Hearne: Catching Up On KC’s Not So Merry Media-Go-Round

Robert Butler, let go by KC Library

Robert Butler, let go by KC Library

So many axed and/or out-of-work journalists, so little time…

Kansas City and Lawrence’s Wheel of Misfortune has been turning at a good clip in the media ranks and I’m overdue on weighing in on some of those happenstances, so let’s rectify that now.

First, a shout out of sorts to the Lawrence Journal World‘s Bill Mayer.

Mayer was older than God (for a journalist) when he checked out this past April, yet even in his so-called retirement, he exhibited a keen sense of right, wrong and fair play and had the you-know-what’s to back it up.

For example, Mayer practically single handedly lead the criticism of KU’s athletics department for stepping all over the school’s longtime faithful in the manner it did when it instituted its points system for basketball and football tickets a handful of years back.

I nipped at the KU’s heels to the extent I was allowed in the Kansas City Star – which by the way gave the school a pass, all but ignoring more than a year’s worth of front page news that was well covered in Lawrence by – guess who? – Mayer.

In 2005 I saluted Mayer in a column entitled, Mayer of Lawrence gets in the last word. At that point Mayer was still putting in 20 hour work weeks at the ripe young age of 80.

Check it.

“The old dike at Kansas University just keeps leaking during this less-than-idyllic summer,” Mayer wrote. “Athletic department-oriented officials and their associates will need all the help they can get to stop the bleeding.

Bill Mayer Gone, not forgotten, not replaced

Bill Mayer
Gone, not forgotten, not replaced

“You can recite your own litany of problems that have emanated from (Allen) Fieldhouse in the past two years,” Mayer continued. “The initial biggie was about the basketball ticket situation and the obvious evidence that the wealthiest fans would end up commanding the best seats, regardless of longevity, loyalty and such. Then there were the replacements of a number of experienced and loyal staff members with people of (athletics head Lew) Perkins‘ personal choice. That didn’t sit well with some who appreciated the warmth, humanity and outreach the departees provided. The higher-paid new hires from `outside’ haven’t seemed to fit into the community so affably.”

Mayer wasn’t finished.

He waded into a topic many KU basketball fans had become well acquainted with – out with the plebeian-but- enthusiastic faithful, in with the more well-heeled “wine and cheese” crowd.

“It wasn’t long before a growing chill could be sensed by a lot of veteran visitors to the athletics venues,” he wrote. “I’ll never have the space to chronicle all the personal stories of perceived rejection and disenchantment. But KU public relations have taken an acid bath.”

Mayer even prescribed a remedy:

“Get better in touch with the people you’re serving and get to know ’em as people rather than just cash cows,” Mayer advised. “And never take Lawrence and the people in Lawrence for granted. Because you can go to Wichita, go to Topeka and go to Kansas City and raise money, but, more or less, when you get into trouble, it’s the people of Lawrence who will pull your butt out of trouble.”

Well, Mayer’s gone and there’s pretty much nobody left on the Journal World staff with the guts to truly take on KU. And don’t even think about the Star keeping the Jayhawks honest, with the rare exception of Sam Mellinger (when he doesn’t get buried in Blogville).

And know this, after more than a half century at the paper, Mayer deserved far better than the minuscule send off he got from the Journal World this spring. Far better.

                                                          *******

Karen Dillon

Karen Dillon

It’s been tough time for my former associate and pal Karen Dillon, one of the Kansas City Star‘s brightest and most tenacious investigative reporters.

As reported by the Pitch, Dillon got crosswise of Star editor Mike Fannin after KC Confidential broke our “Hunger Games” story in 2012 about Dillon being pitted against a fellow reporter with the two being asked to decide which would suffer the layoffs ax.

“A special project that two reporters had worked on for a year had been published that Sunday and Monday,” Dillon told the Pitch. “Fannin actually told me that the favorable reaction he had expected from the series was being overtaken by the Hunger Games controversy.”

“Fannin pounded on his desk and demanded to know if Dillon had been the one who called Christopher,” the Pitch added.

Not surprisingly, Dillon took a bullet from the Star last October.

She hooked up with KSHB TV in January but got yet another pink slip in May.

“Well, that job was just a, ‘Let’s see how it works out job,’ ” says a source. “That’s how she described it at the time.”

The latest: Dillon has agreed to freelance for The Pitch but in all likelihood will be looking for something far more substantial money wise.

“She really needs the income because she’s got a disabled daughter and two grandchildren that she helps take care of,” says a source. “And I don’t think she can move out of town with all of that.”

It’s a testament to the sad state of print journalism today.

                                                            *******

0Speaking of former Star investigative reporters, Pulitzer winner Mike McGraw retired earlier this spring and has reportedly agreed to do some work for KCPT Channel 19.

“He officially retired,” says a source. “I think for him the KCPT thing is just something to do for the fun of it.Nothing full time.”

The $64 million question: what’s the over-under on McGraw doing yet another piece on the 1988 explosion in Kansas City that killed six firefighters?

                                                                   *******

Kevin CollisonStar business reporter and columnist Kevin Collison‘s departure late last month for a position as Marketing & Communications Manager at Burns & McDonnell was a shocker to many.

For starters, Collison – one of the world’s nicest guys, too nice in fact – was one of the few remaining heavy hitters at 18th and Grand. He specialized in front page business scoops on major real estate developments and the like and his affability and tendency not to ask tough questions combined with the reach of the newspaper, made him the popular choice with developers wanting to break news stories about big and little projects alike.

“Kevin Collison had it great,” says a source. “To me he wasn’t that much of reporter though. I would give him news tips and he would say, ‘Oh, I have to write what the editors tell me to write.’ Look at his writing. He doesn’t dig and come up with stories that ruffle anybody’s feathers. That’s why he landed that PR gig. He’s a nice guy and I like him personally but it got to the point where I didn’t read  his stuff anymore (past the headlines).”

Also surprising is that Collison’s new gig will be an on-the-job training affair.

Given that he doesn’t posses almost any of the standard job requirements for a marketing and communications manager position, which include:

  • Demonstrated skills, knowledge and experience in the design and execution of marketing, communications and public relations activities.
  • Strong creative, strategic, analytical, organizational and personal sales skills.
  • Demonstrated successful experience writing press releases, making presentations and negotiating with media.
  • Experience overseeing the design and production of print materials and publications.
  • Computer literacy in word processing, data base management and page layout.
  • Commitment to working with shared leadership and in cross-functional teams.
  • Minimum of 5 years experience in marketing, communications or public relations with demonstrated success.
  • Bachelors degree in journalism, marketing, public relations preferred. Graduate degree in a related field is desirable.
  • Experience working with volunteers is desirable.
  • Membership in IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) and IABC accreditation are desirable.

Kevin’s a quick study, but that’s a lot of ground to make up for a beginner, but never underestimate the power of schmooze.

                                                           *******

hr_Transformers-_Age_of_Extinction_42And finally, former Star movie critic Robert Butler announced on his Facebook page Sunday that he’d been laid off by the Kansas City Public Library.

It was the apparent end of what was termed on the library website “a beautiful friendship.”

Butler was laid off by the Star three years ago and freelanced with the library for several months before being brought on board full time.

And while the parting is far from wildly surprising, film fans can still catch Butler’s movie review act at Butler’s Cinema Scene online. Just don’t expect to read a review of the new Transformers movie, Bob has extremely refined taste.

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14 Responses to Hearne: Catching Up On KC’s Not So Merry Media-Go-Round

  1. b12 says:

    And the beat goes on… The Star is but a shell of what it used to be. Some of that is due to mismanagement. Some of that is due to the natural evolution of information consumption. Radio is in the same boat…desperately paddling, but taking on water.

    • the dude says:

      Jesus, print media is a f%cking joke.
      So sad, so many feels.

      • paulwilsonkc says:

        Funny thing, Dude, it is a joke, but in towns 30K and under its a growth area. Small town folk still want inky, stainded fingers instead of getting their news on line.

        • b12 says:

          @theesteemedpaulwilson. You’re correct about smaller towns and newsprint. But…the challenge for those operations are still much the same: Rising overhead, and fewer advertisers and fewer subscribers to pay the freight.

          Newspaper and radio aren’t going away…it’s just that the “good old days” are dots on the horizon in the rear view mirror.

          • Hearne says:

            like I said, it was out there already in a big way
            KSHB was prolly his only lifeline.
            I wish him well

        • admin says:

          Online from firebrands like, Paul Wilson…

          Come in, Paul. Come in

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            First, thank you to b12 and your nickname of @theesteemedpaulwilson. You are now on the list of people I appreciate most.

            And to “Admin”, whoever the hell you are…. thank you as well.

            fire·brand
            /ˈfīrˌbrand/
            noun
            plural noun: firebrands
            1. a person who is passionate about a particular cause, typically inciting change and taking radical action.
            “a political firebrand”
            synonyms:
            radical, revolutionary, agitator, rabble-rouser, incendiary, subversive, troublemaker More

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            b12, its interesting because I’ve been approached by an old classmate who does PR and syndication, wanting to put together an agreement to get me in a handfull of those small town papers on a weekly, Sunday, feel good column kind of thing….. thats where I was shown the facts on the growth curve.
            However, youre going to be right, sooner or later, it will most likely catch up with those examples as well.

  2. chuck says:

    That resume is such typical bullsh*t.

    1) Demonstrated skills, knowledge and experience in the design and execution of marketing, communications and public relations activities. (Sales ability and a penchant for bullsh*t in combination with an eye towards Politically Correct presentations of yourself, your company and product.)

    2) Strong creative, strategic, analytical, organizational and personal sales skills. (Don’t tell them you sold cars for those Arabs on Wornall. See number 1.)

    3) Demonstrated successful experience writing press releases, making presentations and negotiating with media. (The ability to notify your new boss that you can notify the media. Again, this comes under the all important ability to Bullsh*t.)

    4)Experience overseeing the design and production of print materials and publications. (Bullsh*tting about the actual value of information in print.)

    5) Computer literacy in word processing, data base management and page layout. (Bullsh*t through this and hire that kid next door to your mom’s to do it.)

    6) Commitment to working with shared leadership and in cross-functional teams. (Are you fuc*in kiddin me? Who is bullsh*tting who? This is right in your wheelhouse. Tell them you plan on taking over the Product Administration Paradigm Coordination of all Analytic Infrastructure Facilitation Strategies in just one year.)

    7) Minimum of 5 years experience in marketing, communications or public relations with demonstrated success. (They were the ones that brought up “Cross Functional Teams. Lie about your past. Again, NOTHING about that job with the Arabs.)

    8) Bachelors degree in journalism, marketing, public relations preferred. Graduate degree in a related field is desirable. (If you are sitting in front of some one seeking this job, you moron, you probably actually HAVE this degree. Brutal.)

    9) Experience working with volunteers is desirable. (All those days in front of grocery stores as Clay Chastain’s wing man not only didn’t get you laid-that liar-, it shouldn’t be mentioned here either. Tell them you handed out “The Call” on KC Street Corners but not under your Slave Name. )

    10) Membership in IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) and IABC accreditation are desirable. (You already are president of the International Association of Bullsh*t Communicators , just give them that card.)

  3. JimmyD says:

    Hearne, what about Joel Nichols being back on the air in KC on channel 41? I think he may have his own show. Did you miss that one?

    • admin says:

      No, Jimmy D…

      It was already reported and I forget whether I bothered to mention it or not since it was well out there.

      I will remind you that no way Lezak and company wanted Nichols on the weather team. His group are all meteorologists and Nichols is an old school, goofy, rip and read weather guy.

      They are adding him to the morning show as a personality. Not sure if they’ll let him mention much about the weather though

      • JimmyD says:

        Since you wrote a whole blog entry about him getting fired a few months ago I figured you’d at least mention it. So, it’s only newsworthy if you break it? You never mentioned he signed with 41 and was living out his no compete clause.

        • mike t. says:

          landsberg’s bottomline communications still reports on some local media stuff. not as much as he used to since he moved to Hilton Head (?). anyway, he reported joel’s signing there.

          • Hearne says:

            As did the Star.

            Yeah, bottomline still gets a kc media story every once in a blue moon

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