Archive for the ‘journalism’ Category

Because you have been such supportive and loyal readers, today I’m going to give you a chance to make some money.

There’s a golden egg out there, and I want all my friends — personal and digital — to get a piece of it.

It’s called New York Times stock. (NYT on the New York Stock Exchange.)

Most of you have heard, I’m sure, about the two big newspaper sales the last week or so. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is buying the Washington Post for $250 million, and The Times announced last week that it will sell The Boston Globe and a couple of other properties for $70 million.

Now, The Times took a terrible loss on the sale of the New England Media Group, having bought The Globe and other New England newspaper properties for $1.1 BILLION in 1991. A real bath. However, The Times has been able to absorb that and other “strong headwinds,” as the stock analysts like to say, and it is standing strong today.

With the sale of the Post, The Times will be the last of the big, family controlled newspapers. The Ochs-Sulzberger family has owned or controlled the paper since 1896, and it continues to control the paper through a dual-class stock structure.


Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.

Sale of the Post immediately raised the specter, in journalistic and business circles, of a potential sale of The New York Times Co. A company spokesman said as recently as yesterday that the family has no interest in selling the paper. The only slightly worrisome thing to me is that the company does not appear to have in place a clear-cut plan regarding who might succeed the fourth generation leader, 61-year-old Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.

(As a side note, I don’t think that either of Sulzberger Jr.’s children, Annie Sulzberger and Arthur Gregg Sulzberger — who was The Times’ Kansas City correspondent a couple of years ago — is a likely candidate to take over. She’s not interested, and he didn’t strike me as if he’d be interested in becoming a titan of anything.)

But keeping in mind that a sale is always possible, here’s a little background that should help explain why owning (or buying) New York Times stock seems like a really good deal and potential moneymaker.

While the $250 million that Bezos is paying for the Post sounds like a steal, it is actually a handsome price, relative to other newspaper sales in recent years.


Jeff Bezos

On a Web site called Business Insider, reporter Jennifer Saba of Reuters said that Bezos may have paid more than four times what the Post’s financial results suggest the paper is worth.

Stick with me, now, as I dip into a little financial speak…Saba said the average sale of a metro U.S. newspaper has brought a valuation of 3 1/2 to 4 1/2  times earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).

Saba said a Morningstar analyst had estimated the Post had an EBITDA of $15 million last year, meaning that its realistic sale value was $59.5 million to $76.5 million. (That’s $17 million multiplied by 3 1/2 and 4 1/2).

Saba wrote:

Such a large premium, which essentially pays for intangible assets like the brand name, may mean that any future sellers of prestigious newspapers will raise their price expectations. Other major newspapers that are in the sights of potential buyers include the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.

Analysts and bankers said that when it came to newspapers such as the Washington Post, the usual financial metrics did not apply. The price, as in the case of other trophy assets like sports teams, depended on what a buyer was willing to pay.

So, here’s the Washington Post, essentially a regional newspaper — albeit a great one with a remarkable history — selling for 17 times its 2012 EBITDA.

What does that mean for The New York Times, a national newspaper with the highest name identity of any newspaper and the best news-gathering team on earth?

Saba said that if The New York Times commanded a similar premium (17 times EBITDA), it could be worth nearly $5 billion. (The Times Co.’s current market value is $1.8 billion, she said.)

Yes, it’s a thicket of numbers and what-ifs, but here’s how I see it:

Times stock is selling at about $12 a share today. That’s up 49 percent over a year ago. In fairness, it’s also down 7.6 percent over the last five years. But I’m thinking about now and next year and the year after that. I’ve owned a significant amount of NYT stock for a couple of years, and after the sale of the Post, selling NYT stock is out of the question for me.

Just guessing here, but I think that if somebody like billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg went to Arthur Sulzberger saying he was interested in buying the paper, he’d have to start at about $20 a share just to get Sulzberger’s attention. Recall what Saba said: A trophy asset is worth whatever a buyer is willing to pay.

Let’s see, at $20 a share, that would be a 66 percent premium over today’s stock price of $12…That’s a 66 percent profit for stockholders, before taxes.

To appropriate a 1969 line from the Friends of Distinction, “Can you dig it?”


Editor’s note: Julius Karash, a good friend and former KC Star business reporter, sent me an e-mail today, putting the demise of the print-journalism business in perspective…He said:

“If you write something about the sale of the Washington Post and The Boston Globe, it might be interesting to note that Capital Cities Communications shelled out $125 million when it acquired The Kansas City Star Co. way back in 1977…According to a CPI (consumer price index) calculator I found at inflationdata.com, that would amount to $481.65 million in 2013 dollars.”

Today, The Star would be lucky to draw a bid of about $20 million, in my opinion.

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The Star, you might have noticed, has embarked this week on something the paper has never done before, to the best of my knowledge — run a series of stories on the Web site before running the entire series in print.

The series is called “Becoming George Brett,” and it commemorates the 40th anniversary of Brett’s first game as a Royal.

I like the way The Star has done this, and the stories are terrific. Obviously, The Star is dispensing the series this way to entice people to sign up for digital subscriptions. That’s where the future appears to lie for major metropolitan dailies, and Star editors know that there’s no more enticing product than K.C.’s No. 1 sports figure. (Golfer Tom Watson would be No. 2, of course.)

The series is not an unequivocal home run, however, in my opinion. There are pluses and minuses.

Some of the pluses:

:: The first segment, which ran in print on Monday as well as online, was authored by sports columnist Sam Mellinger, who got a considerable amount of Brett’s time, including a walk with the former star and his dogs. (Along the way, a woman walker recognized Brett and gushed, “Love those Royals. Thank you, George!”)



Mellinger did an excellent job of blending the present with the past — how, when Brett was called up from Omaha, he thought a player with whom he was grilling hamburgers was being called up.

:: Lots of photographs and video pieces, including interviews with Brett, augment the stories.


:: To me, the flip-flopping between print and online is a bit confusing. The series promo box, which runs every day, has said from the outset that the series can be seen on kansascity.com. And yet Monday’s kick-off piece ran in print and online, but the Tuesday through Friday stories apparently are running online only.

:: The stories are not assembled coherently and in order on the Web site. Every entry, whether it’s photos or text, is under the “Becoming George Brett” banner, so you have to poke around to find the main stories. They should be assembled as Part I, Part II, Part III, etc…Surely The Star can fix that by tomorrow. Get on it, you computer nerds!

What with this being The Star’s first big series to be tailored so prominently for the Web, it’s not surprising that a few glitches crept in. Overall, though, it’s a thorough and well-packaged series. The readers should be eating it up.


While we’re talking baseball, here are a couple of other quick observations.

:: Royals’ TV broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre turned a crafty phrase near the end of Sunday’s game against the White Sox, which the Royals won 4-2. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Royals’ reliever Luke Hochevar struck out White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers to end the inning.



As Strike Three was called, Lefebvre said, “He (Hochevar) just carved up Flowers — one petal at a time.”

His poor partner, commentator Rex Hudler, didn’t chuckle or say a word. Heads up, Rex!

:: On their Web site, the Royals are promoting a new wrinkle — GordoNation.

The promo says that Royals All-Star outfielder Alex Gordon is looking for fans to join a new seating section in left field.

The promo sets the hook with a simple challenge: “Do you have what it takes to be a part of GordoNation?”

Of course, I do…Count me in!

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God dang there were some good stories in my two favorite papers the last couple of days.

Good stories get me excited…Can you tell?

First, The Star

:: Feature writer Don Bradley had an outstanding front-page story about America’s favorite road, Route 66, in Monday’s paper.

People from Europe, Australia and Asia — as well as the U.S. — are expected to converge on Joplin later this week for the “Route 66 International Festival.” It’s the first time the festival has been in Missouri.

I had no idea that the sense of adventure and nostalgia associated with the road had captured the imagination of people overseas, too.

routeThe story was accompanied by a graphic (compliments of Dave Eames) highlighted by images of old travel guides and two maps. One map showed the route from St. Louis down through the southwest part of the state — Rolla, Springfield, Carthage — to Joplin. The other traced the length of the road from Chicago to the Los Angeles area.

Bradley conveyed some excellent information, such as that 85 percent of the original highway, which has been decommissioned, is still in use as city streets and state and county roads.

“These days,” Bradley wrote, “you just have to work a little harder to get your kicks on Route 66.”

…One caveat about the story: The editors chose to run a couple of lame file photos on the “jump.” Too cheap to send a photographer out for a day or two to get some fresh, good photos.

P.S. A little background on Bradley…As a young man, he was a “runner” at The Star, delivering parcels from one department to another. One of the offices where he stopped regularly was that of the late Jim Hale, the first Star publisher after the paper was purchased by publicly traded Capital Cities (later Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.) in 1977. Bradley would chat regularly with Hale’s secretary, June Dacus, and told her of his dream of becoming a reporter. Dacus put in a good word for Bradley with Hale, and pretty soon Bradley found himself working in the second-floor newsroom.)

:: In the first of several stories The Star will run this week commemorating the 40th anniversary of George Brett’s first game with as a Kansas City Royal, columnist Sam Mellinger wrote about Brett’s call-up from Omaha and his first game as a Royal in 1973. (The Royals beat the White Sox in Chicago, and Brett got one hit in four times at bat.)

This story was 62 column inches long, enough to cover about 3/4 of a page. But it read like it was 30 inches. When I reached the end, I couldn’t believe I had read the whole thing, and I looked back to see if maybe I had skipped a column along the way…When a reporter can write a story that reads that fast, he’s really done a great job.


On to The Sunday New York Times

carolineI almost never read the SundayStyles section, although I should, but the cover story about Caroline Kennedy caught my eye and I dove in. In addition to 39 inches of rich, interesting information about Kennedy, whom President Obama has appointed to be the new ambassador to Japan, the story included compelling photos of Kennedy at various stages of her life, including when she was a teenager.

Two of the most interesting glimpses Kennedy that reporter Jacob Bernstein gave the readers were that Kennedy rides the subway in New York and socializes with people all across the political spectrum, including conservative media baron Rupert Murdoch.


Having been hooked by the Styles section, I proceeded to read two other excellent stories in the section…

:: Matteson Perry, a Los Angeles-based screen writer wrote about his romance with a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” One of her distinguishing and most alluring features was that she had a tattoo of a phoenix covering the left side of her torso…(Yes, Perry got to explore the tattoo and more.) The story was the latest in a series titled “Modern Love.”

Here’s how Perry summarized the make-up of an MPDG:

pixieThough often perky, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl will be troubled as well. She straddles the narrow line between quirky and crazy, mysterious and strange, sexy and slutty; she is perfectly imperfect. And that imperfection is the key, because a Manic Pixie Dream Girl must be messed up enough to need saving, so the powerless guy can do something heroic in the third act.

(Can we identify with that, fellas?)

The story of the romance, Perry said, was “one I stole from the movies.” Of course, the affair turned sour.

So our story ended, not with credits rolling to freeze our relationship in eternal bliss, but with crying and the division of possessions. (I kept the dining room chairs; she kept the old-timey typewriters.)

P.S. Perry is working on his first book, a collection of dating stories…I’ll be pre-ordering that book.

:: I finish with another fascinating “love” story — about a 59-year-old novelist, Joyce Maynard, and a 61-year-old lawyer, Jim Barringer, who teamed up on Match.com. Each was divorced with three grown children.


Barringer and Maynard…New York Times photo

The story — part of The Times’ “Vows” series — explored their contrasting personalities: He, patient, wry and brilliant; she, a person who lives “with lots of speed and soul.”

They were married on July 6 in a meadow in Harrisville, N.H. The bride and groom wrote their own vows. Part of Ms. Maynard’s vows went like this:

I love it that in your eyes, I am the babe of the universe, although that calls your eyesight into question…So long as I can walk, I will dance with you. I will bake you apple pies and never wear flannel nightgowns.

Let’s hope that this union fulfills the hope and promise we so often see at the end of a movie.

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Thanksgiving is still four months away, but today I’m in an appreciative mood.

Let me cite just three “blessings” that recent news stories have impressed upon me.

:: I am grateful that…Kansas City is not in Detroit’s shoes.

Once the nation’s fourth largest city, Detroit filed for bankruptcy this afternoon. In an online story, The New York Times said the city’s debt was likely to be $18 to $20 BILLION.

In 1950, Detroit’s population was 1.8 million; today it is 700,000. In addition, The Times said, tens of thousands of abandoned buildings, vacant lots and unlit streets plague the urban area.

The story went on to say that one aspect of the bankruptcy that some other cities (including Kansas City, in all likelihood) will be watching is whether Detroit will be permitted to slash pension benefits. That will be decided in bankruptcy court and perhaps beyond. In order to cut pension benefits, the court would have to override a provision in the Michigan constitution that prohibits such action.

Here in Kansas City, Mayor Sly James and the City Council have shown that they don’t have the stomach for taking on the firefighters’ union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers. The mayor and council haven’t dared to take up a citizens committee’s proposal to reduce pension benefits for current and future city employees.

So, while I’m thankful that we’re not Detroit, someday — on some mayor and council’s watch — the pension situation is going to become a crisis in Kansas City, and the citizens are going to wring their hands and shake their fists at several mayors and councils that didn’t have the guts to deal with the issue before it became a crisis.

:: I am grateful that…Vladimir Putin is not my president. 

A Russian judge has sentenced Russia’s most prominent opposition leader to five years in prison on a charge of embezzlement.


Mr. Congeniality

In another online story today, The New York Times said that “the Kremlin had made little effort to mask the political motivation of the prosecution” of Aleksei Navalny, a harsh Putin critic who aspired to political office.

Well, in Russia your dreams can get you in trouble.

Although the case against Navalny was thin and had been thrown out after an initial investigation, it was “resurrected by federal officials in Moscow,” The Times story said.

Then, when the case went to trial, it was strictly a kangaroo court. Not only did the main witness give contradictory evidence, The Times said, defense lawyers were not allowed to cross-examine him.

!!!!! No cross-examination !!!!! 

Just to make sure Navalny didn’t get a fair hearing, the judge also prohibited the defense from calling 13 witnesses.

!!!!! No defense witnesses !!!!!

About all you can do is shake your head and take comfort in the fact that we’ve got enough nuclear weapons to keep Potentate Putin in check.

Editor’s note:  Shortly after 3 a.m. today, The Times reported that Navalny had been released while his case is under appeal.  

Here’s the lead sentence from that story:

“Russia’s most prominent opposition leader was released from police custody on Friday, a day after his conviction on embezzlement charges, as the Russian authorities edged back from a decision that set off angry protests in several of Russia’s largest cities.”

Maybe the potentate has overstepped his bounds this time…

:: Bringing it closer to home, I am grateful for…the Sprint Center and the Power & Light District.

In a story last week, The Star’s Kevin Collison wrote about an astounding (as far as I’m concerned) report done by the Downtown Council, an association of downtown businesses.

Ten years ago, in 2002, the report said, 2.5 million people visited downtown.

Last year, 13.4 million people visited downtown.

Think about it: Two point five million versus thirteen point four million over a decade.

The number soared, Collison said, “thanks to the huge investment that’s occurred the past half-dozen years in such entertainment venues as the Power & Light District, Sprint Center and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.”

The story said that the Power & Light District, which opened in 2007 and 2008, was “far and away” the biggest attraction last year, drawing 9.1 million visitors.

“The Power & Light District has become the central gathering point for the city,” Collison quoted Mike Hurd, the Downtown Council’s marketing director, as saying.

We should all be grateful that Kay Barnes and her council had the guts to put their legacy on the line when they opted to take a chance on a deal with the Cordish Companies to develop the Power & Light District. (That was in Barnes’ second term, from 2003 to 2007.)

Yes, Cordish, of Baltimore, is making a bundle of money off the deal, and Kansas City residents are subsidizing the district to the tune of $10 million to $15 million a year. But any day I’ll take the 13.4 million visitors a year in exchange for the public subsidy.

The subsidy will end some day, but the visitors, I expect, will keep on coming, and Kansas City, thanks to some courageous political leadership, should continue to have a thriving downtown.

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How many of us get to have our last words transcribed and published?

No, not many. An intriguing exception are the men — and occasional woman — executed in the state of Texas. (I say “state of” because that place is truly a state unto itself; it’s not just another of “these United States.”)

In the Sunday New York Times, reporter Manny Fernandez wrote about the state’s tradition of transcribing inmates’ last words before they are injected with lethal chemicals as they lie strapped to a gurney.

Fernandez wrote:

“The state’s execution record has often been criticized as a dehumanizing pursuit of eye-for-an-eye justice. But three decades of last statements by inmates reveal a glimmer of the humanity behind those anonymous numbers, as the indifferent bureaucracy of state-sanctioned death pauses for one sad, intimate and often angry moment.”

For example, these were the last words of Thomas A. Barefoot, who was executed in 1984 for murdering a police officer:

“I hope that one day we can look back on the evil that we’re doing right now like the witches we burned at the stake.”

Full of irony, wouldn’t you agree? If I interpret him correctly, he condemned execution as “evil” but didn’t mention murder.

Texas gurney unit

Texas gurney unit. Note microphone above headrest.

Texas inmates being executed speak their last words into a microphone hanging above the gurney. Listening to their statements are lawyers, reporters, prison officials, inmates’ families and victims’ relatives — at least those relatives who want to be there, or can stand to be there.

Fernandez explained that the final statements are not recorded but transcribed by staff members listening in the warden’s office.  The statements are posted on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, www.tdcj.state.tx.us/stat/ (click on “executed offenders”), and they are also posted on a blog called Lost Words in the Chamber.

A brief digression: One classic statement that is on the blog but that Fernandez did not use in his story was uttered by one Douglas Roberts in 2005…

“Yes, sir, warden. Okay, I’ve been hanging around this popsicle stand way too long. Before I leave, I want to tell you all: When I die, bury me deep, lay two speakers at my feet, put some headphones on my head and rock and roll me when I’m dead. I’ll see you in Heaven someday. That’s all, warden.”

Beneath these often curious and compelling final statements lies the question: What is the effect, if any, of these words? As Fernandez noted that “the power of their words to change the system or even heal the hearts of those they have hurt is uncertain.”

Fernandez quoted Robert Perkinson, the author of a book about the Texas prison system, as saying, “Most people about to be executed haven’t had a lot of success in school or life. They’re not always so skilled at articulating themselves…But I think many of these individuals are also striving to say something poignant, worthy of the existential occasion.”

To me, these statements are mesmerizing and read like a good novel that is hard to put down. And yet, it gives me an odd feeling because I know that the words have been preserved at the expense of innocent people having lost their lives. It certainly doesn’t seem fair that the words of the killers — each of whom have prison i.d. numbers — are immortalized, while the victims are reduced, in a sense, to little more than numbers.

But that’s the way it is in this instance, so, here you go…here are some more of these ultimate statements. Meanwhile, I think I’ll get to work on my own “final statement.”


“I deserve this.” Charles William Bass, convicted of murdering a Houston city marshal.

“Tell my son I love him very much. God bless everybody. Continue to walk with God. Go Cowboys! Love y’all, man. Ms. Mary, thank you for everything that you’ve done. You, too, Brad, thank you. I can feel it, taste it, not bad. Please.” Jesse Hernandez, convicted of killing an 11-month-old boy with a flashlight.

“Sir, in honor of a true American hero, ‘Let’s roll.’ Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” David Ray Harris, convicted of shooting a man to death after trying to kidnap the man’s girlfriend.

“My death began on August 2, 1991, and continued when I began to see the beautiful and innocent life that I had taken. I am so terribly sorry. I wish I could die more than once to tell you how sorry I am. I have said in interviews if you want to hurt me and choke me, that’s how terrible I felt before this crime.” Karl Eugene Chamberlain, convicted of sexually assaulting and killing a 29-year-old woman.

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Here’s a truism from Newspaper Reading 101….from which I took a “withdrew passing” grade:

If you read the paper with a close eye and an open mind, you will almost always stumble upon something that sticks with you, at least for a day or two.

Reading the paper the last few days — with no agenda and no axe to grind — I have culled the following odds and ends, which struck a chord with me. See if you agree.

:: Headline at the top of Tuesday’s sports page: “The Royals’ joy of six.”

The “joy of six” headline — a play on the 1972 book “The Joy of Sex” — is the most overworked headline in journalism, seen primarily on the sports pages.

The morning after the Chicago Bulls won their sixth NBA championship (1998), the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, MN, used that headline in letters that covered about half of the sports front. I was at the newspaper’s offices at the time for a conference, and even the newspaper’s editor at the time, Walker Lundy, was aghast. “Could you have made the headline any bigger,” Lundy sarcastically asked the sports editor at the morning news meeting.

:: Notable quote: “Somebody once asked me if our officers have a quota they have to meet regarding tickets. And I told them no, they can write as many as they like.”

That from Police Chief John Simmons of Mission, KS, where ticket writing pays for a lot of the city’s bills.

:: Patty, Brooks and I were at the Royals game on Sunday afternoon, when Patty pointed to I-70 and said, “I wonder why the traffic is backed up on the interstate?”

Frame from YouTube video

Frame from YouTube video

The lady is observant — could have been a reporter, but she comes from a line of entrepreneurs (thank God).

In Wednesday’s paper, police reporter Christine Vendel reported the whole thing. A group of about 40 motorcyclists blocked traffic while videotaping each other performing various stunts. One biker was arrested after he crashed into the back of a police car on U.S. 40, while the officer was trying to pull over a truck containing several people who were recording the stunts.

Those bikers rank very high in the “lacking grey cells” category, and some of them undoubtedly are going to lose all their grey cells when they fly out of the saddle.

:: “Wreck leads to fatal shots” — Page A7 headline in Tuesday’s paper

OK, I want to know more about that…Tell me what happened?

A minor wreck in which a moving car struck a parked car occurred Saturday night on Kansas City’s East side. On one of the streets, either College Avenue or 58th Terrace, two large outdoor parties were taking place. The driver of the car that struck the parked car was related to one of the two men who were subsequently shot to death.

Got it. So what happened after the wreck? Well, this quote from Police Capt. Tye Grant says about all we need to know:

“Things went downhill from there.”

:: Those baseball guys love to tag nicknames on each other. The Royals’ first-round draft choice, a 6 foot, 4 inch shortstop named Hunter Dozier, was at Kauffman Stadium for Monday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers and got to meet the Royals players and coaches. 

In the course of the day and evening, somebody tagged him “Bull”…as in Bull Dozier. Now that’s a nickname.

:: Kevin Collison, The Star’s outstanding development reporter, wrote in Tuesday’s Star Business Weekly about the controversial proposal to build a new $1.2 billion terminal at KCI.

As you know, I firmly believe we need a new terminal, if for no other reason than we deserve a lot better than what we’ve got with those three enormous funeral parlors grouped together off I-29.



Amid the hysterical war of words taking place on this issue (see “Letters to the Editor), Collison called for “a clear-eyed, thoughtful discussion about the future of KCI.”

“The answer,” he said, “is probably somewhere between the Aviation Department’s billion-dollar vision and the knee-jerk, populist reaction of the current ‘Save KCI’ petition drive.”

I’m willing to take a deep breath and consider that.

(By the way, because of the issue’s importance and the amount of money involved, hysteria might be the appropriate tone for this conversation…My late father, quoting from some philosopher or wiseacre, used to tell me, “If you can keep your head while everyone around you is losing theirs, you probably don’t understand the issue.”)

:: When a reporter or columnist gets “hot,” he or she often becomes the rage, and you start seeing their stuff everywhere.

And so it is with David Carr, The New York Times media columnist, who has been smoking hot the last few years. He even was the focus of a 2011 documentary movie, “Page One: Inside The New York Times.”

David Carr

David Carr

But no columnist can hit it out of the park every week. Carr’s most recent column, which The Star picked up on Tuesday, was a goofy piece about two Hollywood gossip columnists — Nikki Finke and Sharon Waxman — who have been flailing away at each other on their respective Web sites. (The battle kind of reminds me of my days on active duty in the Army Reserve, when we would go at each other with padded “pugil sticks.”)

Here’s my point: There can’t be more than a couple of hundred people in KC who know or care about the Finke-Waxman face-off. So, why is it in The Star? And, why, even, was it on the front page of Monday’s New York Times business section?

It was in The Times because Carr is Carr, and he can write about whatever he wants, and The Times will run it in his usual spot — on the front page of the Monday business section.

The Star picked it up because…well, a big, fat hole was sitting there on the “Business Forum” page of Tuesday’s business section, and something had to fill it. So, why not the red-hot David Carr?


Editor’s Note: This is my 300th post since starting JimmyCsays in March 2010. It’s been a great run of three years and three months. Thanks for your patronage. I hope to remain “At the juncture of journalism and daily life in Kansas City” for at least 3 1/4 more years. 

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While we wait for the Royals to resume their “win-now” season, there’s a lot of news to distract us.

I’m talking about news that all of us need to know, but which we’re not getting from The Star because it has blinders on to just about anything that isn’t local and isn’t produced by its parent chain, McClatchy Newspapers.

With the gloom and rain this morning, I had plenty of time to read Monday’s New York Times, and I want to call your attention to several interesting stories, none of which you would know about if you were reading The Star.

:: Because Congress is so polarized the Affordable Care Act probably won’t be getting needed amendments. 

The lead story in today’s NYT,  written Jonathan Weisman and Robert Pear, said that virtually no law “as sprawling and consequential” as the Affordable Care Act has passed without changes known as “technical corrections,” aimed at making sweeping laws more manageable. Not so with the Affordable Care Act, Weisman and Pear said.

“Republicans simply want to see the entire law go away and will not take part in adjusting it,” the reporters wrote. “Democrats are petrified of reopening a politically charged law that threatens to derail careers as the Republicans once again seize on it before an election year.

“As a result a landmark law that almost everyone agrees has flaws is likely to take effect unchanged.”

:: An aide who has totally gained President Obama’s ear during just the last three years is White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, 42.

Among other things, Obama relies on her for advice on judicial nominations, and she coordinated his response to the Boston Marathon bombings.



An inside-the-A-section story by Jackie Calmes said that Ruemmler helped shape the major speech that Obama gave last Thursday, announcing new limits on the use of armed drones and asserting again that he wanted to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

When Obama went to Boston after the bombings in mid-April, Ruemmler went along at Obama’s request. “She came with us because there was information coming in, and he wanted one filter,” an Obama deputy chief of staff was quoted as saying. “He wanted Kathy.”

:: A dangerously wide gap has formed between the American people and their armed forces.

An Op-Ed piece by Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired Army lieutenant general, and David M. Kennedy, a retired history professor, said that the gap began forming after the government’s decision 40 years ago to drop the draft and go to a professional, all-volunteer force.

“For nearly two generations,” Eikenberry and Kennedy said, “No American has been obligated to join up, and few do. Less than .5 percent of the population serves in the armed forces, compared with more than 12 percent during World War II.”

The two men contend that “somehow, soldier and citizen must once again be brought to stand side by side.”

They suggest reinstating a draft lottery: “Americans neither need nor want a vast conscript force, but a lottery that populated part of the ranks with draftees would reintroduce the notion of service as civic obligation.”

:: Houston officials are considering razing the Astrodome, nicknamed the Eighth Wonder of the World after it opened in 1965.

The reason? To provide 1,600 parking spaces for the 2017 Super Bowl, to which Houston recently won the rights.

Jere Longman, a native of southern Louisiana, wrote a first-person story about the Astrodome and its lasting importance to Houston. Demolishing the Astrodome, he wrote, would be a desecration.

“Demolition would be a failure of civic imagination, a betrayal of Houston’s greatness as a city of swaggering ambition, of dreamers who dispensed with zoning laws and any restraint on possibility.”

Longman said that despite the signs of neglect (it was closed in 2008), the Astrodome “continues to summon a city’s innovative past and futuristic promise.”

“By contrast,” Longman said, “Reliant Stadium next door is a dull football arena, designed with all the imagination of a hangar to park a blimp.”

:: This last one might not qualify as “need-to-know” news, but it sure caught my attention.

Staff member Sam Roberts reported that officials with New York hospitals are expecting an upswing in births in late July and early August — nine months after residents stranded in their homes without electricity. You get the picture, don’t you: People had a lot of time on their hands, and a lot couples reached out, literally, to each other.

One couple that is expecting is 34-year-old Rachel DeGregorio, who has a doctoral degree in neuroscience, and her 33-year-old husband Scott, a radiologist. A baby boy, whom they plan to name Jack, is due July 24.

“I have documented the day Jack was conceived,” Rachel was quoted as saying. “We had sex three times.”

All I can say to that is that for just one day I’d like to be 33 again and have a horny girlfriend during a power outage.


P.S. At this writing, shortly after 11 pm. Monday, I see on kansascity.com that Star sports columnist Sam Mellinger has awakened from his long spring nap.

After virtually ignoring the Royals’ three-week-long, downward spiral, Mellinger tonight posted a column (which will be in the morning’s printed edition), saying, “Someone’s got to go.”

He says, among other things:

“The personalities best equipped for leadership may be (Jeff) Francoeur and (Mike) Moustakas, but each have been bad enough that they’re part of the discussion about what needs to change. Along with those two, hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David, (Manager Ned) Yost and Chris Getz could all be sacrifices in an effort to refocus a group that shouldn’t be nearly this bad. If things don’t improve, it won’t be long before owner David Glass looks at (General Manager Dayton) Moore.”

Sam’s in there with too little too late, but at least he — unlike a lot of the sports radio talk-show hosts — has called for heads to roll.

Best analogy I can think of is that when a machine stops working properly, you change out some of the parts to try to get it running pretty well again. You don’t let it continue to go clunk, clunk, clunk.

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One of the most interesting and talented public officials I covered during my years at The Star was William L. Kimsey, who was Jackson County revenue director for several years in the mid-1970s.

Kimsey was a young, up-and-coming accountant, and I was a young and up-and-coming (well, young, anyway) reporter, assigned to the courthouse from 1971 to 1978.

Kimsey had a lot more ambition and brains than I did. He went on to become chief operating officer at the world-wide accounting firm, Ernst & Young. Meanwhile, I went on to ascend, after 26 years of reporting, to the dizzying position of assignment editor and KCK bureau chief.

Anyway, Kimsey, who well understood the warp and woof of politics and its requisite demands of people whose jobs depended on impressing the voters, had a stock saying whenever bad news broke at the courthouse.

With a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips, he would declare, “I’m shocked and appalled.”

You couldnt’ go wrong, he knew, with “shocked and appalled.” It captured the appropriate reaction when things were falling apart.

With that long lead-in, readers, I’ve got to tell you that I’m absolutely, devastatingly shocked and appalled at two things:

:: The way The Star is (not) handling the spiral of the Kansas City Royals and the imploding presidency of Barack Obama.


First, the Royals. They’ve lost five of their last six games and are a game below .500 and four games out of first-place. Only two players in the lineup are significant threats to opposing pitchers — Alex Gordon and Billy Butler.

It looks like the same old story for the Royals: Sliding backward into Memorial Day and headed for oblivion by July 4. And yet, at The Star, only Royals’ beat writer Bob Dutton seems to realize how dire the situation is.

In his Tuesday morning report on Monday’s game, Dutton wrote: “The Royals, right now, are flat-lining after Monday’s depressing 6-5 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. This makes four straight one-run losses; 10 losses overall in the last 14 games…”

But the beat writer can’t swing the cudgel by himself…He needs the heavy lifters — the columnists — to bring proper urgency and impact to bear.

That’s where The Star’s only current sports columnist comes in. Except that Sam Mellinger, who early on showed signs of carrying a sharp knife, is looking like a very dull blade.

Today’s column, for instance, was a treatise explaining how Kauffman Stadium actually is a hitter’s park instead of a pitcher’s park. His column before that, on Monday, was a feature about a T-Bones bullpen catcher who survived cancer. Nice piece, but it came the day after the Oakland A’s completed a three-game sweep of the Royals.

Couldn’t the T-Bones feature have held a few days? And shouldn’t Mellinger have had his eye on the balls that Royals hitters were swinging at but not hitting?

Maybe sports editor Jeff Rosen has told Mellinger he wants him to be more feature oriented and that the much-heralded, new-columnist hire from St. Louis — Vahe Gregorian — will take up the role of “hard hitter” after he goes to work (can’t be soon enough). If that’s the case, a big audience of frustrated Royals’ fans awaits, and Vaghe, with his vast sportswriting experience at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, could easily leapfrog Mellinger.

If Gregorian comes in timid, however, the Royals could well go slipping down that old familiar tube with little more than a protesting whimper from 18th and Grand.


I doubt that this has ever happened before: liberal columnist Maureen Dowd and conservative columnist George Will writing about the same subject and taking the same line of attack, on the same day.

That’s the case, though, on the Op-Ed page of today’s Star.

The headline on Will’s column is “Obama’s Incredibly Shrinking Presidency.”

The headline on Dowd’s is “From One-Time Messiah to Sad Sack.”



Will wrote about Obama’s “trifecta” of scandals — Benghazi, the IRS and the seizure of Associated Press phone records. Another situation threatening to join the scandal ranks, he suggested, is “Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius soliciting, from corporations in industries HHS regulates, funds…to educate Americans about…Obamacare.”

(It takes a lot of ellipses to quote Will because he writes kind of like a buzzard — circling, circling, before arriving at his destination.)

As usual, though, Will compromises his credibility by baring one of his wacky ideas. Today, it’s the mirage, in his opinion, of global warming. Will contends that global-warming believers have no way of accounting for an “inexplicable 16-year pause” in its effects. What a scientist, that guy…

Dowd takes a different tack. She says that as a candidate, Obama “was romanticized as the pristine relief from Clinton scandals.” But as president, she adds, Obama’s “pure personal life did not exempt him from running a government awash in old-school screw-ups.”



She contrasts Obama’s dilemma with past scandals that enveloped Bill and Hillary Clinton.

“The Clintons have emerged stronger on the back end of their scandals,” Dowd wrote. “…Americans have already priced in the imperfections of the Clintons.”

“Who knows?” she said. “If Washington keeps imploding, Hillary may run in 2016 on restoring honor to the White House.”

A wicked line, wouldn’t you agree, from the woman whom President George Bush II dubbed “The Cobra”?

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Back on the slippery slope of newspaper circulation…

Alan D. Mutter, a former editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, said in his blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur, that weekday print circulation (just print, please note) at the top 25* U.S. newspapers has decreased by 41.6 percent since 2005.‬

Mutter, a former editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, called the drop a “troubling plunge.”

Print matters, Mutter went on to say, because it produces as much as 75 percent of revenue at a typical paper. In previous posts, Mutter has reported that between 2005 and 2012, advertising revenue dropped by more than half, from $49.4 billion to $22.3 billion.

By the way, 2005 was the all-time high for newspaper-advertising revenue.



For his circulation comparison, Mutter relied on statistics compiled by the Alliance for Audited Media, an industry-funded trade group formerly known as the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

(A Wikipedia article says the ABC changed its name last year “to reflect the new media environment and its members’ evolving business models.” Its “members” are the newspapers themselves.)

As newspaper “business models” have evolved, so have the rules by which the AAM counts circulation, making it more difficult to track trends.

As Mutter noted: “In addition to paid print newspapers, publishers today can count digital subscriptions and even free products that deliver preprint advertising to the homes of consumers who don’t happen to buy the newspaper.”

In other words, publishers are now jumping on every manner of distribution at their disposal to pump up circulation figures.

For example, the AAM circulation report released this week shows The Star with total average Sunday circulation, including on-line subscriptions, of 280,790. Its print circulation, however, is 242,395. The difference, 38,395, represents about 14 percent of total circulation.

What is going on at newspapers, then, is a high wire act that could go either way. As Mutter said:

“The foremost question facing publishers is whether the traditional print business will remain robust long enough to support a successful pivot to the digital delivery of news, information, advertising and other commercial services.”

A lot of people, especially the critics of “dead-tree media,” are betting that the print business will not remain robust long enough for papers to make the shift. They might well be right. I hope they’re wrong, but either way I’ll muddle along, and I’ll be happy as long as my New York Times hits the driveway every morning.

And I think that’s going to be happening for many years to come.

* The top 25 newspapers, as listed by Mutter in descending order, are: the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, New York Post, Arizona Republic, Newsday, Tampa Bay Times, Houston Chronicle, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Denver Post, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Sun-Times, Newark Star-Ledger, Orange County Register, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Las Vegas Review-Journal, San Diego Union-Tribune and Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

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It’s a big mess here at JimmyCsays this morning.

At midnight, I launched a grandiose post proclaiming a big jump in circulation for The Kansas City Star in a new circulation report.

Problem is I was looking at the wrong set of numbers. In the erroneous post, I said The Star’s circulation was back above 300,000 on Sunday and that average daily circulation was just shy of 200,000.

That would have been a monstrous increase from the 275,784 Sunday circulation and 183,307 daily circulation reported last fall.

As I say, though, I misread the report. The correct numbers for the period that ended March 31 are 280,790 for Sunday and 189,283 daily.

holeThe slight upswing is mildly good news for The Star and its readers but nothing to merit the headline I gave it (KC Star circulation rebounds…Break out the hats and hooters).

I want to extend a big Thank You! to Alex Parker, who operates the MediaKC blog. He wrote about the circulation increase yesterday, and he called the error to my attention a few minutes after midnight. I immediately took it down. That’s why the link in the e-mail message that JimmyC subscribers received early today did not link to a new post.

I sincerely apologize for the error and confusion.


Having dragged you through the muddy tracks that I left earlier, I’m not going to leave you without some news. And, to me, this is very good news…

The specter of a sale of North Kansas City Hospital appears to have gone away, thanks to a new mayor, some new City Council members and aggressive action by state Rep. Jay Swearingen and state Sen. Ryan Silvey.

The Star reported yesterday that the new mayor, Don Stielow, and four newly elected City Council members — all opposed to a sale — had sent a letter to Gov. Jay Nixon saying they support a recently passed bill that would make a sale very difficult.

The bill — which Swearingen and Silvey introduced and which is now awaiting Gov. Jay Nixon’s signature — would allow a sale only if the City Council and the hospital’s board of trustees agreed. And even then, it would take a vote of North Kansas City residents.

On a related issue, The Star’s story, written by business reporter Steve Everly, said Mayor Stielow is also interested in a possible sale of the sprawling, 96,000-square-foot North Kansas City Community Center, which was built with casino revenue but now runs at an annual deficit of about $1 million a year.

(By way of comparison regarding size and scale, the 10-story Argyle Building at 12th and McGee in downtown Kansas City consists of 117,000 square feet.)

Given the city’s compromised financial situation, it seems like selling the community center is the way to go. It’s a great facility, from what I hear, but too big for a city with an annual budget of about $43 million.

Luckily, it appears that the city will keep its crown jewel and eventually sell its bauble.


Thanks for your patronage, readers…And Go (Keep Going) Royals!

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