That's how we first learned about one of the most embarrassing episodes for this town's major daily newspaper.
If you missed it, we don't blame you. The Kansas City Star didn't draw much attention to its gaffe.
Only an eagle-eyed reader might have noticed that there was anything unusual about political reporter Steve Kraske's February 15 article announcing that U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver would no longer be paying campaign funds to a local reporter, The Kansas City Call's Eric Wesson, for consulting work.
Since last summer, Cleaver has paid Wesson $2,500 for work, including writing scripts for Cleaver's phone canvassers in the runup to last year's election. Wesson continued to write about Cleaver for the Call, often in glowing terms, without revealing to readers that he was on the candidate's payroll.
It doesn't take a journalism degree to see that Wesson's actions weren't kosher.
Kraske's story reported that Cleaver had had second thoughts about his relationship with the reporter and would no longer employ him. Kraske then wrote this paragraph:
"Wesson did not return phone calls Monday. Last year he told The Kansas City Star that his newspaper work was separate from his consulting business."
Close Star watchers may have picked up Kraske's interesting clue that something was amiss -- last year, the Star had actually published nothing about the Wesson-Cleaver affair, even though its reporters wanted very much to do so.
Kraske's subtle hint was an interesting journalistic moment. The Star had lifted up its skirt just high enough to show how dirty its underwear was.
In order to fully explain how the Star soiled itself, this tenderloin wants to take the story back to its beginning.
Last summer, a woman named Gale Banks was unhappy with how the 5th District congressional campaign was going. An African-American and Democrat, Banks was no fan of Cleaver, the former Kansas City mayor who had won the Democratic primary after a nasty fight with newcomer Jamie Metzl.
Like any good gadfly, Banks searched through Cleaver's financial disclosures, and one day late in September she found an entry for a political consulting firm, One Goal Consultants, with an inner-city address. That was odd, she tells the Strip, because all of Cleaver's other consultants were the usual slick suburban pollsters hired by many other candidates.
When she looked up the business on the Missouri Secretary of State's Web site, she found that One Goal Consultants was 100 percent owned by Wesson, the reporter who does much of the writing for the Call, an African-American newspaper.
Banks knew immediately that the information was newsworthy. Cleaver's ethics had already been a major part of the campaign. What would voters think if they knew Cleaver had hired a reporter who covered him?
(A Cleaver spokesman, Phil Scaglia, told us last fall that the candidate didn't see anything wrong in the arrangement. Wesson, meanwhile, tells the Strip that he can't answer this meat patty's questions, referring us to his boss, publisher and managing editor Donna Stewart, who makes it a point not to return our phone calls.)
Knowing she had potentially explosive information, Banks says the first person she called was Steve Kraske.
She also shared the info with KCTV Channel 5's Dave Helling as well as another political gadfly, a man named David Hoech, who passed the information on to this flank steak.