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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reflecting on the Further Decline of The KC Star

I'm not sure why opening my Sunday Kansas City Star today and learning that it would be the last time I would read The Kansas City Star Magazine filled me with...dread.

Part of the feeling was personal. I had been proud to have three freelance pieces used as cover stories for The Star Magazine. One of them, on Linda Hall Library, reintroduced that little appreciated Kansas City gem to readers. It took me six months of work and I received a princely sum of $200 for it. But one value for me was that I felt my name had joined the list of so many writers who contributed to the magazine and represented some of the best in reporting and writing talent the Star has had to offer since 1970. Too many of them have and are drifting away and being cast away.

Part of the deep sadness was the demise of the magazine after a life of only 45 years was one more sign that my local newspaper is becoming, well, not MY local newspaper anymore. I like sports. I listen to sports radio every day. The Royals success last year was like a drink of cool water for this fan who had been wondering in the desert for so many years. But sports is sports and the front page of the paper is the front page. Rarely should the two meet. Certainly not take up three-quarters of that valuable press real estate for a story on Yordano Ventura, love though I did the story and how well it was written by Vahe Gregorian. I read every word. But I would have read every word had it been in its proper section—the sports section or, imagine this, placed in The Star Magazine.

The state of the Arts and Entertainment section is in deep question. Folks, art writer Alice Thorson provided really good and knowledgeable pieces about the art scene in our city. More downsizing, I understand, means more stories by outside freelancers. That will cost the Star less, but will it give readers more? I was particularly offended there was no note from The Star's publisher, Mi-Ai Parrish, nor its editor, Mike Fannin, on why the magazine was being killed off, nor what their vision is for the future of The Star. It could well be there is only one vision: survive.

Last Sunday, my paper lacked the color comics section. I realized this greatly bothered me and then I was disturbed even more by how greatly I missed it. It made me question: why DO I take the Star?

The answer I came up with is the one that is at rock bottom: I want a reliable source about local news: government, police, courts, business, politics—the working necessary guts of our society.

Good newspapers do this while providing an environment where the best writing and photography can thrive.

Ready for that dread part?

I am not the reader the Star wants. It wants young eyes that poke at that phone/tablet thing, not these old ones that read print while sipping morning coffee.