Hearne: Pitch Story on Fired Star Columnist Rife with Errors

Turnabout is fair play…

While it’s clear former Kansas City Star columnist Steve Penn‘s lawyer was more than a little sloppy in penning a lawsuit on Penn’s behalf against the newspaper, it’s ironic that in blasting Penn for those errors and omissions, the Pitch unleashed a bevy of its own errors while pillorying Penn and his lawsuit.

Case in point, the online correction the Pitch ran:

“(Editor’s note: Mark Zieman was the Star‘s editor, not its publisher, in 2003. Art Brisbane was the publisher at the time; we’ve made this correction in the online version of this story.)”

That wasn’t the local alt weekly’s only error.

In diminishing Penn’s lawsuit, the Pitch states incorrectly that Penn was suing for only $25,000 plus damages, referring to him as scrounging  for “loose change.”

That’s incorrect.

I don’t know how many lawsuits rookie Pitch reporter Matt Pearce has read, but Penn’s lawsuit “prays for judgement” in an amount “no less than $25,000″ plus punitive damages and other additional relief as the court may deem just.

And that’s just the tip of this journalistic legal reporting iceberg.

Because it’s not merely a $25,000 lawsuit, that’s just the standard legal boilerplate required by Missouri courts.

“The Pitch is stupid,” says Kansas City lawyer John Craig. “That’s the standard deal. If your client is paralyzed for life, you don’t sue for $10 billion – they don’t allow you to sue to $10 billion. They only allow you to sue for $25,000. That’s the standard number in Missouri and a lot of states.”

In other words, the monetary stakes in Penn’s lawsuit are far higher.

Another bit of silliness: “So far, the Star is declining to put up its gloves,” Pearce writes.

Trust me, the Star‘s gloves are on and its dukes are up.

There’s no way the company would field any lawsuit – let alone one by a longtime former employee who happens to be a minority, without taking the matter dead seriously.

That the newspaper won’t feed a quote to a former intern in no way diminishes the seriousness of a possible heavily-covered-by-local TV  courtroom drama.

Not with the prospect of Penn putting local African American movers and shakers like Ollie Gates, Emanuel Cleaver and Alvin Brooks on the stand to testify about his body of work in 31 years at the paper.

And certainly not with Star editors likely being called to the stand to defend not firing black reporter Glenn Rice for the far more egregious journalistic sin of ripping off passages from another writer’s entertainment review and submitting them as his own.

Nope, the dukes are up dude. Trust me.

One interesting omission: the Pitch quotes me on Penn’s firing from my writing on KC Confidential without attributing my words to this website. In fact, it’s the longest attributed quote in Pearce’s piece.

Yet unlike every other named individual in the story that was quoted, the Pitch left out that my words were appropriated from KC Confidential. Which is pretty petty for a struggling alt weekly that tries to pass as a credible news organization.

What the Pitch didn’t leave out: That I was “a perpetually-aggrieved media hanger-on.”

Nice.

There are two things the Star and Pitch have in common.

They can dish it out, but when it comes to criticism coming their way, they totally can’t take it.

Steve Penn declined to comment for this story.

 

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10 Responses to Hearne: Pitch Story on Fired Star Columnist Rife with Errors

  1. Jayson Blair says:

    The appointment of Steve Penn as a metro columnist was a cynical move by Star hierarchy to have an African American columnist who they knew would not be controversial because they knew he was incapable of generating decent prose, let alone having cogent opinions on matters of the day. After a career of barely escaping being fired several times and subsisting on fringe, low-impact assignments, all of a sudden they give him the most plum assignment on the metro desk. When a new regime took over and quickly determined that he was awful at his job, they decided to take action. It was easy to find the goods to nail him because he had been doing pretty much the same thing for 25-plus years. From Penn’s perspective, the lawsuit is a honest query: “Why is my work now considered unacceptable and wrong when you guys never took any steps all these years?”

  2. chuck says:

    @Jayson Blair

    Hey! You stole that comment from Andre Williams on the Pitch website!!

    The appointment of Steve Penn as a metro columnist was a cynical move by Star hierarchy to have an African American columnist who they knew would not be controversial because they knew he was incapable of generating decent prose, let alone having cogent opinions on matters of the day. After a career of barely escaping being fired several times and subsisting on fringe, low-impact assignments, all of a sudden they give him the most plum assignment on the metro desk. When a new regime took over and quickly determined that he was awful at his job, they decided to take action. It was easy to find the goods to nail him because he had been doing pretty much the same thing for 25-plus years. From Penn’s perspective, the lawsuit is a honest query: “Why is my work now considered unacceptable and wrong when you guys never took any steps all these years?”

    report8 likes, 0 dislikes like dislike
    Posted by Andre Williams on 07/18/2012 at 5:41 PM

  3. chuck says:

    @Jayson

    You took that comment from the comment section in the Pitch article.

    Get a job!

  4. smartman says:

    Nice to see the race card being played. I realize the Star is no brain trust but certainly HR and Legal reviewed his firing thoroughly knowing that legal action might be taken.

    Penn was painful to read. If he were any more of a token hire he’d fit in a slot at Dave and Buster’s. Amazing with all the BIG AA names being tossed about that might testify on his behalf that those same individuals can’t move and shake a job for him. Hey Steve….try “Hi may I help you!”.

  5. tiad says:

    And let’s not forget that comment I briefly saw somewhere out on the Pitch blog (or somewhere else on the Tweeter-nets) that Penn may have been allegedly found “hanging from the rafters” in the basement of his lawyer’s building.

    HC: Actually I spoke to him at length yesterday and he seemed just fine

    • smartman says:

      He was probably getting his swerve on with some auto erotic asphyxiation. Lots of people do AEA at their lawyers office.

      • Craig Glazer says:

        I have known Steve for more than 15 years, one thing I can say about Penn is he is a very nice person. As we all know they were firing most of the higher dollar reporters at that time, including Hearne, Flanigan, Whitlock, and many more…Steve was caught up in all that…so they could have just let him go, and not been so mean spirited about the deal. The man worked there 30 years, I would think he was a loyal employee.

        • gerald bostock says:

          Put him on the witness list!

        • smartman says:

          I don’t think Flanigan was a high dollar guy. Maybe $50K to $70K. Most likely the lower number. Like Penn, his writing was juvenile and suffered from any unique POV. No surprise either have been able to find work as writers, journalists, columnists. There are complete idiots self publishing and knocking down $100K a year.

          HC: In fairness to everybody, it’s not like there are a lot of print journalism jobs around these days. Brian McTavish was an excellent writer and he’s selling comic books part time. It’s a jungle out here.

          The Star had around 2,000-plus employees in 2003/2004 and is down to around 700 today.

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