Hearne: KC Confidential’s ‘Hunger Games’ Star Story Goes Viral


They say what comes around goes around…

In the case of Tuesday’s breaking news by KC Confidential about the Kansas City Star pitting two reporters – Karen Dillon and Dawn Bormannagainst one another to see which gets to keep her job, the story circulated just about everywhere.

The consensus among readers being that forcing co-workers to decide which one’s career must end is cruel and unusual punishment.

Things started heating up Wednesday after respected media blogger Jim Romenesko picked up on KC Confidential’s story and laid the matter bare for journalists around the world to marvel at.

“Kansas City Star tells two reporters to decide which one gets laid off,” Romenesko’s headline reads.

Romenesko credited KC Confidential, quoting extensively from our story, right down to the addendum about Dillon having broken the Pee Wee Herman porn arrest story (calling it a ‘fun fact’) in 1991.

Gawker‘s Robert Kessler picked up on the Romenesko story and also credited KC Confidential for the scoop, borrowing a pair of metaphors from our story with the headline, “Kansas City Star Editors Issue Sophie’s Choice: You Choose Who’s Laid Off” and “What would Katniss Everdeen do?”

That was just the tip of the news iceberg.

Dozens of journalist and members of the media weighed in with shock and awe comments as to the crassness of the way Star editor Mike Fannin‘s handled the layoffs.

And the Twitterverse went absolutely wild…

“How about getting rid of the boss instead?” tweeted Linda Thomas, a senior features reporter for Seattle radio station KIRO.

“Cold blooded,” tweeted Melissa Wiese, web editor of the Sacramento Business Journal.

“I grew up at the KC Star, so the fact that it’s now the newsroom version of the Hunger Games arena is doubly horrifying,” tweeted Libby Nelson, a reporter for Inside Higher Ed.

“Hope this doesn’t become a trend,” added New York Times weekend sports editor Naila-Jean Meyers.

“Speechless,” tweeted Indianapolis Star sports reporter Mark Ambrogi.

“This is unbelievable,” said Robert Klemko, NFL Reporter for USA Today.

“Staggeringly sick,” tweeted Paul Harris, U.S. Correspondent for the Observer and Guardian America.

“It has come to this?” tweeted Karen Tumulty, the national political correspondent for the Washington Post.

“Weak!!! Can managers even do this?” asked Reuters financial columnist Agnes T. Crane.

“The word “inhumane” comes to mind,” tweeted Dwight Silverman, the Houston Chronicle’s social media manager and tech blogger.

“Nightmare,” tweeted Michelle Cortez, Bloomberg News’ Health Science Reporter.

“This takes empowering your staff to a whole new, and scary, level,” added Mark Katches,  the editorial director of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

“This just seems cruel,” tweeted CNET columnist Ben Parr.

And more to the point…

“This is hugely fucked up,” added Gawker staff writer Max Read.

And on and on they went.

The bottom line being that, “The Star’s editors have managed to combine journalism, cowardice, arrogance, and dereliction of duty into one big toxic lump,” a commenter who goes by Delton Slusher said on Gawker.


 Not to mention this appears to be at least the second time the Star has perpetrated this game.

In January of 2011 copy editor Don Munday is thought by Star staffers to have been similarly pitted against copy editor Mike Garbus, who bought the farm while Munday stayed on.

So yes, these are very sad, strange times for the world of print journalism these days.

The other stories:

Star Unleashes ‘Hunger Games’ on Two Joco Reporters
Experts give thumbs down to Hunger Games scheme
Star Morale at all-time low
The publisher responds.

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52 Responses to Hearne: KC Confidential’s ‘Hunger Games’ Star Story Goes Viral

  1. JoBu says:

    Good Job Hearne. But I think you’re confusing terms.

    Going “viral” is when millions or even thousands of people use your content and it becomes an Internet trend. You broke this story, no doubt, and then everyone else took it and used it to made it their own.

    It was nice that Gawker gave you the nod, well deserved. But there were at least a dozen other sites that picked this up without even mentioning your blog. When something goes “viral” the source content is part of the equation. Think “gangnam style” and not a news story that’s blog fodder.

    Still, that’s really great that a much more popular blog picked up your content and then used it to earn more traffic on their own. That they shared a bit of the spotlight with you is a wonderful gesture. Enjoy it Hearne, you earned it!

    • Viral Vic says:

      Are you joking? This is the exact definition of viral: Something that starts out small and mushrooms through Twitter and Facebook and then other blogs.

      Mi-Ai and Mike do a a great job of embarrassing themselves around the office. It’s really wonderful the rest of the world knows it.

      They wanted everyone to be talking about that great Beef series, but no, instead it’s Knuckleheads-R-Us at 1729 Grand Blvd. It’s been that way and it’s going to stay that way until they get some competent newsroom leadership.

      It probably lifted everybody’s spirits around the newsroom, too: “Hey, we were right! Our managers are idiots, plain and simple!”

      • admin says:

        Hey, there were over 100 Twitter comments as of yesterday alone. Numerous blogs as well as websites ran with the story. Facebook as well.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      This is absolutely and totally what VIRAL means. And anything GANGNAM style…. is as irritating at Pants on the Ground and goes “viral” with the “I Checked My Brain at the Door” crowd.
      Speaking of Gangnam Style, I think it is sad that something this irrelevant GOES viral within a crowd of low information teens who couldn’t even define what gangnam style IS, yet they know every dance step and word to the song. Therein lies the giant disconnect in our world.

      “I LOVE Gangnam Style… I have NO F’ing idea what it MEANS… but I like it because its HIP and since I’M HIP I LIKE IT!!!”

      I’d call what Hearne accompished here viral by any ones standards.
      Well done, Hearne!

      • Reggin Tnuc says:

        Mr. Paul. Gangnam is an area in South Korea, similar to Rodeo Drive….Michigan Avenue….or in local parlance…The Plaza, or even perhaps The Legends, in a nod towards downwardly mobile stratification.

        To have “Gangnam Style” is to be fashionably, if not always culturally, upscale. I believe the word poseur might be apropos.

        • paulwilsonkc says:

          I’m well aware as I’ve been there. Actually, in its proper context, its only a certain District within Seoul.

          I was just stating I bet 1 out of 1,000 kids who know all the words have NO idea what they are talking about.

    • admin says:

      Actually, most of the sites I looked at – and that was most of the sites who covered the story – included the quotes attributed to the source on KC Confidential – so we did get some credit.

  2. Harley says:

    nice job hearne…congrats…one of your articles is used as reference at another
    but what made me happy is that i’m not the only guy with bad spelling
    …look right under the photo of the star in the rack box…
    ah…what is happening to the print media today….can’t even spell journalism right!!!!!

  3. Harley… are you serious? It’s a joke. They frequently run posts about the sorry state of modern journalism under the post heading “journalismism.” It’s a commentary of sorts.

    • Harley says:

      brandon…sorry…not in on all the “inside” jokes of the journalism
      But as a journalism grad from the best j school in the nation i find
      that appalling. Someone should do something about that.
      Gives the rest of us journalists/scribes a bad name. hahaha

    • the dude says:

      Shhh… just let him play nicely by himself like all the other special needs kids do.

      • smartman says:

        Harley’s back working at Iza, Riter & Suxatit this week.

        • Harley says:

          hey smarmyman…hows the hot tube business these
          I can only imagine the filth/disseases that are in your
          home from your handling/reselling those hot tubs.
          Seriously…who ever lives with you has to be
          some type of gross scum bag to allow you to bring those
          filthy feces tubs into the house/garage.
          Who do you live with? an animal?

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            “Gives the rest of us journalists/scribes a bad name.”
            (Fragment, not a complete sentence)

            OK, this was actually funny and I got the joke!!

            Harley, in this instance, is comparing himself in his “us journalists” comment to all the other great J School grads and scribes who have gone before him and left that fine institution to actually…….. write.

            He’s speaking of the other grads that could actually eat a can of alphabet soup and poop a smarter comment with better spelling and grammar than some of the OTHER grads of said J School!

            Kudos to Harley, that was FUNNY!!

            And I love every time you reach back for the saaaaame oooold insults! I’m old, I’m forgetful, so I NEVER tire of reading about Smartman’s disease infected hot tubs, all of us broke dick looser white guys who fell down and can’t get up again, or the fact that Reggin Tnuc’s name is something really, really dirty if you’re a dyslexic! It’s funny all over again, almost every time.

            If you’re short on originality and creativity, repetition can become your beeeest friend!

          • Harley says:

            hey pauly…noone mentioned you…keep to your
            own BS…
            if I want to hear from you i’ll
            ask you…..kabiche???????????????
            stfu!!!!!! your b.s. is way way old!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • harley says:

            pauly…when i expect to get a comment from
            you i will ask you for it.
            till then stfu!!!!

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            Ooooh, you never fail to disappoint. Always SO fresh, always SO new….

          • harley says:

            pauly…there is plenty of facts and figures in my
            posts to reply to and show your intelligence and
            grasp of details.
            Its obvious to me and my readers that some
            people are incapable of responding to
            facts and figures in a realistic way…
            if you want to debate events…sports…politics…
            finances…the economy etc. i would love to
            do that with you…but your lack of information and ability to analize information (as we saw in the election when you predicted a huge
            romney win…yes…you and rove predicted romney win to show how off some people are)…but i refuse to debate ignorant people
            who stalk me on this site.
            my advice is those on here who have no
            brains…keep mouth shut…your ignorance
            is showing.

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            Harely Speak: kabiche?

            kabiche – noun: In North America, the term refers to a small cooking stove heated by charcoal (actually called shichirin in Japanese), or to an iron hot plate (teppan) used in teppanyaki restaurants. (Opps, sorry, thats hibachi)

            kabiche – noun: 1940s slang, from It. capisci? “do you understand?” (Opps, sorry, thats coppish, kabish, capeesh, capiche,

            Oh, who am I kidding? I didnt go to J School, I have NO IDEA what he’s trying to say or spell! (….wheres that can of soup…..?)

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            today is a great day. I’m loving the beach in
            florida. What better place to be on March 29th
            than in florida. Love the sun and sand.

        • harley says:

          is that what you do pauly…go to my comments and
          then go find the definition of the words….most people
          understood what i was saying..
          let me spell it out for you..
          shut the f*ck up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Don B says:

            OK, I just wondered as I think you and your constant, quick witted comments are just brilliant. I thought I may get a negative come back from that, but you are funny and as fast on your feet as ever.

            I dont know how you take the mindless rants of Harley and keep your cool. He is truely a mind numbed, self absorbed piece of poo. I admire all of you who seemingly just brush him off like a little irritating piece of dust.

            Some of my best times are spent reading his stupid comments then watching the more intellectual of this group simply slap him senseless.

            Good work, Mr. Wilson, count me among your biggest fans. You keep me coming back for more.

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            Oh, come on, Harley, its just all fun and games, remember? Thats what YOU say!

            Start acting nice, capiche? (thats the word you were looking for earlier….)

            Im just here to help you with the hard parts… oh, and 3rd grade vocab

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            what bat? what are you talking about?

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            “Don B says:
            December 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm
            hey old boy…you’re getting don b and pauly
            mixed up!!!!!!!!!!!!”

            Hey Don B? You’re getting yourself, Stan Goldberg, Harley, JoJo, Asshat and your 27 OTHER personalities mixed up, again. And you say MY stuff is old???

            YOU’VE BEEN PUNKED!! You cant win and you know it. I’m too smart for the Harlinator. Thats why you’re an inch from being outted if you dont mind your P’s and Q’s.

            Now, lets see you straighten up and fly right, hibachi?

        • Don B says:

          Seriously Mr. Wilson. What is your problem? Jealous?

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            Yes, Don, Im sorry. Its a case of horrible, horrible jealousy and I’m sorry. I feel really bad now.

          • Don B says:

            Thank you Don, I am honored. I now count YOU TOO among my fans, readers and dis3ples.

          • Paul D Wilson says:

            Any time, Paul

          • Don B says:

            hey old boy…you’re getting don b and pauly
            mixed up!!!!!!!!!!!!
            dementia….alzheimers….senior moments…
            whatever you call it get some help quickly!!!!
            hahahaha……where’s the bat??????????

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            HAHAHAHA! Sorry, you were PUNKED once again! You can’t beat me, I hold ALL the cards now!
            Don B? You are getting Harley, JoJo, Stan Greenberg et al confused with all your other personalities. Take it sloooow….. let them speak, one at a time. There’s no rush, we have all the time in the world!!

  4. Rick Nichols says:

    And just for the record, the rest of the gray-haired men (i.e., those who hadn’t commented online in response to your original story) who sit around the long wooden table, drink in hand, on Wednesday afternoon and reminisce about their days as “ink-stained wretches” also look upon The Star’s approach to the Dillon-Bormann situation with great disfavor.

  5. mike says:

    If the manager can’t make a decision and is forcing it on Borman, fire the manager and promote Borman to the position. A manager refusing to make a personel decision would be like a reporter refusing to write.

  6. Mark X says:

    Kudos, Hearne.

    The Star richly deserves all the negative publicity they receive …

  7. Proud to be gone says:

    Top ten other things Star newsroom employees can duel over

    10. Urinals

    9. There will be one cup of coffee available every morning. Good luck.

    8. A time with the company nurse to get a hearing test, which….oh, wait, that was eliminated.

    7. Five minutes with a cleaning person….oh, wait, they were laid off too.

    6. A trash can at your desk….oh, wait. You can’t have a trash can at your desk.

    5. A parking space…oh, wait. THERE ARE LOTS OF THOSE.

    4. Lunch in the cafeteria upstairs….oh, wait. They got rid of that, too. Replaced with self-serve vending.

    3. All the leftover quilt books and Jason Whitlock bobbleheads.

    2. All the Mike Fannin bobbleheads. Touch it and (insert your own joke here)

    1. Their jobs! Next year!

  8. mark smith says:

    You got a couple mentions and hyperlink on fox news website too. Granted they don’t have pulitzer caliber journalists like Harley terkel. Heh heh.
    Nice get, and its got to taste sweet.

    • paulwilsonkc says:


      • paulkc says:

        no wait…++-+=++++++///////////////?????? 113

        • paulwilsonkc says:

          OH HARLEY!!! Im busting a GUT here! You are SO FUNNY! Craig is missing it big time here not having you headline! OMG I can’t take it any more!!

          I’ll shut up now… so you can carry on. Not since Dane Cook has anyone been THIS funny! Thanks again for proving my point. I couldnt do this alone, but when YOU step in, allllllllllll the heavy lifting is taken care of for me!!

  9. mark smith says:

    And parrish called you mean spirited.

    • admin says:

      You know, I can see how she could feel that way, but she doesn’t really know me at all.

      However from the comments being generated on Facebook, Twitter and online, I’d say most folks are characterizing her and editor Mike Fannin as the mean spirited ones.

      I’ll go it one further.

      I don’t think Parrish is mean spirited – at least not in this instance. She’s a former working journalist with limited experience in management matters such as these and the Star has played this Hunger Game out before prior to her arrival, albeit sans the publicity.

      My hunch is, Parrish has learned her lesson and this won’t be happening again.

      I wish her well. Nobody likes having to go through difficult times like these and I’m sure she’s no exception.

      • paulkc says:

        did you say parrish…or pariah. which one. help me out on this.

        • paulwilsonkc says:

          This is even funnier! You’re riding the short bus down Main St., commenting from your brick phone, trying to make jokes that accuse everyone else of being on the short bus.

          Problem is…. you’re alllllllll alone in that big, cold seat, right next to the lift chair.


  10. the dude says:


  11. Pingback: Hearne: Star Unleashes ‘Hunger Games’ on Two Joco Reporters | KC Confidential

  12. Brian Shoffner says:

    Nice job, Hearne. Anytime someone gets a national nod, they deserve props, viral or non-viral.

Comments are closed.