Give it up for fallen Kansas City Star columnist Mike Hendricks…
But first let’s get real. Odds are Hendricks would like nothing more than to poke one of my eyes. Or, in a kinder, gentler mood, cut out my journalistic tongue. Since leaving the newspaper nearly three years ago I (reluctantly at first) embarked on a course of citiquing it as I do other local media.
And frankly, there was no easier target than Mad Mike.
His columns – with some exception – were a paragon of mediocrity. While they shone brightly next to those of also ousted columnist Steve Penn and Mary Sanchez, column writing just wasn’t Hendricks’ thing.
I also remember the lengthy, at times futile search for Star "Metro" columnists long ago that brought Hendricks to power.
And I recall another Mike Hendricks – the other Mike Hendricks…
"The hills are alive …with the sound of bulldozers Is Mission Hills being built anew – or torn asunder?" its headline read.
"Marble goddesses gaze languidly at the Range Rovers and Jaguars whooshing past on Mission Drive,"it begins. "Sprinklers spritz country club fairways. Tennis balls clap courts of clay. Another serene day in Mission Hills, paradise on the plains – shattered suddenly by a barbarous roar.
"Rrrrrrrrrump! Brick, pine and lath crackle under a bulldozer’s tread. Plaster dust swirls like a demon. Four bedrooms, four baths. Once the residence of a heart surgeon and his wife, the $500,000 home on Overhill Road is pulverized and carted off to the dump like sweepings from the Jewel Ball. A chainsaw snarls from a ridge above the Kansas City Country Club. Hackberry and walnut trees topple into a clearing where a $700,000 home once stood.
"Bugs skitter across a pond forming in what was until recently the basement of yet another posh address.
"Demolition crews thunder down Mission Hills‘ winding lanes like panzers through the Ardennes. They clear expensive split-levels and gracious Colonials from properties valued at three-quarters of a million dollars. Ten in the last year or so. More to come.
"How can they be tearing down Mission Hills?"
Not only was Hendricks’ story dead on and timely, it was wonderfully well-written.
Including gems like his characterization of Mission Hills "as the seat of old money, home to corporate titans, senior law partners and trust-fund loafers." Contrasted with upstart upscale hood Hallbrook as being the " gilded ghetto to the south, where pricey homes sit cheek by jowl on small lots staked with pathetic saplings."
Clearly the dude could write…and report.
That said, Hendricks didn’t much like it when I outted him for (foolishly) trashing his editors at the Star on Facebook after being demoted from three columns a week to two. While taking a one third paycut while losing benefits and a lengthy paid vacation. Nor the time shortly thereafter when he prevailed on said Facebook friends for help find him a high paying, fun job to replace his newly shitty one at the Star.
And of course, he didn’t like it when I wrote about how he became a national PR industry joke for a failed fling at landing a public relations gig in Topeka. An effort punctuated by Hendricks explanation to the lady that would have become his boss that he was better qualified for her position than the she was hiring for underneath her.
See, here’s the deal…
Mostly Hendricks didn’t like what I wrote about him and that I wrote about him, but there was no disputing the facts.
So instead he hung his hat on that I should have called him for a comment. That’s fair. Under many circumstances news subjects must be called for their comment. At other times, when the misdeeds and/or exploits are public knowlege – as in the caseof the H Man’s Facebook rants, job search and PR faux pas – straight humor and criticism are fair game.
In other words, he called me for a technical – the improper use of journalistic etiquette.
However, it wasn’t absolutely necessary that I call him to see if he got the joke.
Any number of Star columnists – including unnamed writers in its editorial division – deliver jests and jabs sans a friendly call to the subject of their scorn.
But I come here not to bury Mike Hendricks, I come here to praise him.
Because, as evidenced by today’s front page story about Indian Springs Shopping Center, Hendricks is back and he’s bad. And that’s good! He also did a nice job of covering the recent Plaza kidz melee and subsequent curfew action.
So kudos to the former columnist who couldn’t shoot straight.
He’s got a full paycheck again – apparently having escaped part time purgatory – and while that paycheck is likely far smaller than the one he was cashing prior to the newspaper’s nosedive the past three years, my bet is Hendricks is plenty glad to have it. Lucky, too after dodging all those foot-in-mouth bullets.
So Mike, please accept this attaboy from me. And in lieu of a man hug, or call to you for comment, allow me to say, good luck and keep up the good work.