Memorial and Union Station, and our many other attractions can also enjoy the finest cigars in the world.

(Attesting to the singular quality of Cuban cigars, before President John F. Kennedy imposed the tradeĀ embargo on Cuba in 1962, he had someone in his administration buy as many as many H. Upmann Cuban cigarsĀ as possible. The emissary returned with 1,200.)

Fowler has taken on a considerable challenge, of course, because even if he is able to firm up contacts in Cuba, he’ll have to figure out the logistics of getting a steady supply of Cubans (cigars, I mean) from there to here.

I imagine he’ll have to engage the owners of yachts, fishing vessels and maybe even rubber rafts to get the cigars from Havana to Florida. And from there it’ll take a mighty “underground railroad” consisting of planes, trains and automobiles to transport the goods from Florida to the Heartland.

A lot of “mules” are going to have to be hired, and they’ll have to be well paid to ensure their silence.

Not only that, but in setting up his retail network in Kansas City, Fowler will have to buy the silence of cigar sellers and have the retailers beg the buyers to stay mum about where they got their Cuban “sticks.”

Luckily for Kansas City, though, Fowler looks like a shoo-in for re-election next year, and he’ll have four more years to make numerous trips to Cuba to work out the kinks.

And think of the benefit to Kansas City. Why, we’d be the “Cuban Cigar Capital of the Country”!

Of course, we could only talk about that among ourselves because the whole dang enterprise would have to be on the down low.

But I’m pulling for Dan and his mission, and I’m hoping Mayor Scott Taylor will give him a wide berth on travel between 2019 and 2023 so he can get this operation up and running.

One request: Dan, if you’re taking orders yet, make mine Partagas.

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