Hearne: Small Town ‘Journalism’ Bane of Sleepy Lawrence, Kansas


The Eloi

Because a truly forward-thinking, progressive city needs a serious, take no prisoners news organization to help lead the way. To inform and inspire the citizenry. Which even given its many flaws, the Star does.

You think KC Confidential or Tony’s Kansas City can deliver those goods? Please.

Absent the above, you risk living in a town like Lawrence, Kansas.

Don’t get me wrong, Lawrence is a charming, little burg, bustling with college kids and profs, a sprinkling of aging hippies and beatniks, the odd local oddball and a hard working, hard partying core population.

It’s also a rudderless town of 95,000 and change, populated by people who remind me of the Eloi in the 1960’s sci fi movie The Time Machine.

For the uninitiated, the Eloi were a “childlike, frail group, living a banal life of ease on the surface of the earth” who were essentially harvested and eaten by the cruel, controlling, cave-dwelling Morlocks.

timemachineIn Lawrence, a small handful of controlling, mansion-dwelling “Morlocks” control pretty much everything of importance here – within the bounds of the criminal law code. While the sleepy, small town Lawrence Journal World newspaper looks on, doing little more than annoying the Morlocks from time to time, and feeding the Eloi pablum-like front page stories with bold headlines like today’s, “Eating for $2. Free classes show how to make healthy and tasty meals on the cheap.”

Turn to page two of the Journal World and you get nearly a half page of obituaries (small time death is quite newsworthy here), a box with “marriages, divorces & bankruptcies,” a couple crossword puzzles, some story jumps from the front page and a funeral home ad.

This from an “award winning” newspaper, ladies and gentlemen.

I’d hate to see who they’re beating out for the awards.

town_talk_hdr_t640The star of the newspaper in Lawrence is a charming, countrified gent named Chad Lawhorn.

Lawhorn covers the city hall and small business news beat and is kind of an aw shucks version of the Star’s Joyce Smith. He’s funny at first, but after more than a year of repetitive, self-depricating jokes with asides about tool shopping, beer drinking, bad golf shots and his wife putting up with him, it gets old.

A recently departed Journal World editor told me he was the one who put an end to the newspaper describing Lawhorn atop his columns as “enormously popular.” Uh, better to let the readers decide.

Take today’s column reporting about a gym expansion in West Lawrence:

“In my small basement gym, the only thing that is granite are my abs,” Lawhorn begins. “(Excuse me for a moment. My wife seems to be choking on her Cheerios.)”

450817679_640The Journal World editorials can be decnt, except when publisher Dolph Simons Jr. hijacks them to put out a Fox News, right wing rant. Like today’s column criticizing Nevada Sen. Harry Reid – a Dem, of course – for criticizing Simon’s pals, the Koch Brothers of Wichita.

“The natural reaction from such charges would be to fight back, but such actions would merely elevate Reid in the eyes of those who share his opinion,” the editorial begins. “The best course of action for the Kochs or their representatives would be to merely ask the Nevada senator to identify and refute the so-called ‘lies,’ and if he is serious about the matter, he should back up his claims with specific information. Or, perhaps the best thing the Kochs can do is not respond.”

Why should they? Simons is doing it for them.

“Instances such as this should cause those interested or concerned to take a close look at the individual making the charges and judge the character, record and mission of that individual,” it continues. “The Kochs don’t need defending.”

Again, then why defend them?

Nobody in Lawrence really cares what Simons thinks about Harry Reid and the Kochs. If they did, they’d have gotten it out of their system three days earlier when Fox covered it.

The Journal World sports section suffers from small town thinking as well.

While it’s pretty much a given that they’re going to write ad nauseam about everything they can think of about KU basketball, it would be refreshing to mix in a bit of healthy criticism now and again with fewer circle jerks.

Take KU’s backing into the Big 12 title Saturday after losing to Oklahoma State

Basketball Deity/Coach Bill Self was quoted afterwards as saying that because of the loss, there would be no celebrating clinching the championship.

“Rough timing, but that’s fine. It’s about winning titles, not celebrating them,” chimes in sports editor Tom Keegan.

“If KU were to break out the confetti cannons and stage a full-bore celebration Wednesday, it would signal a step away from authentic and onto a slippery slope toward Hollywood.”

Bill-Self-Calls-His-Squad-The-“Worst-Kansas-Team-Ever”Slippery slope toward Hollywood, is Keegan kidding?

Hollywood pales by comparison to the worship and adoration showered on Self and the basketball Jayhawks by the people of Lawrence.

As Lawrence-ite and KU fan Matt Donnelly has stated, I view the interaction between the vast majority of the people in Lawrence and KU basketball as a cult situation.

Which brings us back to the Eloi.

Lawrence is a town of people who’s clothing, cars, houses and businesses are festooned with the word “Kansas” and that cute little cartoon Jayhawk. And like in the “Time Machine” movie, it’s population that seems “satisfied with the pleasure of merely existing” – long as nobody messes with their precious Bill Self and his Jayhawks.

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16 Responses to Hearne: Small Town ‘Journalism’ Bane of Sleepy Lawrence, Kansas

  1. John Altevogt says:

    And your point is…?

    Actually, one of the few golden moments in Kansas journalism was when The Journal-World had both Dave Raney and Scott Rothchild as reporters and Mike Shields was an editor.

    As for Dolph, when Kathleen Sebelius tried to give all of KU Med’s profit centers to her benefactors in Missouri using every legal and illegal means at her disposal, it was Dolph Simons’ very well researched and informative columns that exposed the Kansas governor as a corrupt Missouri whore. Indeed, he was virtually the only one.

    Lawrence is a college town that, even more then most small towns, protects its own. When the Tangier Mall was built in north Lawrence part of the zoning was the demand that it had a large sign visible from the off ramp of I-70 directing visitors to the shopping to be had downtown. The mall died a dismal death.

    Outsiders can laugh if they wish, but the housing market there never felt a ping of the crisis that enveloped the rest of the country and Mass St is as vibrant as it has always been, something that cannot be said for most small town main streets, or even KCMO’s vauuted Plaze anymore.

    As for Bill Self, I have a BA from Indiana and an MA from Illinois, but I root for my Jayhawks and the magical teams Self produces often from the most average players. I attended KU for a short time, got no degrees from it, but it is more my Alma Mater than either of the schools that gave me my degrees.

    I love to come over to Lawrence and eat at either La Familia (I actually know some of the people the meals are named after), or Quinton’s and have coffee afterwards at La Prima Tazza, perhaps visit Mass Street Music and just relax.

    You’re fortunate, you live in a little papradise. Relax and enjoy it.

    • admin says:

      I’m trying, John. I’m trying.

      But allow me to suggest, there’s a HUGE difference between visiting Lawrence and living here.

      Your reference to reporters at the Journal World are past tense, so I can’t address that. I’m here now and that’s what I’m writing about.

      As you note – and I believe that I said – there are many fine people and businesses in Lawrence. But what you of all people would HATE (I suspect) is the passionless mindset that pervades in politics and business.

      Yes, KU basketball rocks (if that’s what floats your boat) but it’s soul sucking the population in much the same way the gladiator games did in ancient Rome. It’s like a drug – a fog that envelopes the entire town – and substitutes for other interests and pursuits arguably more worthy.

      Look, you and I are from Kansas City, and we remember how huge the Royals and the Chiefs were when they won playoff games and Super Bowls (ok, Super Bowl). The madness, joy and delight that enveloped the entire city.

      But it was TEMPORARY and like it or not we returned to earth and our interests were forced (arguably) to go elsewhere to seek fulfillment. Just think what it would be like in KC if every year we soared to those same Super Bowl or World Series heights. We’d be drunkards.

      It would be like New Year’s Eve each and every night. You’re familiar with the concept of too much of a good thing.

      This town would be better served if Ted Owens was back in control and the Jayhawks were only good every now and again. Maybe then, the towns folk would awaken to the world around them and broaden their horizons beyond the worship of a mere sports team.

      Hold it!

      I must be dreaming, sorry.

      (As for Simons, even a broken clock is right two times a day)

  2. John Conners says:

    Hearne, you wrote: Because a truly forward-thinking, progressive city needs a serious, take no prisoners news organization to help lead the way. To inform and inspire the citizenry. Which even given its many flaws, the Star does.

    You think KC Confidential or Tony’s Kansas City can deliver those goods? Please.

    Were you ever so right…here is a comment and reply from this mornings TKC blab:

    Food for Thought…… said…
    Hey, all you guys … i.e., the usual gang of morons, wing nuts and racists who comment here … listen up:

    8:43 you have to be juiced and/or totally stupid. The very people you reference are the ones who support this blog. This blog is at it’s apex. It is not going to be bought out by the Huffington Post for 15 billion dollars.

    Sure, we mess with hipster wanna-be aka the Mexican but we are the “gang” that keep this douche bag in business. People come to this blog to read the comments and garner a occasional tid-bit of information that was overheard and repeated. Then you have to establish the bullshit filter to your read. Much like panning for gold in Cass County. You sift thru 40 tons of bullshit to get one little nugget of information.

    You get the same stories over and over…tits, Toy Train, Airport, FD/PD, Alonzo, Mean Jean, Jermaine, Dr. Kovorkian, snow removal, and occasional skate boarder vid, some Tech9, some KJ…then it’s a reset. Same thing again. Day after day. Yesterday people were making bets on the “next TKC exclusive”…guess what, the choices were Alonzo or Snow Removal Fail. It was the latter. So your attempt to sway voters to award Tony a Pulitzer is a FAIL. Much like Tony’s lame diss of “POOPY TANG (whoever) last night. No, the very people that you/Tony diss are the ones that provide you with a existence. Next time your trippin on a coffee/Monster high, you would be well served to remember that.

  3. Steveo says:

    So the Lawrence newspaper is small minded for commenting on a national story like Harry “Nurse Ratchet” Reid criticizing one Kansas’s native sons and world renown billionaire Charles Koch? Should he have commented on the state of sidewalks in town instead?

    There are only about 3 newspaper editorial boards in the country that would support the Koch Brothers. They are after all, into “BIG OIL”, support lower taxes, and even like Republicans. All that is abhorrent to a typical journalist like yourself. Is hatred of Fox News a 101 class in journalism?

    The guy seems to have some balls to make this comment in the Peoples Republic of Lawrence.

    • admin says:

      I get what you’re saying, Steveo but…

      Some balls? Then why didn’t he put his name on the editorial like the gaffer he choked out a week earlier about Lawrence having too many “crazies?”

  4. hot harley says:

    lets get down to it…its a dump on a river.
    should have been burned down years ago!!!!!!!!! hahahaha!
    its beautiful…if you’re blind.
    lets be honest hearne…theres nothing progressivethere.
    the university is waiting for more cuts…the staff is leaving…
    Charlie eating all the money allocated to the food fund at the
    athletic cafeteria….zenger has no clue..
    and you expect this small town paper to do something progressive.
    hey…maybe add grocery ads on Wednesday…
    don’t doubt the simons…hkuge huge money therer hearne. I think
    they own sunflower (not sure) but if they do they’re sitting on
    big bucks (selling price of $5000 per home)….
    but don’t worry hearne..you and glaza love that town…the one wher
    they still wear birkenstocks and ti e dye shirts.
    If not for blue vally and shawneemission districts dumping their
    kids in Lawrence it wouold be non existent.
    and downtown? where is it….businesses are dying like flies downtown.
    then you got to deal with fighting to build some apartments for some
    one and done kids….and you can’t even scrape together the money…just
    a down payment.
    Lawrence sucks….lets be honest….even john altevot makes it look small time
    ….boorish….sloooooow….but most important a place to hang out and
    be cool.
    then there’s Columbia….progressive…moving…shaking…building….
    expanding…money flowing in like water…and you and johnny and glaze
    say “its not a good city”….b.s. boys.
    highly rated by money magazine…while ku is highly rated by uh…lets
    see…anyone rate Lawrence for anything…Sure allenfield house and the
    screaming kids.
    get real boys…Lawrence is on the downswing….Lawrence is one
    coach leaving from being just another dusty stop on I 70.
    better get working….because if ya ain’t moving…you’re dying.
    good luc….
    and for all those ku fans who will attack this article…please please
    give me some stats /data about how Lawrence is growing….
    moving…things happening….
    I mean mu has millions and millions of dollars coming in to upgrade
    and imprve an already great university.
    Yes…we got away from what hearne refers to as mundane when we
    left ku in the dirt in the big 10/9/12..whatevr it is today.
    we left you because we wanted to grow/expand and become great.
    good luck…you’ll need it!!!!!!

  5. the dude says:

    Lawrence of Kanslabia.

  6. Skeevy says:

    Didn’t you used to write a column for the lawrence journal world what happened to it?

  7. chuck says:

    The last time the citizens of Lawrence were controversial, the city was burned to the ground.

    • admin says:

      I think they’ve had a few moments since then, Chuck…

      I’ll give you an example of the thinking up here though.

      Six or seven years ago I was up here at the Sandbar with Larry Sells of the Uptown and was introduced to the woman who was mayor of Lawrence at the time.

      Whereupon she proceeded to explain (while downing a couple drinks) that the mayor’s post here is largely ceremonial and that she had no real power.

      • chuck says:

        I was just being a smartazz. I have had occasion to visit there off and on through the years and I actually liked the place.

        There is nothing to write about besides KU because nothing hapens there. Crime and conflict are rare. Let them sleep.

        Etoliated Eloi live for the Fieldhouse, out of the sun, away from the kind of folks who wanna wake up in that city that doesn’t sleep.

        • hot harley says:

          5 murders is rare…that would rank them with one
          of top murder cities in the nation…….
          great town (haha)

      • Orphan of the Road says:

        Ah, the same as KC’s mayor. Good they are really only cheerleaders rather than controlling things.

        College town = college run town. Unless said town is a bedroom community and then there is push-back.

        The reason they burnt Lawrence to the ground was the murdering Jayhawks who burnt and looted Osceola, MO had surrounded themselves with innocent citizens. You know how terrorists hide amongst the people, right chuck?

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