Star Search: News Beat Patrol, Cheerleading Royals & Distorting Sporting

I’ll make this brief because , as many of you know, I’m bullish on Sam Mellinger

And I know that being a columnist with a finite beat like sports is a mixed blessing. On one hand it’s a somewhat sexy subject, a lot of people follow the local teams and and you can say almost anything you want because they’re public figures. On the other, you’re stuck writing about the Royals for six months.

One of the things that used to piss off some people at the Star – not everyone mind you – was when I broke news or dropped in my two cents about somebody or something on somebody else’s quote/unquote beat.

Tony Rizzo are your ears burning?

Here’s why. Because the way the newspaper is set up, it generally assigns a reporter to cover a certain subject or "beat." So scooping them or even perstering with "their" sources is considered by some as poaching. However, early on former editor Art Brisbane made it clear that for the most part that was a good thing. Because the readers were the winners. Beat writers miss stuff and sometimes don’t write about things because they don’t want to piss off the sources they must return to time and again.

For example, I broke the story of the then controversial Nelson-Atkins shuttlecocks and first black debutantes in the Jewel Ball. And I did so months before the so-called beat reporters had planned to. In the case of the ‘cocks, it resulted in a heavy duty public referendum on their placement and a kickass pissing match between the Nelson’s Marc Wilson and BBQ baron Ollie Gates.

No harm, no foul.

In another poached (if you will) story I set the record straight about beloved businessman Ray LaMar not merely setting sail into retirement for his few remaining golden years. Rather that he got closed down by Kansas City’s health department after more than a decade of stomach-turning violations of city health codes.

So embarrassed by my disclosures and reporting on LaMar’s was business writer Joyce Smith that ever since she’s scheduled regular pilgrimages to both Kansas and Missouri side health departments to report on restaurant violations. Guess who the winners were here? Star readers and the general public.

Joyce wasn’t about to be caught with her, uh, pants down again. In a front page story, no less.

Fun fact: So grotesque were some of LaMar’s violations my editor pruned them from my story. Something about not creating a disturbance at the breakfast table.

So today I come to you – hat not in hand – to make a suggestion to my pal Sam (not sure we ever met, actually) and the sports department.

Lighten up on the hyperbole.

In the midst of a decades-long losing streak by the Royals, it cannot possibly ring true that a cat from Gardner, Kansas named Bubba Starling "can change baseball in Kansas City forever."

Still that was Sam’s lede.

Even if that does eventually come to pass – unlikely as it seems – Royals fans have been jerked off far too many times for far too many years to swallow  a line like that in today’s paper. As Joe Posnanski might have said, "Get me re-write!"

Next the headline-writing copy editor did Sam a further disservice in his page 2 column, "Despite Losses, Royals Future Is Still Bright."

Timing, wild man, timing.

We’ve read far too many headlines and columns pointing to the Royals promising future.

If drumbeats are the order of the day, Royals fans deserve to be served up a diet of "Get Rid of Glass" columns and headlines.

In my humble opinion.

Advice No. 3 advice, dearest Sam, has to do with the ridiculous hyperbole in Sunday’s sports section about Sporting Kansas City’s new stadium and its opening game this week against the Chicago Fire.

"The most important game in the history of Kansas City’s Major League Soccer franchise is less than 100 hours away…" Sam wrote.


The team is in the toilet and unless this begins a run to the MLS Cup and a second championship for the franchise, it’s little more than a curiosity call for the civic-minded types to come check out SKC’s cool, new digs.

Clearly Sam is not much of a soccer fan.

He seldom (if ever) writes about the play of the team (as sportswriters generally do). I can’t recall Sam calling out a single SKC player for poor play or critiquing the team’s on pitch strategy.

Sam doesn’t follow the team. He doesn’t have the faintest idea where to begin, so why pretend?

The most important game in SKC’s16 year history? Simple.

You don’t even have to know the difference between a corner kick and a goal kick. It was the Wizards thrilling MLS Cup Championship in 2000 in Washington D.C.

SKC’s new stadium? Huge deal. Thursday’s game against the Fire? Eh! Don’t bullshit us please, Sam.

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10 Responses to Star Search: News Beat Patrol, Cheerleading Royals & Distorting Sporting

  1. xxMillerTimexx says:

    Wow Hearn!
    Not a bad piece! Not smug at all, I am impressed.

    BTW it is not Sam Mellinger’s fault everyone around him either quit to greener pastures or was fired. He is kind of the voice of the sports section and he needs to make waves.

  2. Hearne Christopher says:

    I think he’s doing an excellent job. Just had a hard time choking down the Royals hyperbole and the schtick about Thursday’s meaningless game between Sporting and the Fire being the most important in team history.

  3. xxMillerTimexx says:

    I agree
    Reply From: Hearne Christopher
    01:24:38 PM – Tue. Jun 7. 2011

    I think he’s doing an excellent job. Just had a hard time choking down the Royals hyperbole and the schtick about Thursday’s meaningless game between Sporting and the Fire being the most important in team history.

    But, this is the dead space between the high of the start of the Royals season/Chiefs draft picks and the start of Preseason football. Around here what else could generate a buzz but overstated hyperbole.

  4. smartman says:

    Sam is Wright, Nick Wright
    I had high hopes for Sam, seems you still do.

    Sam seems far too eager to please those that he covers more than those he works for….the readers.

    I had hope he would be a hybrid blend of Whitlock and Jopo. He’s more like their aborted fetus.

    To your well made points the last two articles about SKC and Bubber Starling are ridiculous. I have to assume that’s not only a reflection on Sam but also his editor.
    He got one thing right in the SKC article right up front. SKC Stinks!

  5. Hearne Christopher says:

    True to an extent; you’ve gotta at least try and make chicken soup outta chicken…

    Then again, that’s the challenge for a columnist. There’s a way to characterize how huge Sporting’s new stadium is without saying something essentially dumb about Thursday’s game being the team’s most important game in its 16 year history.

    Sam was out front on the potential fiasco of tying in with Lance Armstrong, and I know how the Star tends to work. They don’t want to jam a thumb into the team’s eye right before it opens. And he did go on to talk about how poorly the team is doing.

    How could he not? Duh!

  6. Hearne Christopher says:

    Agreed. On your last couple points. Editors do try and control even columnists.

    Although to her credit, my editor in FYI rarely tried to pressure me into writing something she thought was cool or interesting. She made suggestions from time to time. Also to her credit, she did rein me in at times and help try and keep me out of trouble here and there (me? yes, me)

    But Sam is young, still pretty new and not all editors are as hands off. As a columnist the inspiration is supposed to flow from him, not his editor.

    I don’t know the new guy however, so I can’t speak to that.

  7. Gerald Bostock says:

    easy, fellas
    Clearly, one cannot be optimistic about anything involving the Royals or Hearne and Glazer will strike the offender down as naive apologists for all that is cupcaky in KC. Here’s the deal about baseball draft picks: They are a crapshoot. You might find Albert Pujols in the zillionth round, or you might pick Colt Grffin in the 1st round. That being said, certainly one time when it’s okay to be enthusiastic about a pick’s potential is the night he is drafted. We all understand the potential may not become reality, but for one Monday night in June, it’s okay to dream a little. Plus, the fact that he is a local kid makes those dreams even more enticing. Having a bona fide hometown star, as Joe Mauer is in Minnesota, would have a huge impact on the Royals.

  8. smartman says:

    If Sam really wanted to have a great take on Bubber the point of view could have been Bubber tells the Royals to piss up a rope and that since he’s been old emough to realize who they were they’ve sucked and he wants to play for a WINNER!

    If Bubber would come out and say that he could have more impact on sports in Kansas City then anyone has ever had without even stepping on the field.

    A recent high school grad with wicked skills, allegedly, tells the local MLB team they’re not good enough for HIM.

    I could see Whitlock writing an article like that where he takes Bubber to meet Dr. BA Homer to discuss his options.

    The Star desperately needs an antagonist in the sports section.

  9. Hearne Christopher says:


  10. Hearne Christopher says:

    Agreed, again

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