Happy In Bag

Friday, July 21, 2006

Dear Readers' Representative

Dear Kansas City Star Readers' Representative:

I thoroughly consume The Kansas City Star, my hometown newspaper, every day. It used to be a pleasure; lately it’s become a chore.

Perhaps my thoughts on your recent product will instigate improvements. I’ll limit my comments to the front section for today. I’m not a journalist or an art director. I’m just your customer.

Take a fresh look at your front page- it doesn’t take a design expert to see that it’s a mess. All those blocks of colors are ridiculous. Remember- just because you have a fresh box of 64 crayons doesn’t mean you have to use all of them on every page. That yellow block of text about Mark Gubicza is especially appalling.

It’s bad enough that you reduced the size of the Star by 20%, but to use up more than a fifth of the front page with those silly teasers at the top is just plain wrong. Yes, Uma Thurman is mind-numbingly attractive- but what is she doing on the front page? I’ll admire her picture when I read the FYI section, just like I’ll read about Gubicza when I peruse the sports section. It’s an annoying waste of space, and you repeat the blunder daily.

Look what happens when you misuse space- the front page has only four stories. Four! That 5x7 picture of Beirut and the three "idiot blurbs" beneath it don't constitute a story. How can you run the banner headline "Marines Back In Beirut" with a huge photo and not have an accompanying front page story? That’s just dumb. To make things worse, the two compelling stories of local interest- Mark Morris’ excellent investigation of mortgage fraud and Scott Canon’s report on a Shawnee man in Iraq, are buried by your messy design.

There are more unsightly idiot blurbs at the bottom of the page. They refer to seven stories elsewhere in the paper. Again, I’ll get there on my own. This space should have been used for text about the trouble in Lebanon.

Let’s turn the page. The large "Nation Watch" headline is another pointless waste of space. If you’re so attached to it, consider reducing it to a quarter-inch. Your daily "Today’s Top 10" epitomizes my complaints. Not only is it entirely arbitrary, five of the items refer to stories elsewhere in the paper. It’s more needless repetition. One of the stories that’s not featured elsewhere should get this space. I do like your "Corrections" listing, and "The Buzz" is a good idea. "World Watch" on page A12 is similarly redundant. Two of your "Top 5" stories refer to text elsewhere. By dropping this feature you’d make room to more adequately address a third story.

Is it really necessary to run head shots of various figures throughout the paper? Your readers already know what John Bolton, Charles Barkley and Arnold Schwarzenegger look like. The piece on the California governor is three sentences. Maybe not using the picture would have made room for a fourth sentence. Also, silly bits like the glove-stealing cat and the dog show are frustrating. Either devote more than a sentence to a story, or don’t run it at all.

I’ll stop for now; maybe next week I’ll offer you my thoughts on your Local section.




  • At 2:00 PM, Blogger Death said…

    don't even get me started on how much i hate the new Star. the best part of my workday was cracking open a fresh paper during lunch but since they changed to the new crap, reading the fuckin paper sucks ass. stupid rat bastards!

  • At 2:08 PM, Blogger Happy In Bag said…

    Death- I really don't like posting negative stuff. You wrote today at Death's Door about what a drag it is to be around hyper-critical know-it-alls; I don't want to be one of those guys. I truly want the Star to be a great paper, and I'm distressed by its current direction.

  • At 6:27 PM, Blogger "The D" said…

    YEA, What he said! And ditto for your stupid web site, fucking asshole KC Star.

  • At 11:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You do have some valid points, no doubt.

    However, I have thoroughly enjoyed the new look of the Star since its change, and only have minor gripes. The biggest being the absence of the Royals game the night before for the first couple weeks that the new version started running.

    Overall, I think the pictures and blurbs are awesome and cater to an audience that just as easily hop online at any time of day, and without additional charge, read every relevant news story in the world. The Star is competing with THAT.

    Their style is working, but surely they need to work out some kinks and possibly increase the number of pages.

    More later.

  • At 9:09 AM, Blogger Happy In Bag said…

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, Anon, and for restraining yourself from using profanity, unlike my pals Death and D. Saturday's Star is even sillier than yesterday's- it's full of the treasure-hunt, funhouse characteristics I describe in my post. There's no doubt that your analysis is correct. The irony is that the Star may soon lose its core readership to The New York Times and fail to draw in the kids who have no loyalty to newspapers. But then again, maybe the online presence is all that will matter in five-ten years anyway.

  • At 2:18 PM, Blogger Lee said…

    Anon: Whatever your opinion of the look of the new Star, it is a step backward in information delivery, as our host so lucidly points out. We can only hope that the Star does a better job redesigning the online Star now that KnightRidder Digital is dead. In the meantime, why jeopardize your core readership appealing to a demographic that doesn't give a hoot for your grubby-smudgy old newsprint?

  • At 2:59 PM, Blogger QuickSnap said…

    Ehhhh dad, what is a newspaper??

  • At 2:19 AM, Blogger Heather said…

    It's kind of sad that the Star seems to pander to the crowds who are not so much into reading, as to those who like to look at pretty pictures. It's not thought-provoking, it's not even informative. I think things sort of soured for me and the Star when they sent me an email telling me how I should vote for the stadium initiative. There's no journalistic integrity, it's fluff at best.

    However, it has come in handy for packing stuff with.

  • At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Different anon here...I consider the Star a marginal paper at best, but it's the only game in town other than TV news, which has even less substance. Along with the annoying hyper graphics, what I have noticed about the Star recently is that they seem to have dumbed-down their writing. Most articles seem to have been done by a high school newspaper staff, and the subject matter is even more dull than before (Olathe woman learns how to bathe baby?). They really do need to appeal to their ever shrinking core of readers and spend less time trying to be "hip." It reminds me of a 50 year old dancing in a leisure suit.


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