These kinds of stories are never easy to tell…
However as working members of the local media there’s little doubt that people such as Kansas City Star television and radio critic Aaron Barnhart live in glass houses. Remember KSHB weather wonk Gary Lezak‘s bout with the Big C several years back?
So it is that Barnhart’s unexplained absence since late last year has been the cause of much wonder and speculation by both readers and co-workers.
With the speculation centering unfortunately on Barnhart’s past history with cancer.
"It’s unfortunate, but apparently it’s his wish that nobody knows about it," says one Star staffer. "So unfortunately, maybe we’ll remain in the dark until we read his obituary or something, but I was told those were his wishes to HR."
Attempts to contact Barnhart via messages to his mostly dormant Facebook page went unanswered.
"I feel sorry for Aaron," says another former colleague. "I mean, if you’re not working, that’s not a good sign. I hope he’s okay."
For now the newspaper is still listing Barnhart as its telelvision writer on its website. However copy editor Sara Smith appears to be the one filling in for Barnhart on locally-written television stories with the heavier lifting falling to syndicated writers outside the newspaper.
That said, the Star‘s "Television" page still features extensive information about Barnhart, inviting readers to "get updates from Aaron" and claiming that "more than 7,000 readers are following Aaron right now."
However Barnhart’s Facebook and Twitter pages have been silent since January, and outside of a Don Harman suicide story December 1st, a minor news item the next day and a television year in review Christmas Day story Barnhart has been MIA at 18th and Grand.
It gets murkier.
"Why did tvbarn.com go away? no weekly newsletter either," reads one unanswered Facebook query to Barnhart in late June.
"Just a note from an old friend wishing you good health and my warmest regards, and hoping you’ll be up and about and writing soon," reads another posted in April.
Barnhart’s wife did post a pic of the couple recently with no explanation, including when it may have been taken.
"Nice to see you back," one commenter wrote. "Great picture," added another.
Seven months absence is a long time though and the Star is not known for dishing out paychecks for prolonged periods of ill health.
So people are wondering what’s going on and hoping for good news but, "Probably he’s pretty sick," adds another staffer.