Hearne: The Star’s Jabulani Exit Interview Lacked Substance

1749997569-1Not all “exclusive” interviews are created equal…

A couple weeks back Star features columnist Jenee Osterheldt gave a hearty clap on the back to Oprah for putting Lance Armstrong on the hotseat and not letting up with the tough questions.

“She pulled no punches,” Osterhedlt wrote. “She started with yes and no questions first, making him admit what he did, and then she cornered him into specifics.”

Would that Osterheldt done the same given her chance to corner former KCUR FM host Jabulani Leffall.

Instead, given the chance to drill down to any number of prickly specifics, Osterheldt opted to give Leffall and lob softballs at the I-quit-on-the-air- with-no-notice-or-warning former broadcaster.

Frankly, I don’t get it.

First of all, beginning a column with the pronouncement that Leffall isn’t “crazy” is a bit of a leap.

Saying he isn’t calls into question that perhaps he just might be is one problem. Not to mention that a newspaper columnist is hardly in the position to make such a determination after a hour or so meeting over coffee.

IMG_1571It was a chat where the tough questions – if asked at all – appear not to have been followed up on.

Clearly Leffall is in damage control mode after coming under scrutiny by the Pitch as to whether or not we was on drugs during his last show. He wasn’t, an unnamed source/friend told the alt weekly.

After being accused of not coming clean with his listeners of the past two years and going into hiding by KC Confidential, Leffall finally decided to return requests from the Pitch for an ultra brief email and telephone interview in which no less than four times it was made clear that he said he wasn’t “in hiding.”

Still there was no clue as to why he bailed so abruptly and harshly. No new news, except that he wasn’t “hiding” and would not explain the reasons for his departure.

Which set the table for Osterheldt’s opportune, face-to-face moment of truth with Leffall.

However instead of getting to the bottom of things and at least pressing for answers to hard question – and then reporting that he declined to answer those questions – we learned in paraphrased terms that Leffall says he didn’t plan to quit that day on the air. That it wasn’t “pre-meditated” – the moment just seemed “right.”


Surely he must have given it some thought prior to pulling the plug on the air. After all, he’s not crazy, right?

Oh and that Leffall’s quiting like that wasn’t “necessarily” about KCUR.


What does that mean? Evidently it means that in part it was about KCUR. In large part or in small? We still don’t know because Osterheldt didn’t ask the followup questions.

Instead, Osterheldt allowed Leffall  to tap dance ad nauseum about the state of journalism today. What? Leffall wasn’t playing journalist at KCUR, he was playing talk show host.

Osterhelt then lets Leffall of ramble off in paragraph after paragraph about his personal interests and issues about music, poetry and being black.

an oprahNobody wanted to hear about all that.

Just as nobody wanted to listen to Lance Armstrong prattle about the rigors of biking, what it was like dating Sheryl Crow and that he was still “finding himself.”

Kansas City was just not that vested in this out-of-towner with a penchant for international business and finance who replaced what was left of the legend that once was Walt Bodine.

We wanted to know what really lead to Leffall’s bailing.

Was he under pressure to perform by the new boss man at KCUR? Was he uncomfortable working within the constraints of public radio? What came over him to quit so suddenly that even he says he didn’t know he was going to do it?

Is he a little crazy?

Why not ask him that?

Has Leffall had his fill of Kansas City and now wants to move on? Why not ask him that? Does getting a handful of freelance pieces published make him a journalist? Uh, no.

kraskelookHow were Leffall’s ratings compared to Bodines? Steve Kraske‘s? Aside from the sniping here and there did the station receive too many listener complaints about his show and on-air delivery?

And if Leffall is indeed “done caring what people think,” as Osterheldt claims, why did he finally break down and call the Pitch and the Star to do damage control?

Here’s the real deal, ladies and gentleman:

Most serious journalists would give their eye teeth to garner an “exclsuive” interview with a controversial, elusive character like Leffall. But the news window is small, in a handful of weeks he’ll be forgotten. A footnote.

Unfortunately to gain such an interview, it’s a lot easier to let people off the hook, go with light questions and take what you are given rather than what you wanted and know that the public wants.

Which often ends up rendering the exercise “journalism light.”

My question for Osterheldt:

What would Oprah have done?



Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/01/18/4017647/jenee-osterheldt-oprah-winfrey.html#storylink=cpy
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9 Responses to Hearne: The Star’s Jabulani Exit Interview Lacked Substance

  1. smartman says:

    Jenee Osterheldt makes Ellen DeGeneres look like Christiane Amanpour. Flat out awful interview, with Jabulani full of self contradiction.

    While not exactly my cup of tea I did enjoy listening to him. From time to time he became hard to understand as he slipped into his “black urban patois”. Same complaint I heard from a lot of other people as well.

    I guess that’s why they put subtitles on a lot of the dialog on Moonshiner’s

    In general, I think the average KCUR listener wanted him to succeed. No one I know of was looking for a Walt Bodine clone.

    Whatever the behind the scenes reason for his departure, I think he is in the same boat with Jason Whitlock. Emotions got the better of him and he didn’t have the maturity to work out a solution.

    I wish him well but I think he blew a pretty good gig that in retrospect may be the best thing that ever happened to him.

  2. the dude says:

    Yeah man, what kind of interview did you expect from Jaenee Hoops?
    It would be like expecting Posnaski to give a real interview, ain’t gonna happen in this lifetime.

  3. Hearne says:

    Well, Jabulani moved here to follow his girlfriend and maybe marry. Evidently she dumped him after landing a prosecutors gig in KCMO and he’s nursing a heartbreak.

    That could make a guy a little crazy.

    However judging from his résumé leading up to him coming here, my guess is he wants to get the heck out of bumfuck

  4. balbonis moleskine says:

    If he ever got surgery to remove his vocal cord nodules (why his voice is so oddly gravelly) someone like Craig Glazer would make a great KCUR morning host.

    Craig is a self promoter but he knows KC (and is perhaps KC with his gauche flashiness and C list name dropping). He knows how to tell a story. He knows how to interview and how to do publicity. One reason why Walt was popular is that he was very KC and knew the town and the people.

    Honestly Walt Bodine was unlistenable for the last 10 years and this guy was not good for his brief tenure.

    I’m sure Craig would have no idea how to run a board but give him a couple of UMKC interns and an engineer/producer and it could be done. We just need to make sure he doesn’t get tricked into standing on anymore random corners trying to fight commenters.

    Another option is to pay Chuck Haddix (of the Friday Night Fish Fry) more than UMKC is paying him to be the Miller-Nichols Library Sound Archive guy, which sounds more expensive.

    • admin says:

      Glazer on public radio?

      That’s a little scary. Be interesting to see him try and dial it back though.

  5. Reggin Tnuc says:

    Why not this job for you Mr. Hearne?

  6. paulwilsonkc says:

    What would Oprah do, you ask?
    Same thing the Star’s Big O did; ya hep a brother out!
    Given the history of both, is it really that big a mystery?

  7. chuck says:

    He was on drugs.

    Occam’s razor.

    No mystery here, no grassy knoll, no 2nd shooter.

    LARRY SELLS: “The brother was on drugs.”

    You’re welcome.

  8. expat says:

    That Jenee still has a job must really irritate those who got laid off from the Star.

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