Today: Hendricks Out as Star Does Away With ‘Local’ Section Columnists


It’s not easy dying a thousand deaths, sleeping off the killer summer cold Jack Poessiger just gave me…

Over a lunch date with zero spit swapped, no less. But, as I inch back to life, and read today’s Kansas City Star like thousands of you, I learn that columnist Mike Hendricks is o-u-t and a new wave of "local’ section columnists are on their way. Oh joy.

But wait, are they really? Let’s take a look.

The moves signal the end of a very long, unstoried era. Shortly before I came to the Star, the newspaper fielded a lineup of Art Brisbane, Jim Fisher and Charles Gusewelle. Brisbane transversed the town laying down pithy columns about the people, places and things that were Kansas City at the time. Describing publisher Tom Leathers as "a Johnson County pundit who weekly squires his readers into a snake pit of stunning personalities and typographical errors"

And blowing the lid off of a controversial decision by Overland Park "that citadel of good taste and expert city planning" to not just welcome the area’s first Hooters at 106th and Metcalf, but to change the center’s name from the Overland Station Shops to the Hooters Plaza.

"It’s true, and Mike Burdick, one of Hooters’ owners, is pretty proud of it," Brisbane wrote. "Troy LaPorte, who owns the Chartroose Caboose restaurant inside Hooters Plaza, was less thrilled.

" ‘We heard at first it was going to be called Hooterville,’ he said. ‘We were really worried then.’

"The same taste-conscious city that wouldn’t let White Castle open a restaurant without toning down its shiny white exterior?" Brisbane continued. "The city that won’t allow Dick Clark to put a big guitar on top of his American Bandstand Grill because it wouldn’t be, sniff, suitable? The city that is having qualms about Price Chopper putting up a large, bright red sign?

"The very same burg. In Overland Park, it seems, a big guitar is tasteless but a shopping center named after female body parts is no problem."

Quality stuff, right?

Meanwhile, Fisher and Gusewelle were essentially the Geezer Squad. Gueswelle wrote stories about hunting dogs, cats, caring for his lawn and his wife, and the odd, dated outlook on life and current events. Fisher combed outlying areas in faded jeans celebrating the nuances of small town life, midwestern history and farmabilia. That’s how I recall his writing, anyway.

They gave me Fisher’s desk when I started, so I had the pleasure of cleaning it out and boxing it up for him. Not sure how often he actually stopped by the newspaper, but this was in the pre email era, so who knows how he filed his columns as he roamed the region. Carrier pigeon, maybe.

Brisbane was named editor and a gent named George Gurley joined Gusewelle and Fisher in the Metro section.

From that time forward, the Local or Metro columnists have remained the Achillles Heels of the Star.

Somewhat surprisingly.

Stepping down today, columnist Mike Hendricks did some excellent reporting and writing leading up to his appointment. But he never took his column anywhere near the level of Brisbane’s writing and reporting. Remember, I told you a couple years into it, Hendricks called me one night to cry on my shoulder about being put on column probabtion.

Steve Penn‘s firing I recently covered. Nothing more need be said there.

Mary Sanchez is another matter. On any given day, I, like probably most Star readers, allot little more than a cursory glance to her columns. She’s shown some signs of writing about somewhat interesting topics of late. A local, hijab-wearing Muslim jogger, the demise of the Post Office. Unlike Penn, Mary can write, but her choice of topics tends to be too scholarly and boring. However, I know Mary totally likes to party. So why not get out a bit more and cover the pop culture beat like Brisbane did?

When Art became editor in the ’90s, columnist after unsuccessful columnist came and went in the Metro section. Gurley, Jennifer Howe, Betty Cuniberti, Barb Shelly, Chris Lester, Miriam Pepper. One by one they either fled, were dispatched or promoted to positions that didn’t require them attract and entertain large volumes of readers.

Which brings us to today…

And the headline, "New Voices On Local News," announcing that no less than seven new columnists will effectively replace Hendricks and Penn.

If that sounds dramatic, trust me, it isn’t.

Gueswelle, Sanchez and politico Steve Kraske remain in place on Sunday, Monday and Thursday and Saturday.

The Magnificent Seven will takes turns writing on Wednesdays and Fridays in some manner or another.

Which at first blush, seems more than a little weird. Actually, it looks like a cost cutting measure. Because all seven currently cover reporting beats and will apparently alternate column writing in their areas of expertise.

James Hart, the Star‘s Crime Scene KC blogger will alternate on Wednesdays with health reporter Alan Bavley, education writer Mara Williams and Joe Robertson. And reporters Christine Vendel, Mark Morris and Glenn Rice will take turns writing "public safety news" on Fridays.

How dull does that sound? Oh well, cross your fingers.

In short, what may have amounted to $150,000 in columnist paychecks appears to have been reduced to zero. Unfortunately, while making it painfully clear that they are not being replaced with other actual columnists.

Go figure…

This entry was posted in Hearne_Christopher and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Today: Hendricks Out as Star Does Away With ‘Local’ Section Columnists

  1. Diego Tarwater says:

    facts hazy again
    Gurley was a columnist since 84–he did not replace Brisbane when Brisbane became publisher. Brisbane returned to the Star in 90, trying to rekindle the magic he had in the early 80s as a KC Times columnist before he went to the Washington Post and labored unimpressively in obscurity as a midlevel editor. His return as a columnist was a disappointment–mostly going through the motions and hoping people didn’t notice the lack of quality and energy compared with his first KC go-round. Then, deus ex machina,–Bob Woodworth, impressed with Brisbane’s Harvard elitist stripes and unwilling to put either Zeeck or Dodd in charge of the paper, put the totally unqualified Brisbane in the editor’s job. This led to ill-considered hirings and promotions like Christopher, Zieman, Miriam Pepper and Randy Smith and the inexorable decline of what was already a mediocre publication.

  2. xxMillerTimexx says:

    What does
    “A local hijab wearing Muslim jogger,”



    Merriam Pepper is what people in Merriam put on their salads.

    Miriam Pepper is editorial page editor of The Star.


  4. Craig Glazer says:

    Sad, Its Getting Close To The End For Star
    Yep Hearne its closing in, next no Saturday paper, than Tues will be gone, and in five years no paper. Boy never thought we’d live to see that, it hurts.

  5. smartman says:

    Let Us Prey
    To borrow from another popular website, “What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”. That should excuse the clumsiness in a broad brush stroke.

    To the matter at hand. So basically what has happened is that Mr. Whipple has been told that he can no longer squeeze the Charmin but the rest of us can still wipe our asses with it.

    Seems reasonable as long as I can still pick up my mail daily from Mr. Drucker.

  6. newbaum turk says:

    How much does E. Thomas McClanahan make? I will write for half of his salary. My columns will say exactly what his do but more succinct. Every column will say, “Whatever any Republican says or does is the greatest thing ever. Whatever any Democrat does is the dumbest thing ever.”

  7. Hearne Christopher says:

    Talk about hazy…
    Gurley did like books in FYI as I recall. Didn’t say he replaced Brisbane as a columnist when Art became publisher – that would be dumb. Brisbane dropped column writing when he became EDITOR in like April of 1991. I came on board that summer. And Gurley continued on until…

    You may count me in your ill-conceived crowd, but I came in for lo dough, was highly read and ended up highly paid. You forgot to mention Whitlock and Posnanski also.

  8. Hearne Christopher says:

    Try hijab-wearing, Muslim jogger

  9. Hearne Christopher says:

    So sensitive. Hey, I’m majorly sick and on meds. Wanna talk about her column writing abilities? Thought so. Nice person though.

  10. Hearne Christopher says:

    Go ahead and list me as a reference if you want

  11. bschloz says:

    Merriam Pepper….
    is what people in Merriam put on their salads.
    I have to admit that is funny— Hearne should of left it.

    Also another great name for a Rock Band or Mexican Restaurant

  12. smartman says:

    Ombudsman Health Advice
    Summer cold is a sign of a weakened immune system. Maybe too much stress? Big pharma synthetic meds will only further compromise your body’s ability to heal itself. Cold is a virus so pharma meds don’t REALLY work. Get some Olive Leaf Extract and Oil of Oregano at Whole Foods. They are both strong anti-virals. Also at Whole Foods a product called Kick-Ass Immune Activator.

    Not available in stores but google “Immutol” and buy some online. It is a very effective immune system rebuilder/enhancer. Also a product on amazon called Gene Eden.

    Finally, go to Check out the site. Go see him for an evaluation. What he does is remarkable especially if you understand how the Central Nervous System effects overall health and well being.

  13. Hearne Christopher says:

    Hey, I left it down here. Wouldn’t want that dude blowing a complete gasket

  14. Hearne Christopher says:

    Trader Joe’s is closer….?

  15. Hearne Christopher says:

    It’s also a sign of having a two-hour lunch with Jack, in which he forgot to mention until afterwards thathe felt like you-know-what

  16. mark smith says:

    like stink on a dog
    totally off topic here, but I figured you would have been all over the Sly James son at the PnL and acting a douche. Right up your alley. Sic em!

  17. Tracy says:

    OK, Smartman–tell Hearne where to PUT those oils
    Get some Olive Leaf Extract and Oil of Oregano at Whole Foods. They are both strong anti-virals. …
    DOES he dip his parts in it? Dab it behind his ears and knees? Rub it on his manly chest like the pioneers did with certain preparations? Massage his feet with it? What exactly?

    These sound great, actually. And of course, I told him what you did at the beginning, the body sends us shorthand messages. A cold always means, “take care of ME, get more rest, quit doing too much.”
    So it’s baloney that he caught anything from Jack Poessiger.
    And hysterical that he would not be able to tell from Jack’s Henry Kissinger style accent that he did not fee well.

  18. chuck says:

    Jesus Christ Hearne
    Just hammer some more whiskey.

    You’ll be fine.

  19. Hearne Christopher says:

    I was all over the sheets and TV remote, dude. Sorry to disappoint.

    Then again, there’s always the story behind the story. Just now mounting my lame comeback.

  20. Hearne Christopher says:

    Uh, I hammed a can of Wolfgang Puck soup yesterday evening before I hammered something else. Think I’ll pass, but thanks for thinking of me.

  21. Earl says:

    Back to Mike
    The real Hendricksesque question is this: Just a few months back, Mike wrote a his most recent column about how little he or any of his suburban neighbors care about KCMO politics. Now he’s covering it? I can’t wait to see City Hall reporting from a guy who has bragged on more than one occasion about how he never even travels into KCMO and writes from his house in Lenexa. Next issue, Newbaum – how is E. Thomas any different from Yael, Barb, Mary, or Lewis, each of whom are 100% in the tank for the Dems? All Republicans are evil, all Democrats are wonderful. Choose your poison. Lastly Hearne, I think you did forget the one time Old CW departed from the huntin’ dawg topics to call all of us who voted against Ike Skelton racists. I’ll take the usual if those are my choices.

  22. Hearne Christopher says:

    Not that I hate to admit it, but I seldom glance at – let alone read Gusewell. Don’t mean that as a putdown. I mean, I don’t shop in the air freshener section of the grocery store either.

    However I do recognize that lots of folks – generally older and calmer than me – find Gusewell quite charmed. I kinda recall getting a little teary ready that Rufus column a million years back. Who doesn’t like a good my-dog-just-died yarn?

Comments are closed.