Today: Rich Get Richer, As Sloppy Local News & Sports Media Slumber

effIs it just me?

Or do the so-called gatekeepers of the Fourth Estate get it wrong again and again and again? Look, we live in a far more open world where bloggers of any stripe – however few their readers – can attempt to set things straight when the mainstream news media messes up.

Not long ago that wasn’t the case.

That said, even in its much depleted state, there’s no denying that what one local blogger describes as “the dead tree media” is more than merely alive and kicking, it continues to rule local news roosts.

Sure the Kansas City Star and Lawrence Journal World are facing incredibly tough times on the financial front. However their readership and web traffic continues to dwarf the sum total of the the Top 10 area independent websites and blogs combined. So while there have been hundreds, closer to thousands, of employee layoffs and the newspaper’s “dead tree” product has been downsized to a startling degree, but if it wasn’t for their basic reporting (and sometimes dopey opinion pieces) what would local bloggers even have to talk and complain about?

The odd murder, kidnapping, robbery or TV news investigative piece?

Unfortunately, even with all the downsizing and tidal waves of red ink, the mainstream print media has been so busy playing “Dutch boy” at their leaky advertising dikes that they’ve yet to come to terms with the obvious reality that they need to put out a more street smart product.

There still just are too many limp wrested hangers on from the Golden Years of Newspaper Profits mailing it in and waiting for their Social Security checks.

I spoke with a local editor recently who acknowledged that the newspaper newsroom is still probably five or seven years away from being in a position to field an aggressive team of younger, edgier, more clued in reporters. That even with all the layoffs and retirements, there still are far too many Baby Boomer reporters and columnists holding back the evolution and progression of the Star into what management wants it to become.

That’s less the case at the Journal World where its problems have more to do with being lorded over by a good old boy publisher who inherited the newspaper and survives by hiring a revolving door of young, underpaid writers who are seldom there long enough to mature into experienced journalists before being forced by economics to move on in search of a decent paycheck.

Two examples in today’s newspaper offerings – while small in the scheme of things – illustrate the point.

photo 2The 13th ranked U.S.Mens soccer team played a brilliant game yesterday against 4th ranked Portugal, resulting in a 2-2 tie. And while many, if not most, American football, baseball and basketball fans consider a tie tantamount to a waste of their time, an increasingly large body of soccer fans here now understand the sport and recognize that a well played, see-saw game can be intensely exciting.

For example, I watched a thrilling Mexico-Brazil game last week that ended in a zero-zero score.

It’s like this; there’s no such thing as a zero-zero baseball, basketball or football game and were there to be – given how those games are played – it would be unthinkably boring. However that doesn’t translate into soccer (unless you have zero understanding of the game).

Unlike baseball, where most of the players are basically standing around most of the time, soccer is a fast paced, highly fluid game. From start to finish every single player on the field is in high gear, hatching any number of strategies and plays that unfold moment by moment.

And unlike football, which takes nearly four hours to play a one hour game, soccer takes less than half of that time to play a full 90 minutes.

In basketball – one can argue and many do – the back-and-forth scoring is so constant and repetitious that the only critical part of the play often comes in the last 10 or so minutes of the game.

990ed46e16b9e12cb735d602378fac27d1171f87b15a646ae84cf055010786daWhereas soccer keeps fans on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

In fact, higher scoring soccer games – three or four goals – often result in less excitement. Because if a team gets ahead by two or more goals, it’s often pretty much game over.

Practically anybody following the U.S. team at this year’s World Cup knows that the real question that was being asked before yesterday’s game against Portugal was, would the U.S. being able to get a tie in order to keep the team’s hopes of advancing alive. Further, there was no shortage of knowledgeable soccer experts who expressed great doubts that it could, especially with some of the key injuries the team had suffered.

So in the scheme of things – despite their disappointment in the not winning after leading with less than 30 seconds to go – the 2-2 tie was a huge victory for the Americans.

Now check out the ridiculous headline atop the Journal World sports page:

“USA Loses, 2-2”

Seriously, who copy edited that? Anyone, anyone?

Now let’s take a look at a long overdue Star editorial criticizing KU Athletics for ripping off 120 of the most prime seats at Allen Fieldhouse that currently go to  students. That in relation for the KU student senate voting to reduce the fees students must pay by a measly $350,000.

Clearly the editorial paints KU sports in a bad light, but why not spell it out?

Star sports columnist Sam Mellinger rightfully called KU out for being petty, but rather than post his column in the actual newspaper for all to see, it was relegated to Mellinger’s far less read online blog.

“This is a symbolic show of power, no matter the company spin, a multi-million dollar corporation taking a surgical and purposeful push back against tuition-paying students,” Mellinger blasted. “This is petty revenge, the older sibling who should know better justifying a slap across the face with, “He started it.”

Yet even Mellinger appears to have missed the obvious.

kuIt was more than just a cheap shot at the student body, it was was a money grab.

The same athletics department that laid seven figures on an Atlanta law firm to wipe out a tiny tee-shirt vendor in Lawrence that dared to sell blue shirts that read “Muck Fizzou” and “Our Coach Can Eat Your Coach,” and that forced a senior citizen Lawrence librarian to either cough up hundreds of thousands of dollars or lose her longtime court side seat, used the move by the student senate as an excuse to put the grabs on some of the most prime KU basketball seats in the building.

And while far be it from me to render an exact interpretation of the athletics department’s priority point donation system, its top tier “HOF” donor level for the 2013 Fund Drive is listed as $61,376.

So let’s just say if donors at that level were allowed to BUY two of those prime student seats, that would equate to $3,682,560 in new revenue. Not bad, huh?

Even if donors were allowed to buy four seats that still comes to nearly $2 million, which beats the heck out of losing a paltry $350 K.

And what about the principle of the matter?

That KU is a college campus supported by state funds that wouldn’t even have a basketball team were it not for the students who pay through the teeth for their educations?

Isn’t what makes college sports exciting the fact that you have all these crazy college kids chanting F Bombs on kickoffs and wearing PG13 T-shirts poking fun at rival schools like Mizzou and K-State? You know, showing what passes for school spirit these days.

Or is there even still such a thing, given the current crop of superstar players basically paid for via the lure of luxury apartments and one-and-done college careers followed by potential multi-million dollar NBA contracts? As opposed to mundane things like college diplomas.


Jim Marchiony

Why not take journalism to the next level and call out the fat cats running college sports for what they are, money changers with little regard for anything more than their own fat paychecks?

People like excuse maker/athletics department mouthpiece Jim Marchiony who took down just under a quarter of a million dollars in the department’s 2012 tax filing.

Do you know how many quarter million dollar a year PR paychecks there are in the state of Kansas?

Or athletics department head Sheahon Zenger who pocketed more than $450,000 that same year. A year in which failed former KU football coach Turner Gill – who was fired in 2011 – was paid more than $4 million. And basketball coach Bill Self was paid $4.5 million while”major gifts” schmooze hound John Hadl received more than $300,000 – think of it, 300 grand a year and your job title is “major gifts.”

The bottom line:

The lowly KU students were thrown a $350,000 bone, which enabled the fat cats in Paycheckville to re-seat them in nosebleed (where they probably won’t have to worry about anybody seeing them waving furiously in those tacky T-shirts) and get their paws on however many more million dollars from what former KU basketball coach Roy Williams referred to once as “the wine and cheese” set.

What a country!



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26 Responses to Today: Rich Get Richer, As Sloppy Local News & Sports Media Slumber

  1. the dude says:

    USA loses 2-2.
    Yes, yes it does.

  2. harley says:

    okay hearne…don’t faint…
    this was the kind of work you should be doing!!!! forget the concerts/thieves/
    the stories about itmes no one can get their mind into …this is what hearne
    Christopher should be doing and its what made him so good at the star.
    KU is dying. Lets be honest. the governors plan hasn’t worked and it going
    to slash millions for ku’s operating budget. It was a disaster and even major
    national publications are proving it.
    Taking away those seats was a disgrace. the student body has become the
    classic example of what a great athletic program should rely on…its students
    showing unparaalled support for the athletic programs. when I traveled to
    allen fiend house this year…(and it had been years since I wa there) it was
    incredible the noise…the energy…the excitement contained in that “hole”
    but made me wish that someday this would happen at mu!
    But the university needs money. Football is not paying its way and it has
    to support those low revenue sports …even for women.
    I remember them literally stealing the tickets from the Allen family since
    they would not want to pay the surcharge. Phog allens family being denied
    seats cause they did not want to pay the surcharge…a major failure on the
    part of the ku department to show some respect for the family itself.
    what a digrace!
    And to pay bill self (who I believe is worth every penny ) but to take it from
    student’s pockets makes me think this guy care more about his ‘hair piece”
    from 95th and Antioch than his fans who have stuck with him for all these
    But this is the new world hearne. And you’re just as guilty as anyone.
    but this was a great article and portends of things to come.
    We are headed to a breakdown in our overall financial system. those
    at the top have one thing in mind…rob and pillage what is left from the
    rest of the nation and keep it all for themselves.
    We can’t stop it. It’s a fait acompli (spelling) and nothing will change
    what the future hold for this nation.
    the powerful have done everything to destroy the unions which fought
    for the common guys “decent wages”…the powerful have used every means
    needed to take ovef the political world (giving billions of tax breaks to
    those who don’t need it to taking it away from food stamp recipeients
    who live on $300 a month…with the truth being that the biggest
    casualties in that cut back was not the recipeients but the major food
    retailers/manufacturers/the major food processors and other big time
    companies who lost that extra few dollars that were used to feed
    the kids and seniors and those who needed a safety net.
    yes hearne…what acountry!!!!! we’re seeing the last throes of the
    middle class as they hang on for the crumbs. Ive written about this
    no less than a dozen times. Reality is setting in.
    Wait til the jack up the rates on student loans again so they
    can make another billion dollas on the back of the borrowers
    who can’t make the payments.
    don’t worry hearne…we probably won’t see it.
    all of us will be buried under the hill instead of just over the hill!

  3. Hot Carl says:

    John Hadl.

  4. SteelyDanMan says:

    “…survive by hiring a revolving door of younger, underpaid writers who seldom are there long enough to mature into experienced journalists before being forced by economics to move on in search of a decent paycheck.”

    Perfectly describes my situation. It’s an insult to be paid like a part-time fast food manager in a “profession.”

    All the pundits saying the economy is rebounding are full of it, too. Just browse through Indeed or Career Builder. You’ll notice it’s still slim pickings, job market-wise.

    Shit, I really don’t know how to make a decent paycheck. Companies are exploiting your desperation and you need more years of school just to acquire a decent position.

    My gut tells me to just do what you want in life, and let the chips fall.

  5. Hahvahd Hal says:

    I get the LJW reference. Punch “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29” into Google and read up a little.

    They stole it but it’s pretty appropriate.

  6. Bob says:

    “Why not take journalism to the next level and call out the fat cats running the college sports show for what they are, money changers with little regard for anything more than their own fat paychecks?”

    That’s been going on for years.

    Speaking of copy editing… “John Hadel”

    “And basketball coach Bill Self was paid $4.5 million”

    And he is worth every penny.

    • admin says:

      If you think Bill Self is worth “every penny” of $4.5 million, two things:

      One, you’re obviously not writing the check

      And two, you’re part of the problem. Just win, baby – at any cost – who cares about ethics, actual sportsmanship, the value of a college education. Spend whatever it takes so KU basketball fans can fancy themselves as superior to schools that far exceed it in academics, geography and quality of life.

      You know, if Peoria, Illinois could shovel snuff money into the right people’s pockets, they’d probably love to host a prestigious basketball program.

      But where do shallow sports egos leave off and actual ethics begin?

      • Bob says:

        You know how much money KU’s basketball team pulls in every year because Self is the coach? And most of his salary is paid by KUAC. Private dollars.

        I know you are trying to rile up KU fans to get pageviews and whatnot, but this isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. It doesn’t really bother KU fans. I’m sorry you are so miserable in Lawrence. I like visiting, but could not live there again.

  7. Orphan of the Road says:

    The monopoly on local news is still in newsprint. So they are the gatekeepers for what the advertisers want pushed as the truth.

    Faux News is just blogging taken to the highest level. Just say what you want as the audience will accept it without question.

    You would think newspapers would take local news serious. But serious could jeopardize advertising.

    While the old, gray lady once said all the news that’s fit to print, it is now, all the news that fits.

    • chuck says:

      Fox News?


      Al Sharpton has his OWN program. Ronan Farrow won the “Cronkite” award.


      • Orphan of the Road says:

        chuck, the manipulation of video is rampant on Fox as is staging shots. Geraldo is their boy and he knows how to do it best.

        The electronic media all have their agendas, Fox takes the road less traveled to spew what passes as news. The others do to though not to the extent of Murdoch’s minions.

        They would fare better if the didn’t give every proven crackpot the mic. Some of their points are well taken but their “experts” tend to wilt in the spotlight.

    • NotAtMyMomsNow says:

      “You would think newspapers would take local news serious. But serious could jeopardize advertising.”

      Dead nuts on. Right on the money. You must be in the field.

  8. James Naismith says:

    You write an article pooping on the fish wraps copy editors, then incorrectly spell the name of a KU legend? You can do better.

    • admin says:

      Yeah and so could you, Naismith.

      Try not being so petty about a typo and addressing the subject at hand

  9. yutz says:

    fyi….there has been 0 to 0 football games

    • admin says:

      You know, in the annals of history I’m sure there has.

      And if a game had to be stopped because of severe weather or whatever.

      But zero-zero in the modern game?

      Pray tell.

  10. yutz says:

    american football that is. excuse the brain poo

  11. chuck says:

    Quality article Hearne.

  12. expat says:

    Soccer won’t replace baseball or football but it’s already got better viewership numbers than the NBA or NHL. Rugby and Aussie rules are better than all American sports – they have the pace of soccer and the physicality of NFL, but without all the goddam rules. Seriously watching NFL is like watching paint dry… “Thanks for waiting through that ten minute commercial break, folks, now let’s get Judge Judy on the field to tell us what that penalty, #7648 this game, means.”

    • expat says:

      Strike viewership add attendance. NBA is always on at sports bars – with nobody watching.

      • admin says:

        But expat, here in Lawrence the Journal World publishes daily must-read news listing the playing time and stats of former Ku basketball players.

        Talk about watching paint dry

        I’m telling you guys, living in Lawrence is like joining a cult

    • the dude says:

      Rugby is where it is at but it will go the way of the dodo like contact american football. The concussion problem will consume both sports once medical science is able to figure out what actually happens to the brain when that kind of repeated head trauma occurs.

  13. Jack Springer says:

    The KC Star just locked up their website for subscribers only. No articles are available, not even limited access for free.

    Goodbye KC Star. Your days are numbered.

  14. hawkfan says:

    You make it so clear that you’re a KU hater, it’s not even funny. It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone so ignorant of how seating at KU works. It’s one thing to not like what athletics did (understandable), but take 5 minutes and have someone explain to you KU’s point system. 1. KU’s top level is $50,000 minimum. Some people donate more than that. 2. All it does is give you first pick (more points equals first pick) 3. KU isn’t getting $61k for each those new seats. They’re getting $1600 + $1000 donation/seat. The largest donors will get first crack at those seats, but they’re already sitting in better seats so it’ll ultimately be someone sitting higher up or a new donor (if they write a big enough check). And you make it simply pretty clear why you could never run an athletic department. You don’t willfully give up hundreds of thousands of dollars per year without trying to replace it. Costs spiral up every year. Ever seen a tuition bill? Out of state tuition alone at KU is $24k.

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