Hearne: Editors Weigh Uncertain Future of The Kansas City Star

Marvin-1No two ways about it, the situation is grim at 18th and Grand…

That’s where the dedicated men and women of the Kansas City Star are hard at it, fighting the good fight on behalf of the written word. A handful of years back, that might have been referred to “the printed word.” But by all account, that war has already been lost.

There’s very little pretending going on in local journalism circles that the days of print newspapers (and tabloids like The Pitch) are anything but numbered. To some extent they may always be around, but in limited numbers like vinyl records.

This past year – despite a strong uptick in the overall economy – bodies have been flying out the Star’s door at a dizzying pace.

“Advertising revenue has hit rock bottom and the numbers are grim,” said one highly placed source at the newspaper.

Let me tell you how things used to work. Continue reading

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Hearne: Shockers Abound in February Radio Ratings

shutterstock_10814839In the words of the immortal Scribe Craig Glazer, “Wow!”

In what might otherwise be expected to be a sleepy month in the wide world of radio ratings, surprises abound. Oh sure, classic rocker KCFX FM is again on top. However perennial hit radio powerhouse Mix 93.3 muscled its way up to the No. 2 slot.

And The Buzz finally achieved its lifelong ambition and slipped past Johnny Dare‘s 98.9 The Rock. I can almost guarantee you there was some celebrating going on there.

News/talker KMBZ FM is almost back up to where it was before spinning off weak sister KMBZ 980 AM. And the wheels appear to be coming off at Q104 FM as the country station has fallen to 14th place – by far its lowest ranking in recent memory.

Of course, when it comes to last place, nobody does it better than Jon Hart and The Bridge, which continues to bump along with an 0.3 share and the lowest listener cume (20,400) in the marketplace among chartable stations.

Now on to the ratings for listeners 6 and older, 6 a.m. to midnight, Monday thru Sunday. Continue reading

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Paul Wilson: The Weak in Review

top1Shooting Your Junk – The Unintended Consequences of Concealed Carry

Kansas gave final approval last week to a bill allowing residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit…

However, some lawmakers voiced concerns about inadequate training under the new law, and I have to agree. This week the Internet brought us the story of a security guard in Trinidad who accidentally shot his manhood with a .38 firearm. I”m going to give you men a moment. Now, put both hands back on the keyboard and continue reading.

If you’re keeping score, it’s not the first time this has happened. Three years ago Michael Smeriglio, 18, shot a bullet through his penis and left testicle while cleaning his pistol.

And in 2012,Tavares Colbert, 36, admitted to the cops that he’d had intentions of selling his gun to a man outside a 7-Eleven in Oklahoma. Unfortunately when he test fired the gun in his car, he sot himself in the nads.

In 2011 Joshua Seto, was walking into the store with his girlfriend when she asked, “Is that a pistol in your pants or are you just happy to see me?”  The pistol went off causing a junkectomy. Adding insult to injury, it was a pink pistol.

An unidentified teenager, in Vallejo, California, was spotted holding his wounded crotch while walking into the emergency room. The kid wouldn’t admit what happened, but it was hard to hide the evidence Continue reading

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Hearne: A Call for Less Butt Kissing & More Tough Talk @ KU

kissing-assSay what you will, half a loaf’s almost always better than no loaf at all…

And to his credit, in the case of Star sports scribe Sam Mellinger it’s usually a very tasty half. What goes missing often unfortunately is much in the way of a perspective on how out of proportion with the universe our obsession with sports has become – college sports especially.

Case in point, Mellinger’s column, “Criticism of KU is Faulty.”

One need look no further than the University of Kansas athletics department to find the perfect poster child for criticism. Yet in a lengthy column defending the downward slide of KU’s basketball program, Mellinger points to the athletics department’s excesses in lauding its success.

Long as you win Big 12 championships, why sweat the ethical stuff?
Continue reading

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Leftridge: The One Where You All Act as My Furniture Advisers

couchOnce, before I was sucked into the suburbs and my subsequent slow-crawl to death, I lived downtown in a magnificent loft with impossibly high ceilings, tastefully polished concrete floors and exposed brick…

And for this beautiful loft, I purchased an equally stunning couch.

It was irrationally large and seafoam green and spacious, its vast, pleasant fabric stretching for as far as the eye could see. It was a sectional, actually, massive enough to sit 6-7 grown adults, or probably an entire Korean baseball team. The chaise lounge was bigger than some beds, and from it sprung a ridiculously long couch, and from that, parallel to the chaise, an average-sized couch.

It was a object to behold, a thing of unparalleled beauty, a piece of furniture capable of drawing strong men to their knees after witnessing the magnitude of its beauty.

And then, like a fucking idiot, I bought a small, old house in Johnson County. Continue reading

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Leftridge: March Madness Infographic


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Hearne: Another Head Rolls as Scramble for Ad Revenue Continues @18th & Grand

Julie Terry

Julie Terry

It was only a small news item in today’s newspaper…

Word that the Kansas City Star had replaced its vice president of advertising Julie Terry by a far younger, 30-something dude named Tony Berg from its sister publication in Wichita.

“Tony is a strong digital leader who focuses on getting positive results in partnership with great people,” said Star publisher . “He’s a fantastic problem solver who is very engaged in the community.”

The between the lines on that brief statement:

First it’s an obvious admission that the newspaper needs to focus more on online sales with print ad dollars disappearing at an alarming rate. And second, that it needs to find a way to reconnect with the community, something that’s been missing since publisher’s Art Brisbane and Mac Tully ruled the roost several years back.

“I think advertising revenue has hit rock bottom and the numbers are grim,” says a source at 18th & Grand. “And why wouldn’t they be? Look at the product. What local news are we covering anymore? It’s minimal at best. How can you sell ad space for a product that’s not delivering?” Continue reading

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Hearne: Managing Editor Out as KC Star Targets Younger Readers

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 1.50.22 PMNothing like a bit more drama at 18th & Grand…

And in addition to a recent wave or three of layoffs and or staff buyout at the Kansas City Star comes word that longtime managing editor Steve Shirk will be moving on early next month.

“Well, he’s got at least 40 years there, but I’m still kind of surprised he’s leaving because he’s a newsman’s newsman,” says a source.

While Shirk was highly regarded by older reporters and editors, “He didn’t have a younger vision,” adds the source. “A vision that was progressive. He was an old school, tried-and-true newsman, but almost to the point that he crippled the newsroom.

Continue reading

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Hearne: Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’ Routine Getting Old @ Star

Barb Shelly

Barb Shelly

To be honest, I don’t spend much time pouring over what’s left of the Kansas City Star opinion section…

Never did really.

Except in the early 1990s when writers like Yael Abouhalkah loomed fairly large in helping shape local political opinion – or so it seemed. Back then there were enough scurrilous Kansas City Councilmen bumping about that Yael’s columns often made for interesting reading.

Times have changed.

Newspaper readers have gotten way older and – as evidenced by Star’s obituary section, excuse me, “remembrances” – many of the older readers who were the wind beneath Yael’s wings have passed on.

Now that those obits are being paid for by families and friends of the deceased, dead folks are the single largest advertiser in the newspaper.

Who else buys two to five pages of advertising every day but Monday?

The flip side of getting all that ad revenue for something the Star used to give away free, is its editorial influence has been diminished by the thinning ranks of older readers, who’ve yet to be replaced by the younger readers so desperately needed.

Meanwhile, it’s come to my attention – courtesy of some of KCC’s more conservative pundits – that certain Star editorial writers can’t get enough of Brownback bashing – as in, Kansas governor Sam Brownback.

And while certainly he makes for a good target, I was struck by some of the wording employed today by Star columnist Barb Shelly. Continue reading

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Hearne: Lezak On No Snow Days, Hot Summer Ahead & His ‘LRC’ System

movieposterThere’s no such thing as climate change, right?

That’s what some of my more conservative friends, pundits and writers say, anyway. And every time a big snowstorm hits or cold temps set in, they bag on global warming and “Internet inventor” Al Gore.

They’re not meteorologists, climatologists or scientists of any stripe, still they play one on barstools and in area coffee shops, in between discussing race, the death of Christmas, the Second Amendment and other heady stuff.

And although I’m often of a different mindset – I generally hear them out and dodge getting into meaningless arguments – still there are enough odd occurrences going down in recent years to call their logic into question.

Like going an entire winter here this past year without a single snow day for school kids. Continue reading

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Steele: KC Super Wins Best In State…Seriously


R. Stephen Green

Sad but true: The Missouri Association of School Administrators has named Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent R. Stephen Green “it’s (sic) 2015 Pearce Award winner.”

Bad enough is the glaring grammatical error in the second sentence of the press release from the School District’s PR office. Worse is the rationale for awarding Green the state’s top honor.

Says the release, “Under Dr. Green’s leadership since 2011, the district has used laser-like focus to increase student achievement, to prepare students for college and career success and to help students become collaborative, creative, and caring critical thinkers and communicators.”

I appreciate alliteration as much as the next guy, but whoever came up with the phrase “collaborative, creative, and caring critical thinkers” should be fired on the spot. No, make that executed.

Caring critical thinkers? Huh? Continue reading

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Sutherland: ‘Mad Men’ Finale or Snark Hunting, Part Deux

224164-mad-men-mad-menIn a couple of weeks, the last season of “Mad Men,” AMC’s award winning drama series, will begin…

Greeted with both critical and popular acclaim when it debuted in 2007, the show has gone from strength to strength and Matthew Weiner, its creator, has promised it will go out on a high note.

I was intrigued with the premise of the show, i.e. the lives of a group of men and women working in an up and coming Madison Avenue advertising agency in the 1960’s. I’ve known people who were in the “ad game” during that era and they made it sound like a fun and exciting time, if a little manic at moments. (Hence the series’ title!)

However, I’d not actually sat down to watch the show until a long snowy weekend this winter made for a “binge” viewing session. (That’s also how I got into ‘The Sopranos” initially.)

By the time I’d seen the first four seasons, I was curious as to how critics had treated it.

Imagine my irritation when I realized that while virtually all the reviews were favorable, the single most influential critic was Daniel Mendolsohn, who panned the show in unequivocal terms. (You will recall that Danny-boy was the snark-meister who trashed my friend’s book on the Parthenon. See ‘The Hunting of The Snark; 1-27-15.)

It’s one thing, however, for a critic to attack a work on classical archaeology, quite another to take on a revered cable TV series with millions of fans. Continue reading

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Valentine: Double Edged Logic

NetanyahuFrom President Obama‘s first day in office to the current news cycle, Democrats have accused anyone who disagrees with his policies as being racist…

This week, Dick Durbin, the second highest ranking Democratic member of the Senate, called Republicans racists from the senate floor. Last month, Representative G. K. Butterfield (D., N.C.) accused Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) of opposing the confirmation of President Obama’s attorney-general nominee because she is “an African-American legal scholar.”

This tactic has never cut both ways.

America should remember that Durbin voted against Condoleezza Rice during the 40th anniversary of the March on Selma, but Republicans did not call him a racist.

But now there is a new twist to this political racism tactic. Continue reading

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Jack Goes Confidential: ‘GET HARD’—Crash Course For Raunchy Prison Stretch

Get-Hard-Will-Ferrell-2I had seen it far too often...

A high concept storyline that can easily be described in a single paragraph.

Back it by a hefty TV advertising blitz and Hollywood serves up yet another goofy quickie comedy.

So you can imagine that my expectations were pretty well in check when attending an advance screening of GET HARD.

Instead, to my surprise, the new Warner Brothers (not so) buddy-buddy comedy exceeds expectations on several levels—namely writing, acting, pacing and all-around execution.

But first off I feel obligated to forewarn that GET HARD has something to offend everyone. Continue reading

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Lefsetz: A Guide for Internet Haters


No one’s going to take you seriously if you use “there” instead of “their” or “your” instead of “you’re.” Maybe you should write your missives in Word first, where there’s a grammar checker. Or maybe run your prospective words by your mother, since you want her to be proud of you. I’d say to get a review by your significant other, but I’ve yet to find a hater with a spouse.


This is built into so many of today’s programs, especially e-mail. How much effort does it take to scroll up to the menu and give it a go?

Then again, you’re probably hating from your smartphone, and you don’t want to risk waiting and having your anger subside. Otherwise you won’t have the desired effect of pissing off your target. Hating must be done right away, when you’re irate, when it’s still the most important thing in the world. However, those worth hating judge you by your spelling mistakes. They’re evidence of education. And if you haven’t got any, the target will not take you seriously. Continue reading

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Donnelly: Sporting KC Needs to Stop Putting Fans to Sleep

Zusi400x520Through three games in the 2015 campaign, Sporting Kansas City have scored just two goals en route to recording two draws and a loss…

And two of the three games played so far have been in the friendly confines of Sporting Park, supposedly one of the league’s biggest home field advantages.

But it really hasn’t seemed like the fortress it was a couple seasons back.  Sure, teams still give the Blue Hell lip service, but just look at last season’s home record – 6-5-6.  Visiting teams came in and got a result in KCK about 2/3 of the time.

This past Saturday, the just decent Portland Timbers came to town and played the boys in blue to a 0-0 draw.  Despite the teams combining for 23 shots, just five of those were on target.  As usual, Sporting tallied an impressive 16 of those shots, but could only get two of them on net, while Portland got nearly half of their seven shots on goal.

This was one of the dullest games I’ve seen in recent memory, and I’m not saying that just because of the lack of scoring. Continue reading

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Valentine: Our Hope Lost

Original art by Mark Valentine

Original art by Mark Valentine

A mostly White America elected its first black president…

Remember the term “post-racial?” It was our hope. Six years later, racial tensions are higher than before President Obama took office.

“Hands up.  Don’t shoot.”

It has become a national protest slogan even though the incident that sparked the protest was proven to just be a cop acting in self-defense from a black attacker who never had his hands up. And cops were attacked nationwide because they were perceived as being racist.

How did this happen in post-racial America? Continue reading

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Hearne: The Case for KU-Wichita State Not Being a Rivalry

Brownback goes both ways

Brownback goes both ways

If there’s one thing sportswriters are good at, it’s pocket pool…

In a manner of speaking.

Because day in, day out they have lots of time to feign high drama and provocative insight for the jock sniffers of the world. They’re always on the lookout for angles – a new approach to titillate today’s “bread and circus” sports crowd. And it’s a full time job, no less.

The Kansas City Star‘s Sam Mellinger is particularly adept at this, spinning stories that more often than not are artfully crafted, insightful and well written. Unlike his phat predecessor, Mellinger doesn’t need to pimp people to try and make a name – nor drown them in overwrought prose.

That said, like in baseball, it’s hard to knock the cover off the ball every time.

The other thing about sportswriters is they tend to have a pack mentality.

They all more-or-less subscribe to the same broad, general truisms – however cliched – which too often results in consensus journalism.

Take Mellinger’s column, “Think KU and Wichita State players see this as a rivalry? Think again.”

Despite referring to the Jayhawks / Shockers showdown as “one of the most anticipated college basketball games in the state’s history,” Mellinger dedicated an entire column to fleshing out the supposedly false premise that there wasn’t really a rivalry between the two school’s teams. Then he supported his case with quotes from college kids trained not to piss off the other team before a big game.

No rivalry, who’s Mellinger trying to kid ? Continue reading

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Craig Glazer: Face It, The Big 12 Just Plain Sucks

01f018297c75d55a06d7f35ec51eeca913572bb41eebf3b17f75e355ac85db1eOh how the once mighty have fallen…

The Big 12 - once known as a college football powerhouse – is all but gone. It used to boast national championship contenders – and winners – like Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

Now all they have are nice little teams like K-State, Baylor and TCU.

Sure, those teams have nice records, but they’re no threat to win a national anything. Or get anywhere near the final dance. Worse yet, now Big 12 basketball is fading as well.

Only KU is even mentioned as a top notch team from the Big 12.

However KU has also fallen as of late with two early exits from March Madness in round two. Last year they were taken out by a just ok Stanford team in round two and this year against the Wichita Shockers.

Not only did KU go out, they went out ugly. Continue reading

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New Jack City: Are There Any Kodak Moments Left?

1010Titan.tomSomeone asked me recently how the theater conversion process from film to digital was coming along…

Well, I’m happy to report that the transition in Kansas City is now complete.

That’s not to say that a few local theaters haven’t kept at least one 35mm projector in the projection booth for special event showings.

Frankly, I never thought I would see the day where the showing of a movie in 35 mm would be a sales tool. But it happens!

How do moviegoers benefit from digital projection?

Probably the biggest plus-factor for digital projection is in the quality of the projected image.

The movies look just as clean—no scratches or dirt—weeks after they open as they did on the first day of the engagement.

Purists will continue to point to a softer film look. Kinda like what some audiophiles claim about vinyl records. But I believe that the industry has tweaked digital projection enough to no longer make that a factor. Continue reading

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