After a one year hiatus I’ve started taking the Kansas City Star again…
Conspiracy theories aside, my dropping of the newspaper went down quite by accident. Something about getting divorced, moving, misplacing a credit card and beginning a new career.
I know, excuses, excuses.
However as the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months I came to learn what tens of thousands of now former Star readers already knew. And that’s that life goes on absent the mostly tired, formulaic reporting the goes down at 18th and Grand.
That said, I’m back.
The newspaper underwent rather underwhelming major design changes while I was away and vowed to ramp up its reporting despite going from a staff of more than 2,000 a dozen years back to maybe 400 plus or minus, if that.
The good news; most of the Baby Boomer hangers-on reporters and editors have either fled the scene or taken a bullet. And in this past year the Star has actually made some long overdue, younger reporter hires such as Pitch superstar Steve Vockrodt.
So while certainly those are major improvements the newspaper’s primary problems remain; aging editors and execs who stick with a dated, formulaic approach to news reporting while refusing to read even the most basic tea leaves.
Case in point:
Who among you still thinks national and world news is the best communicated by jamming half day to day old information into print and flinging it haphazardly onto people’s driveways?
Allow me to suggest an answer; Oldsters who’ve followed former Royals star George Brett from his days hawking hemorrhoid cream 35 years ago to his current gig shilling for hearing aids.
For decades daily newspapers survived the competitive immediacy of radio and television by offering greater depth in both local and national news coverage. That was fortified by what amounted to effective local news monopolies – monopolies that despite competition from the Internet they still enjoy.
However instead of circling the wagons around those, their greatest strengths, local news – the Star continues to pretend its aging readership is dependent upon stale, syndicated national and world new stories cribbed from competing media like the Washington Post and New York Times.
Seriously, what in the world is the Kansas City Star doing featuring next day, front page stories about an Italian earthquake? Or former congressman Anthony Weiner’s wife finally dumping him in the wake his sending pics of his “bulging underpants” to a woman on the west coast. Or hints that the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve may be poised to raise interest rates. Or Mother Teresa being named saint?
The relatively tiny Lawrence Journal World manages to put out a daily newspaper in a town a fraction the size of KC by focusing on local news gathering accented with a small, high quality news insert provided by USA Today.
But rather than put on the pretense that it’s mostly breaking the news, USA Today wisely takes a more round about, in depth approach that transcends the headlines of the day.
Whereas by comparison, the Star presents it’s mostly day old national and international news as if it’s breaking news (which obviously it is not). Unless of course, it’s acknowledging that its aging readership is so out of it, that they’re still mostly learning what’s going on a day or more after everybody else.
Which is kinda lame, weird…
And please don’t try and argue that the Star’s print edition is irrelevant given the immediacy of its online news offerings. Because far and away what’s left of the financial underpinnings of the newspaper – indeed it’s very survival – is based print edition ad sales and subscriptions. If it had to depend solely on online revenue, they’d be lucky to still be in business, let alone suit up a staff of 200
Without print revenue there is no Kansas City Star.
Truth be known, take away the obituary pages, comics, horoscopes and crossword puzzle section – you know, and the national and international news -and the Star would probably curl up and die, both in print and online.
However, the newspaper soldiers on, mostly because nobody else locally is originating any truly diverse, meaningful local news coverage. Not the Pitch, not the Prairie Village Post, not Johnny Dare and certainly not KC Confidential. We all have our strengths, but they pale in comparison, even to the massively diminished resources of the Star.
The $64 billion question:
Can the aging oldsters in charge – at 18th and Grand and in Sacramento – loosen their vice like grip on the past long enough to give the next generation of journalists the opportunity right the course of local news? To engage and bring younger readers into the fold, to whom full page ads featuring former Royals star George Brett hawking hearing aids will fall on deaf ears.