Hearne: Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’ Routine Getting Old @ Star

Barb Shelly

Barb Shelly

To be honest, I don’t spend much time pouring over what’s left of the Kansas City Star opinion section…

Never did really.

Except in the early 1990s when writers like Yael Abouhalkah loomed fairly large in helping shape local political opinion – or so it seemed. Back then there were enough scurrilous Kansas City Councilmen bumping about that Yael’s columns often made for interesting reading.

Times have changed.

Newspaper readers have gotten way older and – as evidenced by Star’s obituary section, excuse me, “remembrances” – many of the older readers who were the wind beneath Yael’s wings have passed on.

Now that those obits are being paid for by families and friends of the deceased, dead folks are the single largest advertiser in the newspaper.

Who else buys two to five pages of advertising every day but Monday?

The flip side of getting all that ad revenue for something the Star used to give away free, is its editorial influence has been diminished by the thinning ranks of older readers, who’ve yet to be replaced by the younger readers so desperately needed.

Meanwhile, it’s come to my attention – courtesy of some of KCC’s more conservative pundits – that certain Star editorial writers can’t get enough of Brownback bashing – as in, Kansas governor Sam Brownback.

And while certainly he makes for a good target, I was struck by some of the wording employed today by Star columnist Barb Shelly.

Barb’s a mild-mannered, affable, far from someone known for being a hellcat, but after reading some of Dwight and Rich Steele’s pieces, I’ve been starting to wonder.

Take Shelly’s rant today, “Brownback’s Dodge On Heath Care Is A New Low.”

“All of a sudden, Gov. Sam Brownback is consumed with compassion for the more than 5,000 disabled Kansans who are pleading for services,” Shelly begins. “This is new. Brownback didn’t give a rip about people with developmental and physical disabilities when he rammed through his massive tax cuts, which benefited wealthy Kansans and rendered the state unable to meet its most basic obligations.”

That’s a pretty harsh and broad bit of hyperbole for a newspaper that’s spent decades measuring and understating its criticism in all but the most over-the-top instances.

Using the words like “dodge,” not giving a “rip” (that’s newspaper for “shit”), and phrases like the governor “turning “a cold shoulder” on families in need, seems to me like overkill. Shelly calls Brownback “cynical” and claims the thing’s he’s done are “contemptible”  and “disgraceful.”

Steve Rose

Steve Rose

Look, I’m not saying Shelly doesn’t have some legitimate points.

However, it’s a darn sight harder to get those points across to readers when they view you as dripping in contempt and tossing over the top haymakers at the governor of the state.

Which reminds me, outside of adding former Johnson County Sun publisher Steve Rose as a freelance editorial columnist, it’s been forever and a day since the Star brought in somebody even in their 30s or 40s balance out the editorial/opinion side.

How can a newspaper hope to attract younger readers when the only opinions its offering up are from angry, 60-something Baby Boomers who’ve gotten more than a little set in their ways?

My advice to Shelly: find a nice beach and take a few weeks off. And when you get back, check and see if they’ve got any more of those six month severance deals and go start a blog – it’ll be a better fit, I think.

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18 Responses to Hearne: Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’ Routine Getting Old @ Star

  1. Libertarian says:

    Kids today (or 30-40 whatever’s as you call them) arent politically motivated enough to fall for the star’s liberal drivel day in and day out, and like it or not, thats what the star has become-incessant liberal drivel. The star has become what no newspaper should….an agenda pusher.

    Its really hard to reach any [under 40] audience today if you arent twitter, facebook, youtube, or instagram.

    I only read online version for the comments, and since they went to a facebook only log in, the comments have become nothing more than ennui fodder.

  2. mike t. says:

    Hi Lib… I think historically The Star has done more than it’s fair share of pushing agendas. Partial copy from their website:
    City Beautiful: In the late 19th century, Kansas City had few paved streets and few sidewalks. Mud and horse manure were everywhere.

    Nelson, a public-works contractor for part of his career in Indiana, used The Star to campaign for paved roads and streets, first in the bottoms and Downtown, and later elsewhere in the city. Also, he thumped for improved sidewalks and sewers, decent public buildings, better streetlights and more fire and police protection.

    His most enduring legacy was the city’s parks system, which he began promoting in 1881 along with August Meyer, a wealthy real estate man. They hired George E. Kessler, the landscape architect, to design a boulevard and park system that would begin to take shape in 1895 when the city approved a charter amendment to give the parks board power to buy the land.

    1947: Roy A. Roberts is chosen president of The Star and shapes its destiny for the next 18 years. Roberts, a “big, fat boy from Kansas,” is a disciple of Nelson. He becomes one of the last of the great political editors, the kind who brought national renown to their papers. Early in his career, as Jefferson City correspondent and then reporting from Washington, Roberts’ work had shown the knowledge of a political insider. Eventually becoming managing editor, Roberts, with Lacy Haynes of The Star’s Kansas bureau in Kansas City, Kan., influences Kansas politics for years. In the mid-1930s, Roberts and other Kansas editors and businessmen boom Gov. Alf Landon for president and succeed in getting him the 1936 GOP nomination on the first ballot.

    Like Nelson, Roberts is a big, rumpled man. Like Nelson, he becomes a kingmaker. And like Nelson, he is domineering, political in and out of the office, and a believer in low wages. Time magazine, in a cover story about him, calls Roberts “the man to see in Kansas City to get elected, to build a hospital, to get things into the paper and to keep them out.”

    A rock-ribbed Republican, Roberts becomes an intractable enemy of Harry S. Truman. The feeling was mutual. Truman never forgave The Star for challenging his integrity in the investigation of vote fraud, and The Star attacked the president at every opportunity.

    • chuck says:

      Excellent take. I just bought a hardback called, “The Star & The City” For 125 years, Kansas City’s Chronicler and Crusader. The Star was once a vehicle far less politically biased and far more interested in doing great things for an evolving Midwestern city.

      A long time ago.

      By the way, I am looking for Hearn’s picture in there, I think he is there with hundreds of others, have not found it yet.

  3. chuck says:

    On February 7th, on the show “RUCKUS” Yael called Roy Blunt, and I quote here, a “Knuckle Dragging Republican”. On last weeks show, he chastised Mike Shanin for allowing Jeff Roe to appear on the program. Yael is a steady contributor of ad hominem insults to those on the right with various and sundry personifications of people to animals.

    Barb Shelly’s commentary is reserved and thoughtful in comparison.

    By the way, Yael announced his decision to withdraw from RUCKUS and will no longer be available as a panelist.

    Big mistake, but understandable when you consider a traditional newsprint wallah like Yael’s need to control the message and dissemination of the news.

    The Liberal narrative, so long unchallenged is now dissected on every blog across the United States. We’re not keeping our doctors, health plans, exceptionalism, Congressional oversight, intact borders, jobs, savings etc. etc. Yael is butthurt, maybe Barb is too.

    Again, big mistake. Yael needs to try harder, become even more available for discussions of his columns and opinions in order to remain relevant as Dead Tree Media continues to fall back in the pack. It was easy to see, that he was uncomfortable when having to defend positions in an extemporaneous setting which exposed the weakness in his argument and his personality.

    It’s a puerile, take-my-ball-and-go-home strategy that he will rue soon enough.

    Maybe Barb Shelly can take his place, six of one…

    • admin says:

      I doubt Barb will be taking anybody’s place, unless it’s on the plank leading away from the newspaper.

      It really is odd that in all these years of trying to diversify the readership and bring in younger readers, they’ve not so much as even made a token effort in the opinion section.

      I think they view it as kind of a tribal elders thing,

      • Orphan of the Road says:

        Shelly worked at The Pottstown Press before she came here. Her writing style was much different there.

        Of course the area around Pottstown is where Halloween is a controversial holiday for the church people.

        Make TKC crowd look like angels.

  4. mensch says:

    not only are their columnists left to far-left types — nearly all the Letters-to the Editor seem to be pro-Democrat and/or Repub bashing–
    just try submitting a Conservative leaning letter! – lots of luck getting that printed.
    Out of a half dozen letters I submitted over a year or two — I got exactly ONE published — on a non-political subject —
    I got a call from …yep..Lewis Diuguid – to verify my identity for that letter – so — that uber-lib may be the reason for only lefty letters in the Star.

  5. admin says:

    They don’t have people like Lewis Diuguid editing the letters column for nothing…

    Which is kind of the funny thing about the Star.

    They almost totally believe that they’re objective to a fault – no biases – except you know, right from wrong. What they don’t seem to fully grasp is that one man’s right is another man’s wrong.

    And I’m not just talking about capital crimes here.

  6. I’m relatively new to the area, having moved here in ’97. What’s a Kansas City “Star”?

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