After the Star's latest round of cuts, Rich Hood scowls no longer.

Kansas City Strip 

After the Star's latest round of cuts, Rich Hood scowls no longer.

Paper shredder: Rich Hood's scowl darkened Thursday, June 14, when the Star editorial page editor and three other executives were fired. Knight Ridder and The Star are fish-wrapping 125 employees; 51 others took retirement buyouts earlier this year.

Publisher Art Brisbane declined to comment to the Pitch. Obliged to decimate his paper, Brisbane has at least ensured that grunts won't be the only ones suffering. In fact, cutting the high-salary jobs may boost Brisbane's take-home pay -- Monday's Wall Street Journal reports that "80 percent of publishers' annual bonuses is tied to profit goals." (That story also quotes local Dodge dealer Steve Weinberg grousing about The Star's falling circulation and rising ad rates: "When you ask about circulation, they just change the subject." The Audit Bureau of Circulation backs him up: In 1997, The Star had 416,366 Sunday subscribers -- 19,000 more than now. Weekday circulation is off more than 10,000 in four years -- down to 268,000.)

Newsroom gossip is that Brisbane and Hood don't like each other; Hood, however, appeared blindsided by the dismissal. And though his departure is a cool breeze to readers who've suffered his stagnant opinions, we feel sorry for him (but, hey, he can still be John Ashcroft's press secretary). One reporter remembers that before Hood became an institutional voice, he was "a ferocious breaking-news editor. He was on those stories, yelling, 'I need this now!' It was exhilarating to work for someone that committed. That was back in the days when it was fun."

We expected a farewell from Hood on Sunday but found only a Father's Day column from someone named Ralph Smith. Hood didn't return our call, but he has written goodbyes to other journalists that we easily can press into service.

"In journalism, as in life, we have few guarantees," Hood wrote on July 14, 1996, after what turned out to be KCUR 89.3's nonfiring of Walt Bodine. "We can be assured there always will be a story worth telling and worth telling well so long as there are humans on the planet. But we cannot be assured that we will be afforded the privilege to tell that story unless several types of good fortune shine on us.

"That good fortune includes having a job in this profession.... Every time I hear someone complain about his or her job, I say a silent prayer of thanks for the positive opportunities journalism has given me."

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