Public Editor

October 1, 2013

Online news delivery is great, but print will always have its own advantages

Digital news delivery has opened up vast choices that didn’t exist 20 years ago. But print continues to offer unique strengths — and its readers deserve special consideration.

Last Saturday, former Kansas State Rep. Ron Worley emailed me to express his disappointment in that day’s print edition. He had wanted to see how Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran had voted the previous day on continuing funding for the federal government.

But there was nothing in print that day to note both senators had voted against it. In Missouri, Sen. Claire McCaskill was a yea, while Sen. Roy Blunt was a nay. True, it was another incremental step in the roiling gridlock that led to this week’s shutdown of the federal government, and its defeat in the Senate surprised no one. Still I understand Worley’s point.

“I would rather get the news and information I want from my morning paper but it appears more and more to be the case that The Star does not want to provide that news,” he wrote. He knew how to find the roll call online, but wanted to see it in print.

Devotees of the hard copy have told me for years that they feel slighted in our increasingly online world.

“I don’t want to have to go to my computer to read more,” said a caller recently. “It’s almost like (editors) want us to quit taking the paper. I need my cereal, my coffee and my Star.”

Some requests for expanded print coverage aren’t feasible, such as the frequent call for the FYI section to print a daily listing of every show on TV.

That may have been possible a generation ago, when every household received the same dozen or so channels. Today, area households may get their TV from Comcast, Time Warner, Surewest, DirecTV, Dish Network, AT&T U-Verse or Google Fiber. Each has a different numbering system and none offers exactly the same channels.

The challenges in the face of this ever-widening TV variety are obvious. No, print can’t keep up in this arena.

The paper has obvious unique strengths, though. A Twitter user wrote yesterday: “I still read my @KCStar newspaper because I know where it starts and ends. Web news has no end.”

That’s an excellent point, and it’s one that I think the print media’s critics often overlook. It’s very easy to armchair quarterback decisions about why Story X didn’t make the front page, but I attend two news meetings focused on the print edition every day. I can tell you that editors put a great deal of thought and discussion into what goes where and how it’s presented.

In general, I’m not a fan of ombudsmen playing “If I Ran the Newspaper.” But the preponderance of reader feedback is crystallizing more clearly every day. I think it’s time for The Star to step back and reassess print with fresh eyes. is now 17 years old. The hundreds of thousands of people who choose to read The Star in its paper incarnation do so quite intentionally. They don’t consider it an also-ran. It’s their preference.

I don’t know of any industry that’s remade itself so completely as print publishing has over the past decade. Readers constantly offer suggestions of what the print edition should deliver in the Internet age.

They love sports standings. They want a national weather page that lets them compare Reno to Salt Lake City at a glance. They want to know when trash collection is on holiday schedule.

And for goodness’ sake, bring back the weekly “How They Voted” tally of the local congressional contingent’s votes. Readers miss it — clearly.

Every day, the masthead reminds us that William Rockhill Nelson proclaimed The Kansas City Star “a Paper for the People.” He could never have foreseen the Internet curveball.

In a lot of ways, we’ve become many different people, each with niche interests. And your feedback helps editors steer the information you’re looking for when you pick up the paper from your driveway or a newsstand.

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