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.”
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.