Hearne: Long, Slow Death Throes Continue @ 18th and Grand

Don’t look now but the inevitable is upon us…

The question being, when and where will it all end where the Kansas City Star is concerned?

When the Star dropped its most recent bombshell – on Monday April 17, 2017 in a front page “Editor’s Note” – the news was both grave and ominous.

As of that moment, Kansas City’s longtime newspaper of record would be making yet more severe cutbacks. They bandaged the bad news by introducing the changes by first noting that there would be three additional pages of coverage every Monday followed by a page of arts and entertainment stories on Tuesdays.

Not bad, eh? More is more.

Not so fast…

Cloaked between that half hearted positive thinking was the raw fact that Thursday’s more than 30 year-old Preview section was going for a dirt nap.


The editors were killing off Preview and what remained of their vaunted FYI section without so much as uttering a few words over their moribund bodies?

True story.

Talk about disingenuous…

How shallow and callous to try to spin the awful truth as if readers either wouldn’t notice the subtractions or might somehow find them palatable based on a few token “additions.”

However that’s the way the game is being played these days – not just at 18th and Grand – but everywhere. Little to no accountability.

By the same folks who’ve been digging the same grave for the past 20 years with misstep after misstep, while clinging to the past but doing little to demonstrate anything approaching a sense of awareness that the year is 2017 not 1997 (the year before the first iMac was released and the internet began its cancerous encroachment on traditional news media like newspapers).

The folks in charge at 18th and Grand are still laser focused on trumpeting front page headlines about day old news and wasting precious natural resources on back and white comics, word games, horoscopes, television listings, antiquated opinion sections no one reads or cares about and syndicated columns ghost written for figures from the last century that are either well into their late 90s or six feet under.

So what’s next?

Remember a handful of years back when former editor and publisher Art Brisbane mused about the Star circling its wagons around a four-day-a-week tabloid pub – 20,000 or so copies – and defending the financial realm with a fat Sunday offering.

For the uninformed, Sunday is where the revenues are.

Plus of course the only modestly profitable Internet.

The $64 million question:

How many more oldsters have to die; how much more news content must disappear; and how frustrated must Star print subscribers become before it all goes up in smoke and they pull the plug on print entirely?

Followed by far more drastic staffing cuts to match the severe drop in revenues?

Now a quick time out:

A tip of the hat to comments urchins who will undoubtedly want to diminish these observations and questions by trying to link my departure from the Star some years back to some sort of imaginary vendetta. Knock yourselves out, this is legit news commentary.

And try not fall for and not step in dated, lame blogging cliches like “dead tress media.”

Because it’ll be a sad day when witty blogging banter and unverified factoids replace whatever remains of real news.

The $64 billion question:

When will things get bad enough (and the stock of companies like Star owner McClatchy fall far enough) that someone with an actual eye to the future steps in and cleans house of the execs, editors and publishers who continue to live in the past while pretending otherwise?


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21 Responses to Hearne: Long, Slow Death Throes Continue @ 18th and Grand

  1. dude…many papers making comeback….ny times had 300,000 new subscriptions
    …thank you mr. trump.
    there’s noone who can do an investigation into a rat/thief/than the newspapers.
    Thank god we’ve got some left.
    In the end…they’ll be the reason the world was saved from scam man donald!

    • admin says:

      Dream on Boomy…

      As more and more newspapers like the Star fade too grey, there’s bound to be some consolidation from oldsters like you fleeing their local and still wanting to pick something up out of the puddles of their driveways

      • CG says:

        Hearne is correct I have friends who say just that, ‘BUT I GET THE NEW YORK TIMES NOW’ …. sad but true in time the Star will be smaller and smaller…as all newspapers will go…sad.

      • admin says:

        Did a little checking Boom Boom and those were digital subscriptions not print…where the real profits and revenue are.

  2. Goose13 says:

    I still don’t know why they even print Monday and Tuesday paper. So Small. Figure they would save money by not printing those two days.

    • admin says:

      They are undoubtedly waaaaay smaller than in days gone by, but there’s still worthwhile news content

  3. Paul says:

    Hearne or others,

    We know that the downward spiral of the Star mirrors what is happening in other cities, but does anyone know how/if the small-town weekly or bi-weekly papers are doing? I’m not talking about places like Olathe or Blue Springs, but smaller communities away from the cities that typically have weekly papers that limit their scope to local news. I started my career in a couple small communities where people habitually read the local weekly from front to back. Local government, sports, and of course, the obits. Is there still money in small-town news?

    • admin says:

      Well, I write for the Platte County Landmark that serves Platte City, Weston and Parkville and my understanding is they are doing quite well,

      However the editor / publisher has an uncanny knack for turning small town snoozers into sexy tabloid hits!

    • NoTh says:

      My small town newsie seemed to be doing okay, council news, local schools, local issues couple pages of ad buys. Then it got bought out by the Star, they closed the local print house immediately, a year later the local office went too. Now they just grab articles from the Star to fill the weekly edition. There was a local reporter, but now he’s gone, pretty sure the replacement is out of the Star. Opinion articles were slanted left before but have jumped clean into prog territory from the Star (in a paper in a County that votes over 75% Republican). I buy a subscription for school articles where my kids may be in, but as soon as they’ve moved on, I’ll drop it too. I don’t know that more unbiased news would make it work or not. Sad, but seems the news is moving away from print with little chance of return.

      • admin says:

        Good points, NoTH

        Among the many things I don’t quite get isn’t just that they lean so blatantly, dramatically far left from the reporting to the editorial slant, but that they’re so clued out as to be plowing money into the opinion section when that last place anybody is going to go for that is 18th and Grand.

        The bottom line being not just that, but that they could be putting out more local news that would serve readers instead of squandering the funds on playing pocket pool with each other.

        It’s just so 20th Century

  4. Kerouac says:

    The Star’s rendition Python’s Black Knight (‘its just a flesh wound’) reminds us that all things eventually come to an end (Chiefs half century malaise notwithstanding.) Star’s paradox… the bleeding can continue even though the patient is already dead.

    Winning the field of endeavor wood pulp/recycled matter as gridiron, demise Kansas City’s Star reminds Kerouac the other side a different yet similar coin: business model.

    Leaving aside the realtors plea ‘location, location, location’ this argument, small town vs big city, failure case Kansas City vs successful, a Green Bay, Wisconsin. Old vs new & millions vs hundred thousand: NFL’s Packers – who once had their own Starr, Bart – arguably the greatest QB pro football history – more Championships won than by any other, all the while remaining the only community-owned, major league professional sports team in the United States.

    Who says it couldn’t/can’t be done, case football the one and newspaper biz the other, nod some of HC’s thoughts presented over time.

    Of note, both the Kansas City Star and its former Morning Star (and ‘star’ via a greater circulation) The Kansas City Times were employee owned till 1977 when purchased by a corporate ownership. By 1990, the Times they were ‘a changin’ – no more, consumed their former evening sibling become Star in the morning. Descent afternoon / evening newspapers precursor an 2017 Star now in mourning, a result they apparently still do not acknowledge, their Kinison ‘my head’s still on my torso!’ staggering on.

    Where have you gone Kansas City? Kaycee needs a Hearne like the Chiefs need a Starr (or a Favre/Rodgers) save them. Weighing the odds? ‘Wait till next year’ both entities, a tomorrow will never come, so sayeth Kerouac the marks nee sound his own pen as it Shakespeare-ily Cioran’s and Voltaire’s convention a new derriere.


  5. John Altevogt says:

    One yearns for a successful metro area newspaper. I personally think Tony Berg is trying to save The Star and make it a better operation. The problem in part is Mike Fannin. It doesn’t do any good to put more reporters on, if all Fannin hires are left-wing propagandists

    Same thing goes for editorial. Berg tried to get into the hands of adults, but each day, every day they pump out the same all left, all the time pap. I agree, no one needs The Star editorial page. Those resources could go towards covering news that people are actually interested in, assuming they dump Fannin and his children’s brigade, cleanse the editorial page and hire a few adults to commit real acts of journalism.

    • e.h. says:

      I don’t know what can be done it’s such a dying business. I’m surprised these newspapers have lasted this long but I guess old habit’s die hard. Honestly, I would still get a newspaper if they just…aw, who am I kidding. The newspaper business is beyond saving and it will be extinct once the oldsters die off. The only thing I miss is the sports and/or entertainment section and the mega Sunday edition which I used to slide in Club, Hustler, and Genesis magz in at Quicktrip every week.

  6. kb in kc says:

    Preview and FYI were the only reasons I “borrowed” other peoples copies. Next thing you’ll be telling is is the TV guide will be gone!

  7. Dollar Bill Gates says:

    How much longer can they continue to throw money away on superfluous things like INK? I figured the one thing that made them relevant (in lieu of profitable) was MOTM but this last year had to have been the nail in that coffin. Marginal artists, low ticket sales, questionable venue choices and poor event management all brings to light the hipster producers of that “festival” book it for themselves…not for everyone else. Don’t get me wrong…Talib Keli and De La were highlights. I’m excited to watch the ship at 18th and Grand sink…that building would be great for some luxury condominiums in an in demand part of KC

    • chuck says:

      Bobby Axelrod: What is it that you do that you’re the best in the world at? You offer a service you didn’t invent, a formula you didn’t invent, a delivery method you didn’t invent. Nothing about what you do is patentable or a unique user experience. You haven’t identified an isolated market segment, haven’t truly branded your concept. You need me to go on? So, why would an investment bank put serious money into it? I all but told you ahead of time, but you wouldn’t listen. Now you’ve heard it, but it’s too late. You weren’t ready.

      I hope the writers don’t go all “Homeland” on “Billions” next year and turn Bobby into a creepy fuckin, touchy, feely Beta Male.

      “What’s the point of having Fuck You money if you never say Fuck You?”

      The Star could use a little Bobby Axelrod in their Starbucks Chestnut Praline Lattes every morning. Or, just rerun all those great Emmet Till columns from Lewis Dogoody.

  8. E.H. says:

    I remember when former KC Star Sports statistician Martin Manley told me back in 2013 that the Star started going way downhill when they stopped making once huge profits off the Classifieds(Craigslist anyone?). He told me the Star owner The McClatchy Company’s stock had dropped to almost nothing(it went from $250 a share to it’s current $9.73) and that he was surprised the paper was still in business. He told me every month it got worse and worse and they continued to pile on more tasks for him when he came in for his night shift. He said the only reason they kept him on was because he would actually do the ever increasing workload without much complaint..until he finally snapped and flat out quit. I think Mike Fannin was his boss and a year after Manley quit he killed himself and all Mike Fannin said was “Martin Manley did a good job” when he probably should have said “Martin Manley was a fantastic worker who did everything we asked of him until the workload drove him crazy”.

    I know how morale can suffer in a workplace..I can imagine what the people hanging on at the Star feel like right now. It’s probably at an all time low with everybody dreading the ole’ pink slip comin’ their way. And yes Fannin, you’re going to get a pink slip too.

  9. The 18th & Vine district just has never been the same since they shut down and boarded up the Hotel Rochester. No better joint to get a quick room by the hour than that old dive.

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