Hearne: Last One Out, Turn Out the Lights @ 18th & Grand


They’re dropping like flies at the Kansas City Star

As expected, Hunger Games victim Dawn Bormann is takings a layoff bullet, in deference to fellow reporter Karen Dillon, who, with seniority opted to remain at the newspaper. Bormann is telling co-workers that she’s looking forward to spending more time with her family.

Also last week, religion editor Helen Gray announced that she would retire, as did one of my favorite editors Bill Dalton (more on those later).

The latest: House + Home section editor Stacy Downs will join former Star editor Anne Spenner, the Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications at UMKC.

Downs, it would appear, has been readying herself for a possible departure for a while as evidenced by her web site soliciting various marketing projects.

Gray, it’s widely known among Star insidersScreen shot 2012-12-19 at 10.42.38 AM, is facing some extremely challenging family issues here, which leaving Kansas City may remedy.

Dalton is another matter…

Very few Star editors are gifted with down to earth common sense and a great sense of humor.

Dalton is at the top of that list.

I remember the time I was walking through the main newsroom one morning when Dalton beamed at me and said, “Congratulations on getting horndog into the Kansas City Star.”

He meant it.

Then there was the time I had stumbled onto KU’s Wheel Club, a program where dozens of athletics department staffers were furnished brand new cars to drive by Kansas car dealers in return for perks such as premium seats at basketball and football games.

lew_perkinsWhen new athletics director Lew Perkins came and instituted a points system to measure how much donors had given to determine their seats, the Wheel Club became even more important because it was looked upon quite favorably by the athletics department.

Dalton was my editor on the story and assigned Matt Campbell to assist.

“The clubs offer a perk to coaches and staff that most faculty members can only dream of: the use of top-end, late-model vehicles, such as a Lincoln Navigator, a Volvo sport-utility vehicle or a Lexus,” the story began.

Now here’s the deal, at KU, 62 staffers, from Perkins down to trainers, were getting complimentary cars in 2004 when the story came out.

It was a KU story with very specific, pointed questions as to who was and wasn’t paying personal property taxes on the cars and to what extent – if at all – they were actually being used for KU business.

The story was written, edited and cleared to go in September of 2004.

But at the last minute sports editor Mike Fannin interceded and argued that the story should include Missouri and K-State as well. Not just in reference, but in full blown reporting. The Star sports section was tight with KU, even nosing out the Lawrence Journal World on getting Perkins compensation package by a couple of hours.

Fannin didn’t want to mess that up.

So back to the drawing board we went and it wasn’t until November 20 the story was cleared to go.

However, because of all the interviewing I’d done around Lawrence, word leaked out to the Journal World who scooped us with a softball version of the Wheel Club story on October 3rd.

Our story finally ran on the front page, but coming in nearly two months after the fact was lame.

Dalton was a good soldier though, limiting his visible frustration and critiques to pretty much the rolling of his eyes.


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7 Responses to Hearne: Last One Out, Turn Out the Lights @ 18th & Grand

  1. tiad says:

    Jr.: 8+ years ago called. This is old news.

  2. Craig Glazer says:

    WOW Hearne its so damn sad.

  3. Rick Nichols says:

    I’m of the firm opinion that sports editors usually don’t make good general editors at major metropolitan dailies, Joe McGuff being a rare exception to this “rule”. Thus, had it been left up to me to decide, the sports editor who figured so prominently in your KU story (what a missed opportunity!) wouldn’t be occupying the editor’s chair down at 18th & Grand today. During Mr. Fannin’s “reign” far too many sports-related stories and columns have ultimately appeared on the front page, diminishing the overall product in the process (in my estimation) through the elevation of sports (i.e., entertainment) to an undeserved place in the news “pecking order”. But I’m getting off the subject at hand, aren’t I? Ah, yes, the ongoing “exodus” from the ranks of The Star’s “ink-stained wretches” on McClatchy’s watch. Well, to begin with, let me say this: I will certainly include Dawn in my prayers (adding her name to the list of those already being prayed for in the wake of the September 18 layoffs and the December 10 layoffs), I extend to Helen, Bill and Stacy my best wishes for the future, and I will continue to pray for all those who still labor valiantly (seemingly “against all odds”) inside Mr. Nelson’s “castle” – to you a tip of my late father’s 1950ish reporter’s hat. That said, the McClatchy “brass” need to do something pretty big and pretty soon to stem the tide lest even more equally talented men and women give up “the good fight” and follow suit.

    • admin says:

      McClatchy is just fine with the direction the tide is going and sees no reason to “stem” it.

      The financial realities are that news organizations like the Star are going to continue to slim down – way down – until they reach the levels where profits can be made on the very thin dime that is the web.

      And we’re far from that place, wherever it may be. No one knows for sure, but the fact that people like Stacy are out looking for new career paths is indicative of the fact that pretty much everyone in this game understands where it’s going.

      It’s going down.

      Not all the way down, not out. But once the ink goes away there won’t be much cash left to divvy up and who knows what the body count will be by then.

      It won’t be pretty, but look at all the other institutional changes over the decades – centuries even – where major industries are forced to try and reinvent themselves or be left behind.

      Kodak is gasping for air right now, selling off all of its secrets in an attempt to fend off full blown bankruptcy and somehow try and find a new path to profitability.

      There will always be a market though for information, but it’s never gonna be like it was.

  4. John says:

    “Congratulations on getting horndog into the Kansas City Star.”

    I’m not familiar with the expression, “horndog”. Or what I think it means doesn’t seem to make sense in the context. What does this mean?

  5. Blaster99 says:

    And now these clowns want to charge for reading an article online. What a total joke!!

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