Public Editor

Readers' thoughts about The Star and KansasCity.com

Does it matter who made the error?

Years ago, corrections in The Star started out with an explanation of how the error occurred: “Because of a reporter's error…” or “Because of incorrect information provided by a source…” for example.

Since The Star’s policy is to correct mistakes, does it really matter who erred? You could argue that it could be useful in evaluating whether the journalist is the one who messed up, as a yardstick to measure his future credibility.

But I can also tell you that a not-insignificant number of corrections arise from bad information from sources. However, noting that the mistake came from outside the newsroom looks a little defensive on the paper’s part. So in 1998, editors decided not to state who made the mistake in corrections.

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2 minutes ago

Language too informal for story on sexual assault program?

I received an interesting email from a reader about a story that appeared on Page A1 of Sunday’s print edition, about the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention Center on the Fort Riley base near Junction City.

The program sounds like an admirable improvement for victims of sexual assault, but I was dismayed to read it described as a “one stop shop of services” with a “grand opening”, as if it were a trip to the mall! This struck me as a trite, insensitive description. Describing it as “a consolidation of services to reduce further traumatizing of sexual assault victims” on it’s “first day of operation” would convey a proper respect for such a serious, sensitive topic. I understand that the writer wanted the article to be accessible to the average reader, but a level of respect should have been utilized as well.

Here, the reader smartly observes that the writing style is intended to make the subject matter accessible. But I can absolutely understand her feeling that it subjectively just doesn’t feel right in her opinion.

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By Derek Donovan. 2 days ago

Some accidental Swedish in The Star

My favorite catch in recent days from an emailer a few minutes ago:

I'm having trouble deciphering a TV listing in The Star for tonight. At 7 p.m. on CNBC it lists “NHL Hockey: Stanley Cup-slutspelet: Kvartsfinal 2:7.” Could you please give an explanation of the meaning of slutspelet: Kvartsfinal 2:7? Is that “hockey” in some other language?

It’s not hockey; it’s hilarity. For some unfathomable reason, that’s Swedish. And it translates to “playoff quarterfinals,” which is indeed correct for tonight’s NHL game at that time.

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By Derek Donovan. 5 days ago

Is A1 coverage ‘glorifying’ F. Glenn Miller Jr.?

Readers very often contact me with criticisms like this one I received from an emailer about today’s Page A1:

It would be very nice if The Star quit glorifying that nasty killer like you guys did, today, on page 1 of the April 15th edition. Please take his pics off the front page (or remove them forever) and put his info inside the paper. He and his ilk are probably reveling in The Star's coverage. He doesn't deserve this kind of attention.

The central image on the page is a photo of Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr., also known as Frasier Glenn Scott, who is accused of capital murder and first-degree premeditated murder in shootings Sunday at two Jewish centers in Johnson County, Kan.

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By Derek Donovan. April 15

When news looks like promotion

There’s an old saying some journalists are fond of: “News is what someone wants to suppress; everything else is advertising.” It’s stupid and wrong.

Of course there are plenty of stories that qualify as news that nobody would want to keep in the dark. But it’s also true that many people want reporters and photographers to tell their stories in the interest of self-promotion.

In fact, I can’t count the number of times readers have contacted me asking how they could get The Kansas City Star to “write an ad” about their business or a charitable campaign they’re undertaking.

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By DEREK DONOVAN. April 13

Leftward-tilting letters to the editor

I’ve heard from two separate readers today about a concern that is voiced not infrequently at my lines: Why are there generally more letters to the editor from people on the left than those in the middle or on the right?

I have a lot of experience here, as I worked very closely with The Star’s letters editor for about eight years (though I no longer do). I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that part of the problem is simply that the department gets more letters from liberals — period.

And while I find it simplistic to say that the published output should reflect the proportions of what’s received, it isn’t unreasonable to say this should be at least one factor.

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By Derek Donovan. April 3

Is it always worth a correction?

The first caller I spoke to last Wednesday was laughing as I picked up the phone. “Why did (The Kansas City Star) feel like it was necessary to run this goofy correction today?” he asked between chuckles.

He was referring to a correction that day on Page A2 telling readers that a story about vintage toys in the FYI section last December used a photo of a Hot Wheels 1967 Mustang to illustrate a mention of a 1968 Camaro.

“Wouldn’t you say that’s a little bit trivial?” asked the reader. And I can’t say I disagree, particularly since the mistake occurred months ago.

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By DEREK DONOVAN. March 30

Why not name the restaurant in fugitive story?

“Why doesn’t The Star have the guts to say the guy who got picked up by the U.S. Marshal on the Plaza was in Fogo de Chao?” asked a caller this morning, echoing a question I heard from several others.

More than one suggested The Star was intentionally not naming the restaurant to avoid making its management or that of the Country Club Plaza unhappy.

I checked with the senior editor over the metro news operation, and he told me the decision before publishing the story early yesterday evening was a fairly simple journalistic call: The acting deputy U.S. Marshal who was the on-the-record source for the story declined to confirm the name of the restaurant, and they couldn’t find another source to cross-check it.

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By Derek Donovan. March 27

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About the Blog

Derek Donovan is The Kansas City Star's public editor. This blog is a place for you to share your thoughts about how The Star and KansasCity.com cover the news. If you share your name or other identifying information when speaking with Derek, he will never publish that information without your prior consent.

Derek has been with the paper since 1995, and he's also director of research and information. He contributes occasional reviews and other articles to the Features sections as well. The emphasis here is always on fairness and accuracy, but all sorts of other topics will come to the forefront, of course.

All Star journalists must follow The Star newsroom's Code of Ethics. The Star and KansasCity.com are for you, and your insights help journalists bring you the news that you need to stay informed and engaged. Share your thoughts. Start a conversation.

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