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 a 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

Posted in Bob Lefsetz | Tagged | 9 Comments

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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Leftridge: The Internet is a Vapid Wasteland

click_here_newWhile it’s not exactly “breaking news,” Holy Christesticles is the internet one big pile of useless, diarrhea covered garbage.

Submitted for your approval, a recent “article” I stumbled across that appeared as clickbait nonsense on the front page of Yahoo!. (Which is itself a worthless black hole of irrelevant fuckery. I’m fairly certain their whole enterprise is now completely controlled by teenagers with learning disabilities and Nigerian scammers.)

Anyway, the “article” was called “13 Fast Food Items You Should Never Order According To The Employees” and, tucked in between the endless auto-play videos and imbedded ads for boner pills was a slideshow with some REALLY AMAZING REVELATIONS. (From “the employees,” no less!) You know, like this juicy tidbit about KFC Barbecue Sandwiches (which are a thing, apparently): Continue reading

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Hearne: Sizzling Courtroom Testimony Paints Lawrence CiCi’s Owner as a Dirtbag


Sarah McLinn

For more than a year the obvious went unaddressed by the mainstream media in Kansas City, Lawrence and Topeka…

Only KC Confidential reported that there was something very fishy about 52 year-old CiCi’s Pizza owner Harold Sasko shacking up with 17 year-old hottie Sarah McLinn who slashed his throat in January 2014 in his Lawrence bachelor pad.

Did none of the other media even ask about a romantic connection?

Oh they’ve asked all right, McLinn’s lawyer Carl Cornwell, told me last year before declining to answer the question.

At which point which KCC examined the details of the case pointing in that direction.

“He took the girl in and was supposed to be getting her back on track, but I heard he was having an affair with her from a manager at CiCi’s Pizza here,” said a Lawrence business owner who asked not to be named. “The manager told me that they were having a big time affair…that it was a pretty torrid affair and (Sasko) had kicked her out five or six times and she had worked at CiCi’s and she’d been fired there a number of times.”

Staffers at Bed, Bath & Beyond in Lawrence – where McLinn worked at the time of Sasko’s murder – described her as quiet, with fashion model good looks and said she tried to cover up her romance the thrice married Sasko by telling them he was just her stepfather. Continue reading

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Paul Wilson: I’d Like a Venti Americano with an Extra Shot of Race Relations, Please

starbucks-race-together-3Starting this week, there’s a chance my Starbucks cup, normally labeled “Well-Coifed Scribe,” will be passed across the counter with a smile and the notation, “Race Together.”

Starbucks wants in the race and values business?

The same Starbucks that spends millions to fight the anti-GMO movement?

The same Starbucks that’s a major supporter of Planned Parenthood? An organization where 78% of its clinics are in minority communities. Blacks are 12% of the population but represent 35% of the abortions. Planned Parenthood founder, Margaret Sanger, put the “r” in racist when she developed the “Negro Project,” to unknowingly sterilize black women.

Nothing racist there…

Sanger also said, “Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated.”

And now that same Starbucks wants to be my race relations therapist? Continue reading

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Hearne: Dethroned Pitch Publisher Lands New Marketing Sales Gig


Bigshot Inbound

Getting out of the print news publishing game can be a good thing…

Such would appear to be the case with exiled, former Pitch publisher Joel Hornsbostel who has landed a gig with local marketing company Bigshot Inbound.

Hornbostle – who parted company rather abruptly with the Pitch in January – has been named Bigshot’s “chief business development officer.”

Meaning what exactly?

According to Wikipedia, that’s a person “expected to have a broad and comprehensive knowledge of all matters related to the business of the organization with an eye towards identifying new sales prospects and driving business growth and requirements for product development.”

In other words, sales. Continue reading

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Hearne: More News Bodies Flying Out the Door @ 18th & Grand


Reporter Mark Morris

Target raising the minimum wage to $9, houses selling like hotcakes, unemployment at the lowest levels in seven years – things are looking up, right?

Not in the newspaper biz – not enough, anyway.

Because on the heels of major layoffs last month, the Kansas City Star is back in the getting rid of employees mode, with more employee buyouts and the specter that even that may not be enough to keep the wolf away from the door.

“Well, after the layoffs last month and them offering buyouts so quickly people are really worried,” says a source at the newspaper. “A month ago an entire press crew got let go and then they laid off four more people this past week. They don’t have anybody working on the day shift anymore. And they haven’t brought in anybody to replace anybody that left’s spot.”

The betting money was that the newspaper would almost have to replace big gun business writer Kevin Collison when he bailed last summer for a safe harbor with Burns & McDonnell in “communications.”

In fact, sources say a number of highly qualified local candidates were interviewed but corporate failed to green light a hire. Continue reading

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Leftridge: Checking in with the AL Champs

STheaderI haven’t been paying close attention to spring training. I attribute this to three things.

First, I might still be suffering from a World Series hangover. It seems like just yesterday I was having my heart ripped out and shat upon by a tall, burly man named Madison, and it seems this way probably because it was happening in almost-November. This extremely short turnaround time is a very foreign feeling to a Kansas City baseball fan, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing… just odd.

Second, this isn’t a spring bursting with intrigue. In seasons past, the three spots behind the first two starters were often a mystery; you typically had a couple of different position battles and the bullpen was an unchained tractor-trailer of disaster. (“WHO WILL BE OUR CLOSER? WILL IT BE ANDY SISCO OR AMBIORIX BURGOS? THE SUSPENSE IS KILLING ME!”) This year, things were pretty much solidified from the get-go.

Third, I have a seven-month-old. And when you have a seven-month-old, you kind of lose sight of frivolous things like “exhibition baseball” and “recreational reading” and “personal grooming habits.”

So if you’re like me, and you’ve been missing out on all of that hot, meaningless Arizona action, here’s a quick debrief: Continue reading

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