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.
“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.
“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.
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.
“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?
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.
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.