The Strip read recently that you'll be coming to town in January to take over as The Kansas City Star's new publisher.
This finely cooked steak extends its meatiest congratulations.
We understand that back in the 1980s, you sold ad space for the Star before leaving town to climb the ladder at Knight Ridder, so this is a return trip. Your predecessor, Art Brisbane, came up a different path, on the editorial side, and he's done so well that he's moving on to company HQ in San Jose, California. Good for him. (We'd be patting him on the back harder, but the only time we called up old Art to ask him a question about his paper, we got a crabby response that didn't seem neighborly at all. Go figure.)
Anyway, Mac, this prime rib suspects that with your business background, the first thing you'll want to do is make an inventory of your assets, and the Strip thought it would help out.
First, the bottom line: After hemorrhaging readers for years, your paper has rallied lately. The newest figures, released a couple of weeks ago by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, show that the Star gained 3,062 paying customers in weekday circulation over the past year, a gain of 1.1 percent. That's a bit of sunshine in what otherwise has been a miserable decade for daily newspapers. Ten years ago, the Star had about 22,000 more subscribers in a city that had 300,000 fewer people.
But today's hipper, sunnier Star is on the upswing, and your bosses at Knight Ridder don't want you to lose that momentum, Mac. To save you a few bills on useless focus groups and consultant fees, the Strip is happy to point out the things that are working at your paper. In fact, we'd like to see lots more of this kind of stuff:
Lewis Diuguid columns about digging holes in his backyard. This is pure genius. We want many more stories about Lewis digging holes on his property. Digging holes to keep water out of his basement. Digging holes for fence posts. Digging holes to bury treasure. Digging holes as a form of exercise. We know Lewis mainly likes to write columns of sublimely controlled vitriol about attacks on affirmative action, but maybe he could dig holes as a kind of protest against President Bush. Just an idea.
Joe Posnanski columns in every part of the paper. Joe's sideline as a folksy metro columnist has worked out so well, we'd like to see him crossing over from the sports side into as many sections as possible. Ask him if he'd like to do a weather column. And a personal finances item. Or, hey, give him one of those social-trend stories that so often make up the big, splashy front page element of FYI -- Joe ponders dating dos and don'ts, explores the latest craft craze or explains why green is the hot color this spring. We just can't get too much Joe.
·Hearne Christopher Jr. doing sports investigations. We never would have imagined that coaches at big-time Division 1 universities would be driving around in automobiles they didn't pay for. This is just shocking. And knowing that gossip columnist Christopher pitched in to help nail these schools to the wall just makes it that much sweeter.
·Jerry Heaster on anything. Please, just keep printing whatever Jerry wants to write. Wal-Mart is good for you? Oil reserves will never run out? Quit yer whining and get a damn job? Oh, this man is pure gold.
Diane Stafford getting Jerry Heaster worked into a lather. Other newspapers encourage this kind of rivalry in parts of the newspaper other than the business pages, but at least you have some serious heat going on here. But pump up the volume, will ya? We'd pay double the cover price just to see Diane start a column with "Jerry, you ignorant slut ... "
Miriam Pepper, Laura Scott and Mary Sanchez: Whatever you do, don't take this trio off the PC patrol. Their earnestness reminds us of our junior high librarians who were always wagging their fingers at us. And when Diuguid and Barbara Shelly pile on, the whiny liberal quotient of your editorial pages is just too precious.
·Poor E. Thomas McClanahan can't counterbalance all that lefty do-goodism on his own, so we love that you strive for "balance" with syndicated loonies like Jonah Goldberg and the unhinged Michelle Malkin. After all, it's the appearance of objectivity, Mac, not lively content, that really matters.
Please continue the unquestioning nature of the readers' representative column. When new rep Derek Donovan explained why a recent issue didn't have any color ink? That was unadulterated ombudsman brilliance. Here's a suggestion, though: Rename this happy column the "editors' representative," because it essentially explains the Star's decisions rather than challenging them.
What chutzpah, to print an excruciatingly detailed three-part series about the glass panels on the new buildings at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art! We can't wait for a weeklong series on the exotic fasteners being developed to hold together the Sprint Center.
Personal revelations: We can't tell you how exciting it is to learn about the swank lives of Star reporters such as Posnanski, who was forced to live at the posh Raphael Hotel while his new house was being built. (It gave him such a deep understanding of homelessness that he promised to throw all of his loose change in a coffee mug to donate to Project Warmth!) That's classic, heartwarming stuff! And Rhonda Chriss Lokeman really tugged our heartstrings when she decided to find out what it was like to shop at a Target store. But really, for personal exposés, we have to hand it to your religion columnist, Vern Barnet, who recently outed himself as an atheist. Does this mean he gets reassigned to the bridge column or something?
Anyway, Mac, we hope you get the idea. There's so much to work with here. Just keep giving us these gems, and this rump roast will be happy you came back to town.
Tony Ortega talks about this week's Pitch with KRBZ 96.5's Lazlo after 4 p.m. Wednesday.