Late last summer I misplaced a credit card that paid my monthly subscription fee to the Kansas City Star. The net result being the gang at 18th and Grand cut me off. Poof, I was history.
No more predictable, dull Jenée Osterheldt columns; no more Sunday snooze fest courtesy of cranky Charlie Gusewelle; and no more death watch columns from yours truly chronicling the downward spiral of a newspaper with more than 2,000 staffers a dozen years back to maybe 400 and change today.
Time to move on.
That’s basically what happened, because when the subscription people at the Star called repeatedly to try and get me back in the fold I was too busy to talk. Combined with the fact that I was taking the Lawrence Journal World and USA Today, it was all too easy to let things lapse – and lapse they did.
Suddenly, here I was living in Lawrence and working for BMW and Volkswagen in Topeka while sorting out the sad remnants of a failed marriage. The net result being that my awareness of all things Kansas City gradually began to fade and my writing output on local issues plummeted.
Perhaps you noticed!
Next thing I knew the Star underwent a major redesign last fall and vowed to renew its commitment to better journalism – more investigative stories – in an attempt to win back the tens of thousands of readers that had left it for dead.
Dedicated readers like Craig Glazer and Bill Nigro – to name two – prominent locals who not only were smack dab in the middle of newspaper’s target demographic, they were news junkies to whom the printed word was the perfect storm.
Yet even they – almost unbelievably – fell by the wayside and allowed their subscriptions to lapse. In part because much of the local color had disappeared from the Star. My column in FYI for one, along with Jason Whitlock and Joe Posnanski in sports. On top of which the quote/unquote Metro columnists who’d mattered had bit the dust. Even business writer Kevin Collison bailed.
Thus not only had the Star’s color content all but disappeared, its news coverage was greatly diminished. And by all accounts, the remaining news staff’s morale was at lower levels than the approval ratings of congress. There was no meaningful leadership at the publisher and editor levels as the parent company McClatchy allowed the Star to drift aimlessly as it struggled mightily to keep its head above water.
Added to which, the newspaper’s redesign was an utter and abject failure.
It looks so u believably lame that it’s a wonder somebody at some level didn’t pull the plug and send things back to the drawing board. In addition to which the promised investigative pieces seem to be few and far between.
Then when I finally got my hands on this past Sunday’s newspaper I was stunned.
The Kansas City Star had turned into a retirement newsletter for oldsters.
Complete with a cavalcade of hearing aid ads – including a full pager featuring George Brett – tons of joint, knee, foot pain and retirement home ads, invitations for folks 70 and older to participate in research studies, cremation ads and more than three pages of paid obituaries.
Omigosh, had it come to this?
The entire content of the newspaper looked and read like a funeral parlor, waiting room handout.
So depressing – so unimaginative.
In short, subscribing to the Star would be the absolute last thing anybody halfway young with their focus on the future would want to immerse themselves into, let alone pay for.
It’s sports section is halfway ok, but hardly the bright spot it once was.
And the arts + culture section – man – who dialed the fun out of that part of the paper?
Instead of a column filled with newsy tidbits and edgy items about things going on around town from me – and splashes of fun, interesting arty items – the former A&E section has turned into a snoozefest, with front page stories about Parmesan cheese.
Music writer Tim Finn burned an entire page writing about an obscure part time deejay and musician from Lawrence. Did you know Figaro was coming to the Lyric? There’s a giant obit about an obscure local filmmaker who died that Robert Butler wrote. And the photos and faces of the writers and editors on display in the section reinforce the fact that nobody under 50 – let alone 40 or 30 – would want to have much, if anything to do with the section.
It’s a death march.
It’s a shame.
And it’s needless.
It’s like the Star doesn’t have the good sense to put people out to pasture and hire lower paid, vibrant, viable writers to take their place.
The Journal World doesn’t seem have this problem, nor the Platte County Landmark.
Seriously, how do you suppose the Royals and Chiefs would fare if Len Dawson and George Brett were still suiting up and everywhere you turned in the stadiums there were hearing aid, funeral home, retirement and cremation ads?
The bottom line: I’m coming back out of mothballs for you guys and was just about to re-up at the Star, but I’m not sure I can handle it.
It’s just too depressing.
So I’ll have to find another means of keeping abreast in KC to make the observations I’ve long made.
But seriously, what in the world is going on at 18th and Grand? Is anybody even minding the store? No wonder the Star’s relatively youthful and hottie publisher bolted for Arizona after a mere handful of years.
Who would want to work in that kind of atmosphere?