Hearne: KC Star Axes Veteran Firebrand Yael T. Abouhalkah

yael-t-abouhalkah-uses-real-100-bills-to-explain-kansas-budget-dumpster-fireLast one out turn off the lights?

No way…not after the Kansas City Star laid the pipe today to longtime lead editorial columnist Yael Abouhalkah. Think one less dead tired, relic of the past, making room for new, fresher perspectives.

“Good Monday morning. I am on to a new adventure after The Star decided to lay me off this morning after almost 37 years there, including 32 years on the Editorial Board,”  wrote a glib Abouhalkah on Facebook. “Quick observations:

“1. Everything is OK! Great wife, two super kids, house paid for and even decent savings. And good severance pay (thanks, KC Star readers!) More time for gardening and running.

“2. Yes, will definitely miss writing about the local/state political worlds and miss the positive and negative reaction I got from readers.

“3. My wife already has plans for the future.

“4. Really appreciate all of the kind words – even from people who said they often disagree with me — that I’m hearing already.

“5. And FINALLY I get to say what I really think about Sam Brownback and Donald Trump.

Cheers to all.


Whereupon former Star editorial columnist Barb Shelly laid an overwrought, embittered schmooze on her freshly vanquished former stablemate.

sam-brownback1“This morning the Kansas City Star laid off Yael T. Abouhalkah, one of the nation’s smartest and boldest editorial writers,” Shelly began. “This comes after Star management has stalled for six months on replacing myself or Steve Paul after we took buyout offers. Yale and Lewis Diuguid have been working around the clock trying to keep the pages together. I can only surmise that Yael’s continuing advocacy for better web placement and visibility for opinion was too much for Star publisher Tony Berg to handle. Or maybe the complaints about Yael’s relentless scrutiny of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback had their effect. Either way, this is a terrible day for the Kansas City Star and for local journalism. I don’t even want to think about what the upcoming major endorsement editorials are going to look like.”

Now a little inside baseball…

In his prime – during the late 1980s and early 1990s – Abouhalkah carried a pretty big stick.

After all, the Star was KC’s 800 pound news gorilla back then and Yael was the feisty, happy terrier tugging at the pant legs of City Hall’s good-old-boy elite.

Trouble is, like most of the journalists at 18th and Grand his opinions and pursuits were all too predictable. Just like his parting shot at the newspaper implying that only now will Yael be free to to rip Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump ad nauseam. Which, um, hold it, is pretty much what he, Mary Sanchez and the rest of the liberal, old guard have been doing nonstop since forever.

Now allow me to startle some readers by paying a sincere compliment to the now Yael-less Kansas City Star:

By virtue of the newspaper exorcising most of its Baby Boomer writers / reporters, it’s fast becoming a more relevant local news organization.


Yeah, the newspaper still wastes far to much time and space on rudimentary, day to day-and-a half old news, adding little content or substance for all but the most uninformed  readers. If the newspaper needs to fill space, either ramp up the local content or find news angles that transcend the repetitious and mundane.

That said, a number of new bylines and approaches to reporting are making the Kansas City Star a far better news organization.

And the fact that – as Barb Shelly laments – Yael won’t be around to beat the same-old, same-old dead horses is actually quite a good thing.



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32 Responses to Hearne: KC Star Axes Veteran Firebrand Yael T. Abouhalkah

  1. One Guy says:

    All I can say it, it’s about time. I’m trying to decide if I should renew my subscription or hold out for Lee Judge to go first. I can’t decide which he’s worse at, baseball writing or editorial comics.

    But Hearne’s right, this is good news. Yael was the definition of mailing it in.

    • admin says:

      Lee Judge already got laid off, alongside me…

      But he worked out some kind of quasi freelance compromise. Hard to say what his status is today.

      • One Guy says:

        I have no problem with Yael or Lee criticizing Brownback or any other Republican. In fact, I applaude it. But hold both sides accountable. That’s what’s so frustrating. I’ve never seen a Lee Judge cartoon poking fun at a Democrat. Yael would never speak ill of a Democrat.

        I honestly would probably pay extra for a version of The Star that didn’t have Judge’s cartoons. And I think the cartoons bug me so much, I get mad about the baseball stories. And those stories, although shallow and mostly inaccurate, by anybody else I would just ignore.

  2. The Word says:

    Well there is a God. Yael Abouhalkah is finally gone. The guy who hasn’t earned his pay in four years is finally gone.

    • admin says:

      Yale had his moments in the sun, but like most of the reporters, editors and editorial writers at the Star his opinions were patently predictable.

      And as the Star ran out of gas influence-wise, so did Yael and the entire editorial department.

      Does the sound of one hand clapping ring any bells?

  3. Kyle R says:

    Hearne, every time I’ve ever heard the phrase “laid the pipe” in my life, it’s been a far different context than in which you used it. Ha.

  4. DeborahBell says:

    I used to like the Star. Since it laid off most if not all of its experienced staff, it has gotten thinner – literally – every year. It’s a poor excuse for a major city’s newspaper.
    We keep debating about cancelling it. Right now we get Wednesday to Sunday only. I have stopped reading it. I get most of my news from the NY Times and Washington Post, online, inexpensively. The Star just has no value for me any more.

    • admin says:

      Hey Deborah, thanks for weighing in…

      Hmmm, if you get most of your news from the NYT and Wash Post, you’re kind of double dipping by taking the Star. Given how many of their news stories are cribbed from those two sources.

  5. Hey hearne…you went earlier…and now yael.
    Truth is I never read the opinion page because it was too boring.
    Yael (according to your blog) hated brownback which I agreed with
    since he took our great state of Kansas and made it the joke of America.
    Good luck yael…you outlasted your critics.
    And in the end that’s what counts.
    Who now do we turn to for a clear reading of what these politicians
    are doing to our nation.
    Sad. The line is cast. Grab your share. The start of the end is just
    Harleys assessment of campaign 2016 will be out within one week.
    I spoke with mr. ploufe and saw the stats and dems….Harley is on the
    track again!
    Good luck mr. yael. You were a dying breed . Who will be left?

    • admin says:

      Who will be left, Harley?

      Entirely new generations of writers and reporters as has been and always will be the case.

      Life does not grind to a halt simply because some people get really old and put out to pasture.

      This is not a cause for mourning, it’s a reason to celebrate!

      Both for all that Yael accomplished in his career and for what new generations will now have the opportunity to bring to the forefront!

  6. Laura B. says:

    Yael was THE reason I read the Star most days. What the ‘ell is going on over there at 18th and Grand? Despite this author’s protestations about age and baby boom writers, I’d rather read an excellent and experienced writer of Yael’s ilk than someone straight out of journalism school getting experience by working for fifty bucks an article. It’s another black mark for a press organization (can they even be called that any longer) that has too many already.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Laura, however new hires like Steve Vockrodt are hardly fresh out of J School graduates working for 50 bucks a throw. Far from it! Steve is a well vetted veteran from the Kansas City Business Journal and The Pitch. Keep an eye on his byline and your sadness for Yael’s repetitious rants may well fall by the wayside

  7. Steve Porter says:

    Yael’s diligent reporting in addition to sound, well thought out analysis, were the epitome of basic, skeptical journalism. The comfortable were made itchy, the powerful scrutinized and the propaganda fact-checked to reveal hypocrisy under his watch. Bringing in someone with a Wall Street Journal background to run the newspaper sends a signal that this town’s newspaper will take a sharp right turn. The new editor will click her heels, salute Sacramento and do as she’s told. Don’t hold your breath in expectation that someone at 17th and Grand will someday commit journalism again. Those days are about over.

    • admin says:

      With all due respect Steve I don’t think either of us is in a position to predict what the new editorial page editor will or won’t do.

      Assuming the worst is pretty simple.

      Most people fear change.

      However, tupping your hat to a left leaning news perspective says a lot more about you than it does the future of journalism in Kansas City.

      Let’s give them a chance!

    • chuck says:

      Yeah Steve, he (Yael) flung ’em straight down the middle.

      Here are, excluding his obsession with Brownback, his headlines over the last few months.

      Yael T. Abouhalkah

      Show us the IRS audit letter, Donald Trump

      Donald Trump refuses to release his income tax returns. That reprehensible stance upsets MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, and when I supported O’Donnell, that tweet went viral, bringing in responses from across the nation.


      Yael T. Abouhalkah

      Jason Kander joins Missouri politicians who are clinging to their guns

      Jason Kander released a political ad Thursday showing he can put together a rifle while blindfolded. That just makes the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, opposing Roy Blunt, part of the political crowd that’s pandering to Missouri voters.


      Yael T. Abouhalkah

      Mayor Sly James’ ‘double down on stupid’ tweet angers Missouri’s gun lovers

      Kansas City Mayor Sly James angered some Missouri lawmakers and gun lovers on Tuesday when he tweeted his opposition to a bill that would allow people to carry guns with no permits or training.


      Yael T. Abouhalkah

      Kris Kobach’s new humiliating defeat a victory for Kansas voters

      Secretary of State Kris Kobach has lost yet another legal battle in his bid to make it more difficult to vote in Kansas. That’s good news for voters. As long as Kobach keeps losing in court, voters will stay winning.


      Yael T. Abouhalkah

      Colin Kaepernick’s three big national anthem victories

      National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to not stand during the National Anthem has sparked plenty of informative and emotionally charged writing about patriotism and the anthem. It also has spurred positive contributions for social issues. This has been a teachable last few weeks for Americans — all without costing any lives.


      Yael T. Abouhalkah

      Kris Kobach’s latest nonsense on Donald Trump’s Mexico border wall

      Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach put on his best smug smile Thursday and told reporters that U.S. taxpayers should shell out to build Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between America and Mexico if that country won’t pay for it. But Kobach didn’t lay out a reasonable plan to finance the inane project.


      This “journalist” was a garden variety, low fruit picking, modestly qualified (Compared to Jenee and Lewis) Liberal shill for Liberal causes his entire career. The pretense that he was the “epitome of skeptical journalism” is laughable.

      • admin says:

        Well, in Yael’s defense, I will again say he had his moments. But the days of wielding an editorial monopoly on far left (or far right for that matter) news opinions may well be over.

        • chuck says:

          Ok. I looked back over everything I could find. Now maybe I missed something, but I couldn’t find one single position that he took (There were a couple of economic positions that he took, that were, in my opinion, non political and were based on utility.) that didn’t support the Progressive narrative.

          Those columns, again, in my opinion, were parroting, uninspired, repetitions-come-lately talking points from other, far more erudite Liberal thought leaders.

          On local issues, he masticated and hocked into the Liberal spittoon with salt of the earth efforts, any and every conservative idea, cause and candidate with one sided obfuscation and mendacity.


  8. Keith Gumowitz says:

    I think Hearne is still nursing his bruised fired-by-the-Star ass. Claiming today’s Star is “fast becoming a more relevant local news organization” illustrates why he’s stuck in a dinky blog.

    • admin says:

      Oh Keith…

      Stuck in the past or what?

      No. 1, I wasn’t fired, I was laid off alongside dozens, hundreds of Star editors, reporters and columnists. No. 2, they tried to hire me back.

      No. 3, What’s your story? You like to toss darts at maps?

    • John Altevogt says:

      Standard fare. Criticize The Star and it’s your fault they suck.

  9. Mark Robertson says:

    How could Yael be any more harsh of Governor Brownback? And what does he “really think?”

    • admin says:

      Maybe that was tongue-in-cheek…

      Now it’s gonna be up to Mary Sanchez to bag on Brownback and Trump until the grim reaper comes her way

  10. Mark says:

    Good Riddance to Yael and Barb Shelly – they’re both negative, bitter whiners.

    • admin says:

      They dried up and tapped out long ago…

      Frankly, I’m not sure Barb ever really had what it takes, but that’s the way local print journalism was for decades…time in service equals upward mobility – especially for persons of color and woman.

      Nice person, though.

  11. John Altevogt says:

    Shelly, The Star’s former handmaiden to corruption laments The Star’s future endorsements. You mean like the ones you guys wrote endorsing a felon convicted of public corruption over a former community college president simply because he was demanding an audit of the books, or car wash magnate Cleaver over squeaky clean Jamie Metzyl, or the judge accused of being drunk on the bench? Those endorsements? Or perhaps the ones that were virtually candidate for candidate identical with a JOCO hate group? Those endorsements?

  12. Jack Springer says:

    Good riddance to an embarrassment.

    He can finally go to Mecca every year now.

    If I was Brownback I’d make sure this weirdo wasn’t stalking me.

  13. The world needs to give more garden-variety leftists more time for their gardening. So it would appear that everyone’s a winner here, especially Yale Abbadabbadoo.

  14. The Word says:

    Well it looks like LEWIS DIUGUID is next. Will step down on Oct 7th.

  15. JP in KC says:

    “If I was Brownback I’d make sure this weirdo wasn’t stalking me.”

    You said it. That has been one weird obsession, not to mention boring for the Star’s readers.

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