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Kansas City, we need each other. So let’s keep the conversation going

The Star is committed to excellence in local journalism

At The Kansas City Star, we are committed to excellence in local journalism.
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At The Kansas City Star, we are committed to excellence in local journalism.

We should talk more often.

As the editor of Kansas City’s largest media company, I want you to know what we’re doing at The Star and why. And I want to better understand what you want from us.

We’ve been working on a project over the last year with News Co/Lab at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, stirring conversations in the community and asking our readers questions about credibility in news-gathering.

Among the surveys conducted by our partners at News Co/Lab and the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, a recent one found that you trust us more than national media. Those results fall along the same lines as a Poynter Media Trust survey that found 73 percent of Americans trust their local newspaper.

But our work with ASU also found a credibility gap and some dissatisfaction with The Star’s level of engagement in the community.

That means we need to work even harder to bring readers inside our operation and show them how we report and edit our stories, to show them how we do the math.

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Mike Fannin

For us, journalism is civic duty. And we measure ourselves by the impact we’re having in the community.

In the last year or so, it’s been an extremely significant impact.

Our series on the purposeful and pervasive secrecy at all levels of Kansas government led to four new laws and four executive orders from the governor that made the state more open and accountable to its own citizens.

In Kansas City, we discovered corruption in Jackson County government, past and present, that led to criminal convictions. We also broke the news that the Kansas City Council was secretly planning to award a $1 billion no-bid contract to a local company for construction of a new airport. Because of our reporting, the city went to a competitive bid process and saved millions on the project.

Last month, when a duck boat tragically sank on Table Rock Lake, killing 17 people, several reporters and editors pulled an all-nighter in The Star’s newsroom to tell readers an exclusive story the next morning about unheeded warnings from a federal agency regarding problems with duck boat canopies from an earlier tragedy. A handful of reporters were also on the scene. Survivors later said the canopy, the confining design of the boat itself and a disregard for life jackets made it difficult to escape. Since then, The Star has also reported that the boat designer lacked an engineering background, that the former owners were fined $500,000 for safety violations months before selling the company and that the Coast Guard has forwarded the case to federal authorities to review for possible criminal charges.

In Missouri, we found the state had the most lax child marriage law in America for 15-year-olds, and those marriages sometimes involved statutory rape. Our series prompted new legislation in the spring, and now, 15-years-olds can no longer marry in Missouri.

We also pulled back the curtain on former Gov. Eric Greitens’ use of dark money and secret communication as he ran state government with a shocking lack of transparency. Our reporting, as well as terrific work from colleagues across the state, played a role in Greitens’ eventual resignation.

Our politics team has uncovered news you should know on just about every incumbent and candidate running for election this year — from Claire McCaskill to Kevin Yoder to Kris Kobach. We’re holding the leaders in our area accountable, and if you follow the stories you’ll note more than one political party.

We chronicle heroic police efforts, like the recent shootout that injured Kansas City officers who were fired on as they tried to arrest the suspect in the death of a UMKC student. But we also hold truth to power in cases where police make fatal errors, like the Leavenworth officer recently indicted in the shooting of Antonio Garcia Jr.

And don’t forget the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab on the Verruckt slide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark. Our reporting in the days after the 2016 tragedy showed how design failures and blind ambition contributed to the boy’s death. Earlier this year, company executives were charged as a result.

These are just a few examples among many others — all done just in the last year or so. And all done with you in mind.

We know that many of you trust and support us. For those who don’t, we want to earn it.

That’s why, in our partnership with News Co/Lab, we’re reaching out with programs like Java With a Journalist, hosting town halls on issues that are important to you, trying harder than ever to explain our process and conducting surveys in the community.

News Co/Lab was founded to help the public find “new ways of understanding and engaging with news and information,” and we’re going to continue experimenting with new models.

We’re also working on a corrections policy for digital content that will allow us to ping readers when we’ve made a mistake or when there’s been a consequential update to a story.

We are here to serve the public interest, to make our city better — and we need your help and support in doing that. Journalism costs money, and your subscription matters. Your readership matters.

If it’s important to you for us to continue doing the local accountability and watchdog reporting I mentioned above, please go to kansascity.com/subscribe and support that mission.

If you find a respite from the news in sports, we’ve got an app for that, too. Last week, we launched KC Sports Pass, an annual subscription for access to all of the award-winning sports content on kansascity.com and on our apps.

Kansas City, we’ve been in a relationship for 138 years. But we still have a lot to learn about each other. So let’s keep talking.

Mike Fannin

Mike Fannin is editor/vice president of The Kansas City Star, where he has worked for more than 20 years. He is also Midwest Region editor for McClatchy, overseeing newsrooms in Fort Worth, Wichita and Belleville, Ill.

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