LOTS OF SURPRISES IN KANSAS CITY MEDIA CIRCLES IN 2011

JohnLandsberg
December 12th, 2011

Can you believe that this Bottom Line Communications site is closing out its 10th year as the media watchdog for Kansas City and beyond?
It has been a wild ride and we must admit we have pondered shutting things down because of time constraints and other issues. But, our loyal readers would have none of it so we plug on.
The goal of this site has always been to provide accurate news about what is happening in local media circles. Loyal readers and journalists are sources for stories.
We could have set a goal of getting as many “hits” as possible to our site, but that generally involves allowing anonymous folks to post nasty comments just so they can see their fake name in print. Or, we could add to our numbers by counting every click on stories by viewers rather than unique visitors.
Or, we could just make facts up for shock value. Our hits would rise dramatically while our credibility would plummet. Forget that strategy.
We have made mistakes over the years and apologized/corrected them.
Yes, we get criticzed.
Over the years we have often be told numerous times by readers that “Your content is great, but your site looks like it was designed by a sixth grader.” That was a fair criticism and one reluctantly taken to heart.
But, we listened and have a wonderful announcement in that regard.
The biggest news as we close out the year is that the Bottom Line Communications site is going to be completely re-designed by the area’s leading online marketing and Web site design company Kansas City Website Design. Owner Phil Singleton has already delivered mock-ups that are simply amazing. Stay tuned…
Below is our annual end-of-the-year wrap-up items/thoughts/comments for 2011. If we missed anything send me a note.
Thanks for your loyal readership. —John Landsberg

  • Walt Bodine, probably Kansas City’s top media icon, turned 91 in August. He has cut back his duties to one day a week on KCUR, but he is still fighting the good fight. Good for him.
  • ¬†A part of KC died with the passing of Bill Grigsby in February at the age of 89. Grigs, dubbed the “Prince of Parkville” for the love he had for his home city, had covered the KC Chiefs for 46 years and had retired a year earlier to conclude a phenomenal 62-year career. He was truly a civic treasure.
  • ¬†Speaking of media legends, in March beloved talk show host Mike Murphy died at the age of 71. His career spanned 46 years and his last 25 were on KCMO-710. At times, more than 50% of people in Kansas City listening to radio were listening to Murphy, a 1998 winner of radio’s highest honor the Marconi Award.
  • Veteran Fox 4 anchor John Holt, who had prostate cancer surgery in 2010, has become an outspoken advocate for men to have prostate exams. He was involved in a number of events in 2011 and plans on continuing his efforts in 2012.
  • After 12 years as the President and GM at KMBC, veteran newsguy Wayne Godsey retired at the ABC affiliate this year. He departed after delivering some of the highest ratings in the station’s history. He would be a great resource for a local J-school to call on.
  • Veteran Kansas City Star sportswriter Randy Covitz captured the well-deserved and prestigious Joe McGuff Sports Journalist of the Year Award at the Kansas City Sports Commission annual banquet last July.
  • Sadly, Gunnar Hughes, one of the most respected communicators in Kansas City, passed away Dec. 22 at the age of 59. He had been with American Century nearly 25 years.
  • Radio legend Dick Wilson celebrated his 40th on-air radio anniversary in Kansas City, most recently with KCMO-FM where he has been the past 25 years. It is a fete that we will likely never see again.
  • At times it was challenging in 2011 for the area’s leading blogger, Tony Botello of tonyskansascity.com. He was sued by an area union boss, but came out swinging and is still delivering solid insider news. He’s the hardest-working blogger in KC and does a superb job.
  • In March veteran KSHB anchor Elizabeth Alex stepped down from her main anchor job at the NBC affiliate to take a new position with TLC for Children in Olathe. She still anchors the 6 p.m. news.
  • The problem with KC’s longest-tenured anchor, KMBC’s Larry Moore, is that he has done his job so well for so long that he gives the impression it is easy. It isn’t. The University of Missouri should give him its top journo award in 2012. He deserves it.
  • One of the most under-appreciated people in sports radio is WHB’s Danny Clinkscale. If you listen to him interview someone it is obvious he has done his homework and he will ask questions that are far and above the normal “Do you think the team will win its next game?” drivel.
  • Not a bad year for KMBC anchor Lara Moritz. In April she won a prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for a chilling interview with a serial killer. Then in July she landed an interview with President Obama and parts of it went national.
  • In March, KUDL, which has been a fixture in the Kansas City radio market dating back to 1953, became KMBZ-FM 98.1 and began simulcasting with NewsRadio 980-AM KMBZ.
  • Rivals whine and carry on that KMBC receives too much positive coverage in the KC market, but until they can overtake the ABC affiliate in any news slot during the entire day they have no room to complain. Plus, KMBC does PR better than any other station. Most stations would refuse to comment on whether the sun was shining or not.
  • KMBC’s Kris Ketz might be the KC area’s top newsguy. His father was a broadcasting legend and his son just graduated with a broadcast degree from Mizzou. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…
  • Folks are still cringing from an interview KCSP’s Nick Wright did with former Star columnist Jason Whitlock. It is the first time we ever used the term “bitch-slapped” to describe an interview.
  • In March Chris Merrill and his “Voice of Merrill” took over the 9- 11 a.m. slot from syndicated talker Glenn Beck on KMBZ. At first Merrill seemed a bit out there, but has settled in and does an interesting two hours.
  • Kansas City alternative weekly “The Pitch” was sold by Village Voice Media, which owned it since 1999, to Southcomm and editor Joe Tone was bounced and later replaced by David Martin. Talented Justin Kendall then took over the weekly as managing editor in October.
  • The Star’s Readers’ Representative Derek Donovan seems much more cautious (and defensive) about criticism of his newspaper these days. Probably a wise job security move, but a pretty dramatic change from his tenure under the former publisher.
  • Sad to see NewsRadio KMBZ dump program director Neil Larrimore in November. He had been there since 2004.
  • In July the KC Star stunned everyone when it publicly announced it was letting urban columnist Steve Penn go after more than 30 years with the paper for “using material that wasn’t his and representing it as his own work.”
  • It may have been the longest search in local TV history, but KSHB finally announced in June that Christa Dubill would be its new main co-anchor, replacing veteran Elizabeth Alex, who had moved to part-time status after taking a new position an area non-profit.
  • Still think that the Star’s Steve Kraske is an amazing talent. He not only covers the political scene expertly, but also seems to effortlessly host a daily radio show on KCUR.
  • In May, Bottom Line Communications broke the story that the Kansas City Star’s President and Publisher Mark Zieman would be stepping down to assume a VP post with Star parent McClatchy Company. Zieman had been with the Star since 1986 and in the top spot since 2008. He had overseen major bloodletting at the paper before his departure.
  • In March, eight-year Pitch veteran Nadia Pflaum, one of the area’s top reporters, announced she was leaving to take a post with the Midwest Innocence Project.
  • Patti Cahill announced in 2011 that she will retire June 30, 2012 as general manager at public radio station KCUR radio after 24 years. It must be nice to be able to give nearly a year’s notice. That never happens in normal media positions.
  • The dean of area public relations practitioners, Pat Paton, has done a superb job of growing the Kansas City Media Legends group. It meets twice a month and often features more media talent than you will ever find on the air today.
  • In October Justin Kendall took over as managing editor at The Pitch and has done an excellent job. Who would have ever thought two previous editors at the alternative weekly would have taken PR positions with KU Medical Center?
  • JiaoJiao Shen left Fox 4 in August to take a reporter position with KSHB. By September she had landed an anchor job at the NBC affiliate. Now that is being on the fast track.
  • In August, the Johnson County Sun closed its doors after six decades. Begun by Stan and Shirley Rose, their son and its former longtime publisher/columnist Steve Rose, now a columnist with the Star, said it was like a “Death in the family.”
  • In December Metro Sports achieved a major milestone by celebrating its 15th anniversary. Headlined by Dave Stewart, they have some very talented folks on the staff there, and many of them are award-winners.
  • In August KMBC morning anchor Laura Pittman became a first-time mama. On the other side meteorologist Erin Little, who was brought in to replace Pete Grigsby, seems to be on permanent pregnancy leave at the ABC affiliate.
  • There will be a big hole at the KC Star in February when veteran sportswriter Mike DeArmond retires after 40 years. He has done a fine job and was a journalist who actually verified facts before printing them, which is a rarity these days. The University of Missouri showed a lack of class by threatening to sue this site for using a photo of him.
  • How close do viewers feel to some of their TV personalities? When Fox 4 morning meteorologist Don Harman took his life in November the community was shocked and hundreds showed up to a public memorial of his life.
  • Incidentally, freelance photographer Susan Pfannmuller’s touching photo of Fox4′s Loren Halifax in the KC Star at the memorial spoke more about how people felt about Harman than a million words could.
  • 2010 has been a rough year for KSHB’s Cynthia Newsome, who underwent a series of chemo treatments for breast cancer. She was be back anchoring on New Year’s day.
  • In August 30-year veteran KC ad guru Paul Welsh (the “W” in the NKH&W agency) authored his first book, “The St. Bernard Principle” and it is a major success.
  • Anyone else think KMBC regrets pushing meteorologist Pete Grigsby out a few years ago? With him subbing so much over the holidays viewers realize what a talent he is and how well he did his job.
  • Years ago a co-worker was moving back to New York. She said the thing she would miss most about KC was not seeing Gary Lezak in the morning. Although I didn’t even know him, I asked Gary if he would mention the lady on the air. Not only did he mention her, but also called her to wish her well. She was so happy she cried. That summarizes how close many people feel to their morning TV personalities.
  • Former KCMO-710 newsman Richard Mock was hospitalized after the devastating Joplin, MO, tornado struck his house in June. Within a few months he passed away.
  • It was great to see all the TV stations in the market make offers of assistance to Fox 4 to help if employees wanted to attend services for Harman. Classy.
  • In May, Bottom Line broke the story that 19-year KCTV veteran Katie Horner was being replaced as the station’s chief meteorologist. As the story unraveled it became clear that Horner was being punished for following orders from a former GM who demanded she be “first on and last off” when severe weather hit. It led to her un-deserved reputation for dragging out storm coverage for ridiculously long periods of time.
  • In October the Pitch launched a new magazine called “Her Kansas City” and shortly thereafter named Jessica Marshall as editor.
  • Mi-Ai Parrish took over the top spot at the Kansas City Star in June from Zieman. While there have been no cutbacks so far during her tenure, she has raised the price of the newspaper dramatically and remained so low-key that aside from co-workers she is virtually unknown in the community. Insiders joke Mi-A stands for “Missing in Action.”
  • KSHB’s Jack Harry is by far the top sports guy on TV these days and possibly the entire media in KC. He has forgotten more during his career than most other sports guy know. He might come across cantakerous at times on the air, but in real-life is a super guy. He wasn’t supposed to be shot on-air wearing shorts after knee surgery in July, but after it occurred the consummate pro had fun with it.
  • Wanted to do a puff piece this year on KMBZ’s morning news duo of EJ Becker and Ellen Schenk and how well they mesh together. EJ seemed very cooperative, but Ellen no so much…
  • KCTV Sports Director Michael Coleman, who joined the station in 2010, was recently inducted into the sports Hall of Fame where he was a football star at Coffeeville Community College.
  • In June the KC Press Club named stalwart Star reporter Christine Vendel its “Journalist of the Year” for the second time. The Lee’s Summit Journal was named its prestigious “Newspaper of the Year.” Both honors were deserved.
  • One would be hard-pressed to find a more likable guy in KC media circles than Dan Henry, who retired years go as the weather guy at Fox4. He’s the type of person who can make you smile without saying a word.
  • It might be a bit early to judge, but Sarah Smith, who took over the reins from Godsey at KMBC is causing a bit of a stir at the Hearst-owned station. KMBC has had a long-standing reputation for being the lone TV station to do actual on-air editorials in this market, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside under her tenure.
  • Smith recently came out with an edict that KMBC reporters will no longer participate on the public television show ‘Week in Review.’ That head-scratching decision puts pressure on superb KCPT host Nick Haines to come up with media folks to replace veteran talent like Kris Ketz and Micheal Mahoney on the show.
  • KMBZ’s afternoon talk show duo of Scott Parks and Mike Shanin celebrated their fifth on-air anniversary this year. In reality, few would have predicted that longevity, but they continue to plug along nicely in the 2-6 p.m. time slot.
  • He might look like he’s 12-years-old, but Johnny Kane is doing a fine job as KMBC’s sports guy.
  • If you were going to be investigated by any TV reporter in Kansas City you might want to avoid KSHB’s pit bull investigative reporter Russ Ptacek. He brought down Clay County’s auditor this year and the folks at the Bannister Federal Complex are praying he stops doing stories on them.
  • Ptacek’s sidekick Ryan Kath also delivered some superb investigative pieces this year. It’s the best one-two punch in KC.
  • What’s the difference between a pit bull and KCTV’s Dana Wright? Wright wears lip gloss. The diminutive investigative reporter won so many local and national awards for her stories that the CBS affiliate likely had to expand its trophy case.
  • The disappearance of “Baby Lisa” Irwin in 2011 was not a high point for the KC media. The family’s handlers decided the local media would not be granted interviews, but instead, interviews would only be given to national outlets. It was embarrassing to see the KC media get scooped daily on stories in its own backyard.
  • Bottom Line broke the story in November that the Star was going to introduce a new publication called “913″ in an effort to show it cared about the lucrative advertisers of Johnson County. It started as 40 pages and then 36, 32 and 28.
  • The Star’s Joyce Smith does an excellent job covering the cityside beat as she had done for years. Her long hours and dedication to her craft sometimes seem to be overlooked, but at least she still has a job unlike many co-workers.
  • Kansas City Star reporter Judy Thomas continued her relentless attacks against the Catholic Church in Kansas City, and the newspaper refused to accept a $25,000 paid ad from the Catholic League. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League organization based in New York lashed out at Thomas and the Star in a series of attacks. He said Thomas might not be anti-Christian, but is definitely anti-Catholic.
  • In June KCTV hired former Star reporter DeAnn Smith for its Web site and fired its existing staff. She had served in a similar capacity at both KMBC and KSHB.
  • While the KC Star was raising its prices, it also saw its weekday circulation drop below the 200,000 mark for the first time in decades, according to former Star editor/reporter Jim Fitzpatrick. Sunday circulation hovers right at the 300,000 level.
  • In the radio sports talk battles, KCSP-610 AM, anchored by veteran talent Bob Fescoe, stunned Kansas Citians when it toppled long-time ratings leader WHB-810 for a few months during the summer. However, once broadcasts of the KC Royals ended on 610 things returned to normal, and WHB is again king of the hill.
  • Frank White was booted from the KC Royals broadcast team this year and some fans and the media were in a huff. They felt since White was on the 1985 World Series winning team he was entitled to lifetime employment with the team. The team thought otherwise.

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