The news that revered civic leader Adele Hall had passed away stunned the Kansas City community this week.
Known as the “First Lady of Kansas City,” she was much more than just the spouse of Hallmark Cards’ Chairman Donald Hall.
Anyone who ever dealt with her (including this writer) soon realized she was not someone who just lent her name to causes. She jumped into them with both feet and made real, positive changes in the community.
Jim Fitzpatrick, who spent nearly 37 years at the Kansas City Star and a reporter/editor until he retired in 2006, has now revealed the fascinating back-story on his jimmycsays blog of how the McClatchy-owned paper rushed to put together the front-page article on Hall’s death.
When the very thorough story appeared in the Star on Monday it had this unique byline: “Laura Rollins Hockaday, Lisa Gutierrez, Lee Hill Kavanaugh and Steve Paul contributed to this article.”
Multiple bylines are not necessarily unusual, but the one highlighting “Laura Rollins Hockaday” first was unique in that the Star’s renowned society editor had retired 13 years ago after 38 years with the paper.
Star Editor Darryl Levings told Fitzpatrick that Hockaday had prepared a two-page obituary on Adele Hall before she retired (a common media practice for high-profile people) that provided the blueprint for the entire story. She also provided important contacts for the other Star reporters to interview for the story.
Ironically, Hockaday didn’t write a word about Hall’s passing, but was given first by-line credit on the story.
“So, why did Levings decide to put Hockaday’s name before the names of the three full-time reporters who were included in the credit box?” asked Fitzpatrick.
“I wanted to honor her earlier work,” Levings said.
Fitzpatrick’s summary hit the nail on the head:
“My take on this is that there is no substitute for institutional knowledge on stories involving notable people and major developments with links to the past. Calling Laura was a brilliant, if logical, thing to do. She had what The Star needed — longstanding civic, social and personal connections to Adele.
“Bravo, then, Laura; you deserve a lot of credit.
“And bravo, Kansas City Star; you gave a great lady a thorough and well-written news obituary.”