This isn’t exactly super secret but…
The reporting standards are far laxer these days at the Kansas City Star. That in the wake of going from more than 2,000 employees to 300 or fewer the past 10 or 12 years.
That’s totally understandable and easily explained; simple arithmetic.
Unfortunately, in addition to that the trepidation by Star writers over reporting errors – even arguably minor ones like spelling mistakes – seems to be missing in action now that most breaking news debuts online where errors can be quickly corrected prior to going into the indelible print editions.
The looser journalism practices and standards have resulted in lower quality news coverage – like the recent spate of stories triggered by a shooting in Westport – in which balanced reporting, (sans any input whatsoever from Westport officials) was nowhere to be found.
All of that said, now that Star editor Mike Fannin has largely completed the house cleaning of oldster reporters he told me about a couple years back and brought in younger guns, the news does seem fresher and more compelling…even given the content cutbacks.
Just one problem…
The Star continues to suffer from a failure to drill down and ask tough questions.
Take Steve Vockrodt’s recent front pager about the American Royal:
“American Royals makes a lofty bet on attendance with its move to KCK,” read the headline.
The premise being that the Royal’s been drawing an annual attendance of more than 250,000 and is now hoping to double it to around 700,000 courtesy of a new taxpayer-funded facility in KCK.
Memo to Stevie V: Remember that pic of an empty American Royal horse show at Kemper Arena that ran a couple years back in your former pub The Pitch?
Seriously, how about checking the Royal’s 2014 form 990 tax filing.
That’s where you’ll see that more than half of the Royal’s $6,746,829 in total revenue that year came in the form of contributions and grants…handouts?
Handouts that are likely to be far harder to duplicate now that heavy-handed, top Royal supporter and recently deceased Cerner honcho Neal Patterson is no longer around to strong-arm donors.
Now let’s do a little math on those reportedly hundreds of thousands of Royal attendees…
With ticket sales of only $588,536 in 2014 that comes out to about two bucks a ticket.
Which doesn’t jibe with ticket prices of $23 per for the BBQ, $20 to $40 for rodeo tickets and $12 to $15 for the cutting horse and hunter/jumper events.
Using an average ticket price of $20 per event would place the Royal’s attendance at around 30,000 all in. Which, all things considered, seems a lot more believable than a quarter of a million paid attendees.
Talking about blowing smoke.
If the American Royal had anywhere near the reportedly 267,000 attendees at even 10 bucks a head that would have generated ticket sales of more than $2.5 million.
Which points the Royal’s core problem; a number of people still want to participate but hardly anybody wants to go and watch it.
So hey, let’s get real at 18th and Grand.
Instead of serving up countless finger wagging critiques of Donald Trump, KC mayor Sly James and Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, how about a little straight down the line reporting and investigative journalism on topics like KC’s overblown streetcar ridership stats and the bogus manner in which the votes to expand it are being counted by streetcar supporters.
Or how about dialing back the Star’s crusade for political correctness a tad and…
Maybe – just maybe – they can find time to pick through the fading fast remains of the American Royal before KCK stubs its toe on another T-Bones-like financial boondoggle by betting the farm on a livestock and horse show nobody gives two hoots about.
The bottom line:
When all is said and done, the American Royal is a bit player in the current scheme of things in KC, netting a paltry $1,316,624 for 2014.
Equally telling, the vast majority of its actual sales revenue – $2,119,230 – was derived from entry fees by participants…not ticket revenue by attendees.
In other words, money paid in by folks wanting to be part of the show as opposed to fans and interested parties who want to go to the show.
That makes for a pretty good gig from American Royal president and CEO Robert R. Petersen who took down just $30 shy of $200,000 in salary and benefits in 2014.
It’s good work if you can get it.