College instructor and local media critic John Landsberg announced yesterday that he has given up his Kansas City Star habit. Writing on his blog, Landsberg says he can no longer be a "loyal customer" of a company that raises the price of a product that has fallen in quality.
The Star loses subscribers every day, many of them to the paper's Obits section. But what does it say about the paper when men who teach journalism and cover the heroics of Russ Ptacek refuse home delivery?
After dribbling out boyhood tales and Dylan lyrics, Landsberg cuts to the center of his argument against the Star: The paper doesn't treat its paying customers all that well.
The Star contains less information than it did five and 10 years ago, diminished both in its dimensions and its ability to cover the metro. The editors don't want to put out a lesser product. It's just hard to excel when the Internet and the economic downturn are pummeling newsrooms with big, meaty fists.
But as Landsberg points out, the Star's ciruculation department acts as if the layoffs never occurred, and the Local section hadn't been made to share a room with news from Cairo and Kabul. Landsberg's bill for home delivery increased by 40 percent, causing him to rethink his relationship with a paper whose "number of pages has shrunk to embarrassingly low levels." What, a C.W. Gusewelle column about birding isn't enough to keep the Sunday edition coming to the door?
Landsberg can still consume the Star in digital form, of course. He overstates the case that "a Porsche is now a Kia" because of all the cost-cutting. His assertion that the paper's attacks on Mark Funkhouser were "unprecedented in the annals of journalism" is dumb hyperbole. But the notion that the Star plays its subscribers for chumps has merit.
Publisher Mark Zieman did not immediately respond to an e-mail asking if he wanted to address any aspect of Landsberg's kiss-off.