In a testament to how out of it daily newspapers like the Kansas City Star have become, after making huge cuts recently – Thursday’s venerable Preview section and almost all of FYI – the one thing still standing:
A full page and a half of black and white cartoons.
Yep, as the news media of record for KC has withered to a shadow of what it once was, it’s still choking out the holy grail of cartoons, puzzles, horoscopes and obituaries like it’s 1959.
Allow me to explain.
For some reason – a strange one to me – studies seem to indicate newspaper readers simply must have their daily dose of outdated cartoons and the like…
Honestly, I don’t get it, never quite did.
I mean, you don’t see Fox News or CNN intersplicing cartoons into their programming. Like an Adult Swim or something.
And lord knows, the Star has axed and/or trimmed to the bone just about everything else news related but cartoons, puzzles, horoscopes and obits.
At least the obits are halfway legit.
Although for decades (if not centuries) obituaries passed as actual news. That is, until belt tightening in the ’90s lead to hawking them to loved ones as paid ads.
Thus in lieu of fielding a news section columnist a la Art Brisbane (or even Mike Hendricks for crying out loud) – instead of serving up a colorful, diverse accounting of people, places and things going on around town similar to my column (highest read in the Star for most of 16 years) – readers get a you-know-what load of cartoons like Dennis the Menace, Family Circus, Beetle Bailey and Blondie.
I can’t even believe I’m typing those names in 2017.
And on an arguably more contemporary level, they get cartoons I’ve never even heard of like Baby Blues, Sally Forth, Phoebe And Her Unicorn and The Duplex.
Now let’s do a little math.
In a whittled down 20 page Monday Star newspaper, more than three pages were devoted to puzzles, horoscopes and cartoons. Throw in Dear Abby, Billy Graham, a totally out of it TV Tonight grid and the Weather Watch listings and it’s up to four pages or more of news real estate.
And that’s not counting the usual one to three pages of paid obituaries.
Is it any wonder most people under 60 have long since given up on spending hundreds of dollars a year fishing day-old news out of their driveways?
I’ll let you in on a secret; editors pride themselves on news judgement.
You know, sifting through mountains of national, international and local news to come up with the best laid plans for local readers and subscribers.
The $64 million question:
What does it say about those news judgements when 25 percent or more of content is devoted to frivolous things like cartoons, weather maps and watered down TV listings?
Who are they trying to appeal to?
Who are they trying to kid?
How much longer can this house of cards keep from collapsing without a concerted effort to regain lost relevancy for people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s?
Instead of continuing with the same-old, same-old and a less is more approach?
One would think that with billions of dollars still on the line, somebody somewhere would step up with a bold new approach and oust the hangers on from yesterday who continue an obviously failed game plan.
However for now anyway, that beat goes on…