Here’s a funny one…
Did hear the one about the chicken that – hold it -I mean, the column that Kansas City Star “public editor” Derek Donovan wrote about the importance of the restaurant inspection reports business reporter Joyce Smith runs regularly in the newspaper?
Perhaps you’ve seen them? Too bad for you if you haven’t because they’re “vital,” Donovan purports. I’ve got a question for the D Dog:
If running those mini vignettes about the restaurant workers who get dinged for not wearing hairnets or touching something with a bare hand are so indispensable, how come nobody at the newspaper thought to publish them until I spanked Smith for blowing a front page story about the closing of the fabled LaMar’s Donuts?
It was exactly 10 years ago this month that Smith reported that LaMar had closed his crusty, converted gas station donut Mecca in midtown because – as she reported – “The Lamars say they’re just plain worn out.”
“Health problems are forcing them to retire,” Smith continued.
Not so fast
Health Department problems turned out to be the actual culprit.
For years and years LaMar’s had run a nasty-beyond-belief operation with countless Health Department violations. Some of the specifics were so horrid that – combined with the fact that LaMar had become practically a white Arthur Bryant media darling in KC – my editor decided they would be too gross (and too cruel) to describe them.
Unfortunately for Smith – not having looked into those health records at all – she had not a clue and was embarrassed beyond belief when six days later my column headlined, “A hole in the LaMar’s doughnut story” appeared in the Star.
“The real reason LaMar‘s Donuts at 240 E. Linwood closed down July 8,” it began. “After a decade with dozens of health violations – filth, fruit flies, pest feces and sundry others – the Kansas City Health Department dropped the hammer on the legendary biz.
“Due to the unsanitary conditions that pose an imminent health hazard to the public – KCMO Food Code Book 8-404.11 – health permit has been suspended immediately,” the report read. “When a health permit is suspended, all food service operations shall immediately cease.”
Smith – and now laid off Star editor Rick Babson – were devastated.
Babson emailed my editor declaring that by my reporting the real reason for LaMar’s closing I had done Smith a grievous wrong. Obviously they were pretty much alone in that thinking since my column had flown past a bank of Star editors prior to being published – including the editor Mark Zieman.
Because ever since Smith established a practice of checking in regularly with Kansas and Missouri side health departments and publishing her findings in the Star.
I’d call it a bit of an overreaction because most of those “reports” are pretty mundane. And as often as not they’re about nondescript, minor league eateries of little or no interest to the vast majority of Star readers.
Hey, but you never know when you might stumble onto a gem – that needle in the haystack – that could save an embarrassing front page error.
So yeah, I guess you could call them “vital”
Donovan, on the other hand, doesn’t have a clue about any of this, but he’s got to write about something.