Public Editor

Small items are a big help in understanding a news story

A locator map can be a great help to readers of the print edition, who don’t want to look up locations online.
A locator map can be a great help to readers of the print edition, who don’t want to look up locations online.

The dominant story on the Dec. 17 front page of The Kansas City Star was the horrific attack on a school in Pakistan. One small element of how the package was presented was meaningful to at least two readers who called me.

“This page has something your paper needs to do way, way more often,” said one caller. “I’m so grateful your designers put this map showing us where Peshawar is. I consider myself a well-informed individual, and I can find Pakistan on a map, but I don’t know where Peshawar is.

“Seeing it here, and showing how close it is to Islamabad, which is the city I think most Americans know best, is so very helpful. Please put more of these maps in.”

I remember another caller some time ago who asked for more of these locator maps, reminding me that while she can always Google a location when she’s at her computer, she’s normally purposely offline when she’s reading the print edition.

“Don’t make me get up and find it online,” was her gist.


“When, if ever, (is The Star) going to give up and quit hyphenating ‘Walmart?’” asked a letter I received in the mail last week (amusingly addressed to “Dear Keeper-of-the-Style-Manual”).

The sender also enclosed a photocopy of a recent page from The Star’s 816 news magazine with a series of news briefs that he had marked up with a highlighter pen.

One of the items mentioned the opening of a new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, and was illustrated with a photo of an existing store in the chain from a different part of town. That photo’s caption called it “Walmart Neighborhood Market.”

Noting that he’s pointed out this discrepancy about the company’s name to me in the past, he added: “When your caption writer and/or editor and whoever keeps insisting on hyphenation at the copy desk can’t agree, even with the inevitable, I just had to give it one more chance.”

It is true that The Star hasn’t been consistent through the years on the name of the biggest company and largest employer in the world. And it is especially cringe-worthy to see both spellings on the same page.

The Associated Press Stylebook, which The Star follows, is clear on the question: “The company’s name is spelled Wal-Mart in all uses, whether referring to the corporation or an individual store.”

The official business name is Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Confusingly, though, it redesigned its logo to drop the hyphen (often represented by a star symbol) several years ago. Most of its advertising and corporate communications use Walmart. That’s what you see when you visit its website or see its inserts in your Sunday paper.

But when you drill down into details such as copyright notices and legal filings, you almost universally find that the company uses Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

And the retailer isn’t even consistent about it. While most of the chain’s stores use the new designs, the logo for the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market still uses the old-fashioned hyphen/star in many locations.

Regardless of the intricacies of brands and copyrights, The Star simply needs to stick to one version.

To reach Derek Donovan, call 816-234-4487 or send email to