Hearne: Ex Star Columnist Steve Penn to Refile Case Against Newspaper, Working on Documentary

bookCoverGame on…

Looks like former Kansas City Star columnist Steve Penn will be going forward after all with his defamation lawsuit against the newspaper. Penn was axed in July of 2011 for allegedly quoting from news releases without attribution.

According to a 2012 story by Poynter Institute reporter Andrew Beaujon, “Penn maintains that copying from press releases was always OK at the Star and his firing resulted from management’s failure to make it clear that there’d been a shift in policy. ‘Acting pursuant to his training and to widespread practice at the newspaper, he would occasionally use in his general interest column press releases which described upcoming community events.

‘In fact, Plaintiff’s experience and training at the Star was that such attribution was not required. … Nevertheless, one of those supervisors apparently objected to the widespread practice and without informing Plaintiff that it should no longer be followed, decided to “make an example” of Plaintiff and push for his firing.’ ”

However, just when everything was ready to explode in the courtroom last November, Penn’s lawyer moved for a Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice when the mother of a witness “critical” to his case – a prominent PR expert – fell ill and was unable to testify at the last minute.

To that last point, in a story late last year on KC Confidential about Penn’s “undelivered goods,” I quoted the following from a Penn filing:

“After Penn was fired, an email was sent by Star editor Anne Spenner to all writers of the Star acknowledging ‘shock at the new interpretation of the Star policy on press releases’ and offering a brown bag lunch to Star writers confused about Star policy on their accepted use,” says a Penn filing referencing an email Spenner is alleged to have sent.


Steve Penn

Penn will sign copies of the book Saturday at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center in Kansas City at 3700 Blue Parkway from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

He’s also working on a documentary due out in November about the First Baptist Church in KCK that Penn describes as “the oldest black church in Kansas.”

Does Penn intend to write a book about his 31 years at the newspaper?

“Not now, maybe later,” he says.

Including his fiery career finish?

“Oh, definitely.”

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3 Responses to Hearne: Ex Star Columnist Steve Penn to Refile Case Against Newspaper, Working on Documentary

  1. Rainbow Man says:

    It is obvious that The Star has been mismanaged for about 15 years. They can’t hide behind the “The Internet Tsunami” excuse either. There are papers rolling in dough. Plenty. The Omaha World Herald and The Des Moines Register are just two examples of papers that make a mint. The Star managers forgot that as managers, they are supposed to feed the egos and salaries of their productive talent… not compete with them. Most papers are not so conspicuous about their editorial boards. The Star just loved heralding the likes of Pepper, Shelley, Y.A. , etc… until it was too late. Everyone I liked reading at The Star is gone.

  2. balbonis moleskine says:

    That is some damn fine clip art self published book cover.

    Although seriously the Star ran another press release as a story yesterday, without quotes, the same thing they fired this guy for.

    Clearly a press release, placed in the “sports” section. Unsigned so I guess it reflects the opinion of the newspaper as a whole?


  3. CG says:

    Miss seeing you buddy at Woodside. I’m sure the book is well done. Can’t wait to read it Steve. All the best.

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