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Some women, no surprise, feel less comfortable with Botello's place in the media landscape. Horsley and Osterheldt declined to comment. Joyce Smith, a Star business reporter, and Mary Sanchez, a Star columnist and an occasional target of Botello's, did the same.
Other women try to step from story to story without tripping on the rhetorical land mines that Botello plants between them. Kansas City Councilwoman Jan Marcason reads Botello every morning. "What offends me more than the sexism is his constant bashing of Kansas City," she says.
Phillip, the news director, says she has learned over time to ignore all that, blocking out the cleavage the way software blocks ads from a browser.
"When I first moved to town, I was like, what is this?" says Phillip, who came to KC from Baltimore in 2009. Now, she says, "I'm not a begrudging fan. He brings something to the table."
On the morning of last week's election, I e-mailed Botello. I wanted to know where he planned to watch the results of the campaign he'd covered so closely.
"I was thinking of hitting at least some of the midtown 'parties' and taking a couple of photos," he wrote back. "I never sweat the live numbers because people watch TV for that." He sounded calm, even detached, as if it might be a good night to catch up on sleep.
Later, I checked his blog: A post at 7 p.m. about the city's "DISMALLY LOW" turnout. A post 15 minutes later about Sly James' name appearing too small on the ballot ("TYPESETTING FAIL!!!"). A post at 9:09 predicting "the last days of Funky!!!" Posts at 9:26 and 9:40, each with a photo of the mayoral primary winners.
He disappeared for a while after that. But he was back by 11 p.m. with a photo montage of the night's campaign parties. Then, another break. Perhaps he's in bed for the —
3:17 a.m.: a collection of links and a photo from the Russian edition of Maxim magazine.
4 a.m.: "Mike Burke Vs. Sly James Could Be Kansas City's Most Boring Mayor's Race EVAR!!!"
5 a.m.: "Kansas City Council Stays Mostly The Same ... JUST AS TKC PREDICTED."
By 9 a.m. Wednesday, Botello had posted 30 items about the election in just under 14 hours. The last one was an 800-word retrospective of Funkhouser's relationship with the Latino community — choppy and passionate, like its author.
"Still haven't slept," he e-mailed me a minute before the story went live. "One last post before I pass out."
Buried in the middle of that run, just after 5:30 a.m., is a seemingly tossed-off post linking to a local TV story. But the subject of the story — one word, five letters, two piercing little syllables — is a source of pride for Botello and his readers: mammy.
The word wormed its way into most Kansas Citians' lives in the middle of December 2007, when it landed on the front page of their Thursday-morning Star. But Botello's fans had been reading it for more than a month by then.
Someone had tipped off Botello about a complaint filed by a City Hall employee named Ruth Bates. Bates claimed that she'd been called "mammy" by the mayor's wife and adviser, Gloria Squitiro. For weeks, as the Star presumably labored to get Bates on the record, Botello pounded the story.