I keep a detailed log of the calls, emails and other messages I receive from readers throughout the week. That turns into a report I send to the publisher, vice presidents and the entire newsroom at the end of the day on Friday. I usually include a quick note at the top summarizing the themes Ive been hearing.
By DEREK DONOVAN
The Kansas City Star
Last week, it was easy for me to pick out the biggest single topic: Dud in water, the headline on Sam Mellingers July 29 column from the London 2012 Olympics, which ran in large type on the Sports Daily cover.
How many Olympic medals has the sports staff of The Kansas City Star won? asked one caller last Thursday. She described herself as upset and indignant that the newspaper would show so little respect to an athlete who has achieved so much.
I think it is very unkind and totally lacking in perspective, emailed reader Nancy Mullins.
Love him or hate him personally, we couldnt have asked for more stellar performances over the past years than those given by Phelps, wrote Pam Prentice Valdes. I hope this is not an indication of how you will be portraying all of our 2012 Olympic athletes. They deserve our respect, appreciation, and some fair reporting, not the equivalent of a childhood playground point and laugh when they fall.
Headlines in the Sports Daily section often draw comment from readers. That section is the most likely one in The Star to use puns and other wordplay, and most of what I hear is positive. But when the gibes come at readers favorite athletes expense, I understand how it can sting.
The race this particular headline and column referred to was a particular sore spot for Phelps and his fans. The man himself called his fourth-place performance in the July 28 400 meter individual medley just a crappy race. His coach, Bob Bowman, termed it horrible. And of course the whole point of a column labeled as commentary is to make an opinionated point.
But readers tell me not infrequently that the paper should promote Kansas Citys and the nations interests and I think thats behind some of the criticism Ive heard here. One caller put it explicitly: The Star should be cheering on every member of the U.S. team.
Matters of timing
Readers offer sometimes-biting critiques of the built-in discrepancies between when stories run in The Stars print edition versus on the Web at KansasCity.com.
Last Tuesday, I spoke with a caller who was extremely upset that the days paper didnt carry coverage of the Missouri River 340 race, where more than 500 participants in canoes, kayaks and paddle boards launched from Kaw Point Park that morning.
Im seeing it on the TV right now, she said. Why isnt this in The Star?
She was of course running up against a built-in limitation of print publishing. The paper is printed and distributed overnight, in order to be available on driveways and store racks early in the morning. In this case, it would have been impossible for there to be news coverage of the launch that day. The next days Local cover centerpiece had a photo and story about the race.
Questions of timing have also been on peoples minds during the Olympics, which are being broadcast on TV on a schedule of various, often unpredictable delays. KansasCity.com, which isnt tied to those broadcasts, has been running results as soon as theyre available.
Some readers cry foul at that. Thanks a ton for spoiling what I was going to watch on TV tonight, said one.
I understand the 24/7 news cycle can create a news overload for many readers. But I think the world has pretty much reached consensus that the Web and Twitter should break news as quickly as possible. Print can never win there but it can supply reflection and context in a way Twitters 140 characters never can.