It saddened me to read the gleeful denigration of the Kansas City Star by Hearne Christopher in last week’s issue of The Landmark. Clearly this particular column is personal revenge vitriol from a disgruntled former employee with an ax to grind, backed up with a lengthy complaint from another unhappy individual. Ridiculing the challenges of publishing a newspaper these days is unbecoming to a columnist.
These days it’s critical to recognize the struggles of evolving local newspapers as they fight to stay relevant to a diminishing reader population. There are so many competing virtual options for getting our news. The days of sitting down with a cup of coffee and an honest-to-goodness pulp newspaper may be numbered. We need to appreciate and support our local newspapers; not jeer at the financial hits they encounter to stay afloat.
With apologies to Ivan Foley, Mark Twain said, “I am not the editor of a newspaper and shall always try to do right and be good so that God doesn’t make me one.” These are hard times for newspapers and the publishers who manage to get them in print every week.
While the Star has had to give up some real estate to survive a reduced, paying readership, its expansive journalism has sustained interest with huge feature stories that investigate and report on issues critical to KC: the reported abuses at a boys ranch, the homeless, payday lending scams, funding our public defenders offices, to name a few. Newspapers explore political and social issues and hold local governments accountable. “Journalism is always staring back at us in cold fact-black,” wrote Terri Gullemets. Consider The Landmark’s dogged pursuit of Parkville politics and of our county commission’s assignment of CARES (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security) funds.
Our household is among those who resisted as long as we could the economic advantage of going digital in reading the Star. It’s not the same as sitting down with The Landmark or the Atkinson Graphic from my hometown. We’ve been subscribers to the Star since its heyday of two dailies with news about Kansas City and beyond. We currently support five local newspapers. Three may offer a digital option as well, but we get four of them in our mailbox every week.
If there is anything useful to be gained from the Hearne column it’s that we should applaud the heroic efforts and sacrifices of journalists and publishers who have to meet these economic challenges every week.