I was traveling yesterday and unable to weigh in on the Kansas City Star layoffs first reported here April 11th. Upwards of two dozen staffers were released into the wild, according to publisher Mark Zieman.
Here’s what I was told by insiders.
First and foremost on the hit list was movie critic Robert Butler. Not a big surprise. Butler’s been on death row for more than two years since then Johnson County Sun columnist Steve Rose fingered him in 2008 as journalistically extinct.
Face it, people who like to watch movies for free, write about them and get paid to do so are an increasingly endangered species.
"In-house movie criticism has been deemed expendable by a number of cash-strapped newspaper publishers," the Pitch‘s David Martin chimed in on Butler’s demise.
Funny. When the very media conglomerate that hired Martin purchased the Pitch in 1999, one of its first moves was to jettison the entire cadre of local movie critics (inlcuding Dan Lybarger and Loey Lockerby). So nothing new here.
Veteran Star news reporter Michael Mansur also took a bullet.
Mansur, you may recall, teamed with former Star heavy hitter Jeff Spivak in 2007 to design a light rail system for KC.
Sources say Ink columnist Monica Watrous was among the fallen. As were copy editor Kevin Catalano, photographers Chris Oberholtz and Garvey Scott.
Now a quick flashback…
In 2009 I reported the Star dinged movie critic Butler, theater critic Robert Trussell and art critic Alice Thorson for 25 percent pay cuts and benefit trims. Leaving unscathed music and TV critics Tim Finn and Aaron Barnhart.
Finn said then that ill feelings were expressed by dinged arts siblings to the un-dinged. And now that Butler’s been jettisoned altogether, those choices remain head scratchers.
The $64 million question: Will the Star’s second quarter financials enable it to dodge the next series of quarterly cuts?