Thursday, April 9, 2009

Masters of the local universe: The Star reborn?

If it is fair to critique the baseball manager on the results of his first two games, it’s fair to critique the Kansas City Star on the first two days of “local” coverage on page one. Trey Hillman is one and one. The Star, sadly, is oh for two.

Definitions matter and you have to wonder if the first two days indicate how Star editors define “local.” The first day after the newspaper's big pronouncement about how folding the Metro section into the A section would increase the emphasis on local coverage, here is the menu for page one:

1. A story about the local NFL team.
2. A story about the local Major League Baseball team.
3. A story about a national exhibit coming to Union Station, with an absolute nightmare gumbo of art.
4. A story quoting a local congressman about a national issue.

You can almost hear the braintrust snicker: They want local; we’ll give ‘em local.

Of course, no one knows what the braintrust thinks, whether it snickers or ponders. But you do know what it featured on an “all-local” front page. Sorry. This is not local coverage. This is not about Kansas City people, not about neighborhoods, not about local murderers or local heroes. It’s not about how the economic crisis is going to change the way the city picks up your trash.

This is, for all practical purposes, more news from nowhere.

And, day two? This morning the front page read exactly like front pages before the promise of local news. The lead story was datelined Washington and written by a McClatchy correspondent. It did not mention Kansas City on page one. The second was a “localized” story, an obviously unoriginal take on yesterday's Wall Street Journal piece concerning security at utility plants. Call this “semi-local” just to be generous. The third piece was also “localized;” a story about a new television reality show with a quote from a local attorney barely squezed onto page one before the jump. The fourth was a story about brown fat, again “localized.” Anyone with Internet access or a subscription could have read about this yesterday in the New York Times.

Now you know how the Star defines local… so far. Major league franchises, Washington D.C., and -- count 'em -- three “localized” stories, two reported yesterday in other newspapers.

And they wonder why the Grand old man is sinking?


1 comment: