Hearne: The Star’s Racist Coverage of Black Kids on the Plaza

black kids plaza oneDoes anybody have the guts to tell it like it is?

Allow me to answer my own question, when it comes to issues of race, the answer is almost always a resounding no. Take the large gatherings of African American tweens and teens on the Country Club Plaza.

Largely white male run media organizations like the Kansas City Star live in abject fear of being called out as racists. So they temper the news coverage to obfuscate situations involving black kids on the Plaza to avoid criticism from – let’s be frank here – older, establishment blacks.

So while the kids involved are merely referred to by the Star as “teenagers,” “children” and “youths,” photos like the one today accompanying its editorial reveal the kids to be 100 percent black – with 100 percent no mention of race.

Trust me, after covering the Star at the Pitch for several years and 16 years behind enemy lines (so to speak) at the newspaper, I can assure you this is the case. The Star lives in mortal fear of identifying all too obvious problems like the Plaza’s as racial.

Oh they know better, alright.

I was able to work around it at times with carefully worded and reported columns during my time at the Star – often, but not always.

a seville 4In my early days at there in the ’90s there were severe racially charged problems going down in Westport at a club called the Harris House. Problems that I witnessed and confirmed with Kansas City Police via on-the-record quotes and accounts. Problems that cried out for attention and a search for solutions.

So what happened when I submitted my story for publication in FYI?

Fearful FYI editor Jeanne Meyer killed it.

Undaunted, I appealed Meyer’s decision to then editor Art Brisbane who recognized my story as reportable news and Meyer was overruled.

Even at that, the story was reduced to a secondary item in my column, to insure that it would not receive an attention getting headline.

That’s how subtly race games are played at 18th and Grand, ladies and gentlemen.

Each and every nuance – every word – is weighed and calculated so as not to offend anyone. But as you can see, to the point where if editors think they can get away without covering race related news, that’s exactly what they will do – not cover it.


A few highlights from that watered down, dumbed down and physically moved down column of 20 years back (that my editor came thisclose to killing):

“Police and others working this spring to try to ensure the peace in Westport have their hands full: Saturday nights are heating up, some Kansas City police say. Last weekend was ‘the third week in a row we’ve had big fights down there,’ says police Sgt. Richard Jones. ‘It’s all taking place, usually on Pennsylvania between Westport (Road) and 40th Street.’

“Jones oversees one of three tactical squads that police the city’s party zone on weekends. ‘By 2 to 2:30 a.m. (Saturday nights), it’s from curb to curb, wall-to-wall people,’ he says. As the bars were closing about 3 a.m. last Saturday, he says, somebody pulled a gun. ‘Of course, the crowd scattered and a big fight broke out and there were several people just going fist city.’ Five people were arrested, two for throwing bottles at officers, police say. No one was reported injured.”

“Many in the crowd that often gathers on weekends outside the Harris House nightclub are under 21, says co-owner Janet McNiel. The police, she says, “could be more productive in their actions…Actually, I don’t know what the solution would be. Everybody’s been talking about the situation for years and years, and I don’t know that anybody’s ever come up with one.’ Last year ‘they took care of it by blocking all the streets,’ says Frank Russell, assistant manager of Pyramid Pizza. ‘I just think they need to block the streets earlier to stop the craziness.’

“Somebody’s going to end up getting hurt seriously, and I just hope it’s not a police officer,” Jones says. “Of course, like so many things in this city, I think it’ll probably keep on going until that’s what happens, and then we’ll do something about it. ”

One of the means I used to convince Brisbane to run the above story was a quote that I had from Jones about how police couldn’t believe how the local news media wasn’t covering the story. Art knew it was the right thing to do.

That brings us to today’s topic, the so-called “Club KC” and the Kansas City Council‘s plan to keep teens off the Plaza year round.

I’ll get to that post haste in Part 2 of this missive to follow.


This entry was posted in Hearne_Christopher. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Hearne: The Star’s Racist Coverage of Black Kids on the Plaza

  1. Orphan of the Road says:

    Spot on. If you need further proof, google MOVE May 15, 1985. Contrast how that confrontation was handled and reported. Then compare to the same group/situation in 1981.

    If you basically an abject failure there is lots of money for you.

    But if you are struggling to get along, working hard and barely making it, you can go suck eggs!

    Blaming crime on the poor is pretty insulting.

    Steal a loaf of bread or get caught with a joint and you are headed to jail.

    Steal money wearing a white collar because you need more, more, more and you might get a slap on the wrist.

    Throwing money at symptoms rather than addressing the problem is the American way.

    Easier to use the poor as a way to funnel money to rich, fat cats. Unless you are Big Business then welfare is just fine.

    • harley says:

      nice comment orphan.
      If i lived in kc i wonder where all the money went. To the law firms/
      companies that were given huge tax breaks to locate in kc.
      Or the money spent on the countless stupid projects the city has
      Just travel thru the east side…theres nothing. I wonder if a dime
      of taxpayer money went to those areas. There’s nothing there.
      We know the problem…we know the answers….and if you don’t
      deal with the cause its only going to get worse.
      maybe the people allocating the money need to be investigated..
      not just for the black projects but for all the phony projects including
      the new kci fiasco.
      again…you can steal more with a pen than a gun and with a pen
      there are no penalties.

  2. Jess says:

    Wow Hearne, Great story. I am impressed.

  3. smartman says:

    This is not an issue of blaming the poor. This is a “black thing”. Hearnes daughters, should they choose to inherit KCC, will be writing about this. If and when they do the Plaza will most likely resemble Bannister Mall.

    The Star is so out of touch on this that Yael the Goat Herder said on KCPT that the “flash mobs” would not hurt business on the Plaza. Hey Yael! Already has you moron. I for one have spent at least $1000.00 online since the start of the year on apparel I would have normally purchased on the Plaza. Another $1000.00 of my money did not go to bars and restaurants on the Plaza.

    I’m sure there are at least another 1000 people just like me. Do the math. $2000.00 x 1000 people is TWO MILLION BUCKS in the first third of the year.

    I have no fear of the Plaza or the “scholars”. I always have a gun on me and know with great clarity when and how to use it. But as my lawyer says why run the risk. If I whacked a couple of scholars, within my legal rights, my life would become a living hell.

    And since my wife turned 50 she no longer gets turned on by 12 year old black boys telling her that they’d like to ” tap dat ass”.

    And now for more on this subject Larry let’s go to Chuck.

    • Orphan of the Road says:

      Poor people, black & white, are merely a conduit to funnel money through to political cronies who capitalize on the good intentions of decent Americans.

      Blacks replace American Indians on the reservation as a way to divert funds intended to improve the quality of life and education into their pockets.

      Keeping poor people poor and dependent on the government teat insures the grifters have a nearly unending gravy train.

      It ain’t the white man keeping the brothers and sisters down. It is the grifters maintain a very good lifestyle on the backs of those on the funds they take.

      Take away the fraud of the grifters and you could cut these budgets by 98% and still hand out $30,000-a-year to those in need. Hand outs are the answer though.

      Always remember when the Great White Father offers you something, they want something in return. Your pride and dignity for starters.

    • chuck says:

      Smarty, when I heard Yael say that the Flash Mobs on the Plaza would not hurt business, I spilled my Activia down my leg into my Boondockers.

      What a shill that dude is.

  4. Kyle Rohde says:

    And just imagine the reaction if the Star’s headline used “Black Kids” in it. How would your propose they handle it Hearne? Real easy to take potshots when you’re running a blog seen by 1,000 people than a major metropolitan newspaper.

    • Majordomo Billy Bojangles says:

      well the KC Star could first begin with baby steps. Like when there is a suspect at large you could identify his race as given in the official description. Then you would seem less dishonest.

      Using the term ‘youth’ and ‘teens’ and ‘flash mob’ are dishonest. It is blatant misinformation which is worse than no information.

      And Kyle, in your post-racial word why would it not be a problem to say “Black Teenagers” in the headline? It is factual and descriptive. We are still allowed to use the word “black” right?

    • admin says:

      First of all, you’re way off on the number of people reading this website. Second, you apparently have a hard time reading because when I wrote for the Star I was able to get in the the crowds were black. Not always, but often. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.

      The point being that Star editors are afraid to do it.

      Third, I’m not talking about a glaring tabloid headline, Dumbo. May I call you that? I’m talking about the simple act of reporting – however subtly and/or tastefully – somewhere in the story what the composition of the crowd is.

      If it was a gay rights crowd, it would be reported. If it was a crowd of Teamsters, it would be reported. If it was an Irish society, a Muslim observance of some sort – you name it – it would be reported. Not purposely left out.

      Come on, Kyle. I suspect you can come up with a better critique that that. Am I wrong?

      • gerald bostock says:

        the test is whether you would mention their race if they were white…you wouldn’t. Once a conflict or an issue arises that is racially based, then the race of the participants would be relevant. If the point of mentioning the race of the Plaza teens is to give a heads up to white people who are afraid of black youth because of their own prejudice and unfounded fears, then identifying the race is a racist act.
        that being said, the powers that be at the Star do try to avoid or dance around situations that might color them as racists–they have a 100-year history of paternalism and racism that they want to atone for, but they don’t know enough about minority cultures to confidently make the right move.
        they also have a long history of being skittish about honestly covering any negative occurrence on the Country Club Plaza. Even though JC & Miller Nichols are no longer around to bully the paper into silence, Star honchos still are skittish about being accused of damaging what oldtimers still consider KC’s Golden Goose.

        • admin says:

          Good points, G Man.

          But clearly then, as is the case now, these problems are racial. There’s no other way to cut that cake.

          You’re reading too deep into motive here though. The point isn’t to warn white folks to stay away, the point is to identify an exact problem, as opposed to covering it up.

          And so what if some “white people” choose to avoid a situation involving violence with African Americans? It may not be your or my style, so to speak, but they have a right to take the exact measure of a situation and act according to their fears, right or wrong.

          The Plaza still enjoys some downplaying of bad news, but not like it was 25 or 30 years ago.

          These days they use their private security to help keep things on the down low and there’s still a tendency to take a less sensational approach to reporting some of the bad news down there.

          I can tell you this much, I can’t recall anyone doing a crime study of the Plaza. But I think it would be very interesting.

          The Star will go after a big box store minister in South Johnson County because there’s no downside for messing with a powerful and large advertiser. They’ve little appetite for picking fights with people who write them large checks.

          Could be worse though, I’ve learned.

          You guys should see how the game is played here in Lawrence with a one-horse-town, boss media owner riding herd over pretty much anything and everything.

        • Kyle Rohde says:

          And Gerald said basically what I was thinking, much more eloquently.

          Guess I’m a Dumbo Hearne.

          • balbonis moleskine says:

            What the hell ever happened to Zippy the Pinhead in the comix section. That was some downsizing bullshit.

  5. Libertarian says:

    Lets get to the crux of the biscuit here……where are the parent[s]?

    • the dude says:

      Odds are Baby Daddy doin’ time in tha joint or is just gone. Baby mommas just want to get a little drank on every now and then or just get away from the hoodlums for a little while. Either way, a lot of absentee parenting going on here.

    • Hot Carl says:

      They’re waiting for the po-leece and mayor Sly to figure out how to take care of their chilluns.

    • admin says:

      There you go, Libertarian

  6. paulwilsonkc says:

    I heard the Mayor speak on this yesterday, with my own ears! He said, and I paraphrase, this has to do with services and activities available to kids. The kids in question, have NO activities between where they live and Independence, so they come to where the services and activities are! REALLY?

    Was I to take that as, theres nothing worth terrorizing where they live?

    These kids arent looking for services and activities. If they were, they would buy a ticket and go to the movie. They would walk into Starbucks and have a drink. They would go into Forever21 and buy clothes.

    Thats NOT what they are doing. They are there to raise hell with whitie and thats about it. Sorry, Sly, I’ll buy you a cigar down at Pendergast, but youre wrong on this one and I’m pretty sure you know it.

    • the dude says:

      Exactly wilsun, these little scholars are there to disrupt and terrorize the poor people that are dumb enough to go to the plaza after all the crime that takes place there. They can smell chaos and run to it. Place hasn’t been safe for a while now but city hall will never admit to it, they are too busy juking numbers and selling toy trains and airports nobody wants.

  7. chuck says:

    Very well done Hearne.

  8. Super Dave says:

    Being accurate with the truth isn’t being racist!

  9. mike says:

    When I was growing up, if I couldn’t find anything to do, my parents would find something for me to do.

Comments are closed.