Public Editor

Readers debate what is and isn’t news

One reader was disappointed not to read a news story or interview in advance of The Who’s appearance in Kansas City on April 29.
One reader was disappointed not to read a news story or interview in advance of The Who’s appearance in Kansas City on April 29. Arthur Mola

Readers often contact me to express their overall objections to the topic that journalists have chosen for coverage they read in The Kansas City Star and on Matters of what is or isn’t newsworthy can be highly subjective, and I respect these personal opinions.

Many times, readers find certain subjects just too upsetting or distasteful to read about. One such case came last Friday, when the website hosted a wire story about a live camera fixed on the nest of a family of eagles in eastern Pittsburgh. One of the adult birds brought the carcass of a domestic cat to the roost as food, and the video stream caught the circle of life in all its gory reality.

One caller that morning told me she wished the Web editors had passed on this one. “I’m not stupid,” she said. “I know this is how predatory animals survive. And I’d even give (The Star) a pass if it was a Missouri nest. But do you really need the clicks that bad that you need to publish an article out of Pennsylvania? I can’t quit thinking about that poor cat now.”

Readers offer a lot of dissent on how The Star covers Kansas’ budget crisis, and from both sides of the aisle. “It really gets tiresome to see your stuff about that awful Kansas EVERY day! Usually on the first page,” wrote one recent emailer. “I have never seen any criticism about the NATIONAL debt increasing at over a billion per day.” While that may be a tad over the top, I do understand his umbrella point and respect his passion.

Again, these notes illuminate the ongoing debate: Should The Star be more local or national and international in its focus?

I talk to people nearly every day who would be very happy with a print paper with no mention of the Kansas City area. But others, like my eagle correspondent, know there are plenty of other media sources where they can find what’s going on elsewhere, and would prefer the local resources spent on the immediate area.

Readers also find faults of omission in coverage, like this emailer from early last week:

“The Who are at the Sprint Center on Friday. They should be news! I saw them at the Music Hall in 1968! I will be there with my nephew.”

There had been listings about the show, which was rescheduled twice before finally taking place on April 29, but no interviews or news story.

The Who is an epochal rock band, arguably one of the most influential architects of the genre, and very likely making their final appearance in town. I can certainly understand those who thought not publishing a look back at their history was a missed opportunity.

‘See It’ via KC eyes

There is intense competition for a slot in the rotation of “As I See It” guest columnists that run in the Opinion pages. Editors receive vastly more submissions than they could ever run.

Would-be writers often ask for suggestions on how to improve their odds. My first bit of advice: Read carefully the instructions that run every day in the “Your Opinion” box with the letters.

When it says “up to 600 words,” that doesn’t mean 750 words. And it certainly doesn’t mean 2,800-plus, like a sample a prospective essayist once sent me to look over.

Perhaps most important, editors want authors who are writing about a topic they have professional experience in, and one that is relevant to Kansas City.

That proposal on a topic of national historical significance, but without a peg to current events or Kansas City, might be valuable — but it isn’t what the Opinion section is generally looking for.