Do the Royals have a big homer — not the Mike Moustakas kind — in The Kansas City Star’s newsroom?
First and foremost, I need to state for the record that the overwhelming majority of feedback I’ve heard from readers about The Star’s coverage of the Royals’ big postseason run has been exceedingly positive. Superlative, even.
I’ve heard fulsome praise for the game reports, the sports columnists, the editorial board (a real rarity, let me tell you), and especially the photographers’ work.
While I always convey the compliments I receive to the relevant journalists internally, I don’t often use space here for that purpose. In this case, though, it’s so ubiquitous that it deserves a public audience.
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I was intrigued by one caller’s provocative question last week, though. His starting point was the Oct. 23 front page, which was dominated by a huge photo from the Royals’ big 7-2 win over the San Francisco Giants.
“Look, I’m as excited as anyone in Kansas City about this time, this season,” said my caller. “I’m a sports guy. I was with the team when they were the pits. And I love seeing this photo, Gore hugging Hosmer.
“But … don’t you think you’re kind of going over the edge and just kind of openly rooting for the team now? Shouldn’t there be professional distance there?”
It’s a great question, and in many ways, it’s the essence of the chicken and the egg.
When a local team’s fortunes are good, news coverage generally reflects that. And a bad performance usually results in headlines, columns and photos that fans don’t like.
For example, one caller last week was “terribly offended” by the big Oct. 22 Page A-1 headline “Bummer” after the Royals’ 7-1 drubbing in the first game of the World Series.
“That wasn’t necessary,” she said. “I felt really bad for the team, and it looked like The Star was endorsing the Giants. I even had calls from people out of town who thought the same. … That did not settle with me.”
These are sentiments I’ve heard many times. Fans of KU football, or those who followed the Royals during their many years lost in the woods, have often voiced their displeasure at negative coverage — or when stories about wins were scant or inside the Sports Daily instead of the front.
Believe me: I understand that people want to see their teams’ good fortunes prominently displayed. And when one of those underdogs has a particularly big win in an off season, the fans want to read that recognition.
Yet I also understand sports editors’ judgment calls not to give prominent coverage sometimes, especially when a team can’t possibly mathematically recover before the end of the season.
So has The Star been a Royals booster this season?
You have to examine what was published all season as a whole. It hasn’t been all rosy. Columnists Vahe Gregorian and Sam Mellinger have certainly brought up some uncomfortable subjects after the team’s losses. And I think I’ve lost count of the mentions of fan displeasure with manager Ned Yost’s job performance.
But there’s an undeniable link between documenting the celebration over something as exciting as the Royals in the World Series and the feeling that the journalists are actively participating in that excitement. It’s a fair critique, and likely true on some level.