You know what they say about furry critters and sinking ships…
So it was last week that Johnson County Sun squire Steve Rose penned his final column as the lone journalistic survivor of the newspaper’s founding family.
After decades at or near the helm of Kansas City’s most affluent suburb’s largest media outlet, Rose announced that his repurchase of one of the company’s publications – most likely the weekly Jewish Chronicle and or other non Sun pubs – had "allowed the current owners to cancel my column."
Let’s take a look between those thin lines.
For starters, precious little journalistically remains of the once mighty suburban weekly.
It’s not like the Sun was ever loaded to the gills with must-have news content. But in its hey day it ran circles around the Star in orange barrel news coverage and what passes for news suburbanites could use. Still for the vast majority of Kansas Citians residing in the wilds of Johnson County it was far from indespensible.
Pitch restaurant authority Charles Ferruzza honed his foodie and gossip skills there. And high school sports were well-covered in the days prior to the Star‘s epiphanous recognition of the values therein. And of course, it was a prominant podium to pitch advertisers during better financial times.
Mostly though for many – me included – it was a place to discover what was on Rose’s mind.
Which came to increasingly matter over time.
But know this:
The king may be dead but he’s planning on living large.
While Rose’ farewell address went out of its way to give the appearance there would be no conflict of interest or overlap with the Sun – "my acquisition has nothing to do with The Sun Newspapers and very little to do with Johnson County," he wrote – it’s abundantly clear that it will.
"Johnson County still has so far to go," Rose column concludes. "And despite leaving this column, I am determined to be a part of that future."
To that end Rose’s lips are sealed. Could a new publication be in the works, an increased presence in the electronic media, as in radio and/or television? Rose declined to comment but clearly there’s something in the air.
So the Sun loses the overhead of what may be a six-figure paycheck (and more), picks up a bit of pocket change via the fire sale of one or more of its pubs, but also drops pretty much what remains of its all-but-vanished news cache.
Which brings us to what remains of what Rose sold for beaucoup bucks in 1998…
Answer: Not much.
Rose hired me to write a column there two years ago after I took a bullet at the Star with dozens of other newsies. That lasted about 10 months before dwindling finances prompted the Sun to lay me off, shutter other of its weeklies and move from its somewhat prestigious first floor office space on College Boulevard into a basement space half the size.
Then in August Rose penned a terse letter advising readers that unless they coughed up 20 to 25 bucks for subscriptions to what was left of the up until then free Sun, the paper would cease delivery effective with the Oct. 6, 2010 issue.
The $64 million question: How much longer will the family-owned News-Press & Gazette continue to publish the likely money losing Sun and its sister publications?
To invest good money after bad and to possibly go head-to-head with Rose, sans his flagship front page column.
"And what about those schmucks that paid their $25 if they they shut it down?" asks former Shawnee councilwoman Tracy Thomas. "And what’s the point of reading it now? There’s no you and there’s no Steve Rose."