Thursday, December 4, 2008

Isn't it time for publisher Mark Zieman to end the "sweetheart deal" the Kansas City Star has with his wife, Rhonda Chriss Lokeman?

Kansas City Star publisher Mark Zieman should end the current "sweetheart deal" he arranged, which permits his newspaper to pay his wife for writing a weekly column for his newspaper.

Lokeman was a Star columnist until her marriage to Zieman.  After the marriage, the Star continued publishing her columns but under Creator's Syndicate.  Mark Zieman says there is no nepotism issue because his wife is a not a Star employee, but a "nationally syndicated columnist" with Creators Syndicate.

Geez.  This is a paperwork arrangement that doesn't address the spirit of the issue.  And there's the question of what "nationally" means.  Although Lokeman is signed with Creators Syndicate, our attempts to locate any other newspaper that publishes her column came up empty. (Updated -- see list below.)

Zieman says he has no say over the arrangement and refers all questions about Lokeman's column to his editorial page editor, Miriam Pepper.

But that argument falls apart when you consider who signs Miriam Pepper's paycheck -- it's Zieman, the big boss.

You really think Miriam Peppers is going to drop her boss's wife's column in favor of some other columnist? We just learned a little newspaper in Texas did just that -- they dropped Lokeman after a brief stint and starting running another columnist. You can read why the Texas paper made their move here.

Aren't the KC Star's readers entitled to know that their paper is getting the most talented and interesting columnists, just like the Texas paper is?

As it stands, many subscribers will wonder if their monthly subscription is subsidizing a substandard columnist -- one rejected by a backwater Texas paper -- to keep the big boss happy. And doesn't that get at the real point here: the KC Star should serve the readers, instead of the readers serving the boss.

Then there's the matter of layoffs. Does Lokeman's status as a syndicated columnist result in her getting preferred treatment when it comes to layoffs?

That is a question that must have entered the minds of Hearne Christopher, Jr. and Jeffrey Flanagan, two long-time KC Star columnists who were pink-slipped in November.

Lokeman has been a columnist for the Kansas City Star for many years. But everything changed when her husband was elevated to publisher earlier this year. And trying to get around a nepotism issue by having your wife get a highly suspicious "nationally syndicated" status doesn't get the job done. Sorry, that's reality.

Time for Zieman to avoid the appearance of nepotism and reassure readers that management is working hard to give readers an outstanding product.

UPDATED: In comments, Archer05 found a list showing that after Star, the next-largest newspaper carrying Lokeman's column is the Cedar Rapids Marion Gazette, circulation 65,000.


Anonymous said...

Someone needs to post this on Dereck Donovan's Blog. He's already in the midst of a breakdown, deleting posts, calling people names and generally acting like a disenfranchised youth from the Daily KOS.

Anonymous said...

I found this list and started to delve into the information. I can see the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal hired Lokeman to balance conservative Michelle Malkin. Lokeman was not their first choice, but her lower price was part of the decision.

I did like the reasoning of balancing the news rather than shoving one side down the readers throats. Chief Mark Two Names, could learn from that philosophy. Minus the Lubbock paper, and it is easy to see the KC Scar is propping up the little wife.
Showing columnist: Rhonda Chriss Lokeman
Appear in 7 papers with a total circulation of 473,752
(includes both regular and occasional columns)

Regularly appears in:
Newspaper Circulation
Kansas City Star 276,203
Cedar Rapids-Marion Gazette 64,762
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal 52,787
Eureka Times-Standard 9,849
Dalton Daily Citizen 12,888

Occasionally appears in:
Newspaper Circulation
Watertown Daily Times 31,284
The Capital Times 15,977

List from Media Matters---

Anonymous said...

Looks like Lokeman turns up in various places, speaking truth to power.

Anonymous said...

Keep her. She alone is probably good for a couple of hundred subscriber cancellations a week. Most people don't like paying for childish racist rants.

Anonymous said...

How old is that picture in her Bio? Fails to mention that her hubby is the publisher of The Red Star.

Still doesn't explain why she kept her job when so many good ones were let go. She is real big time with the her columns. Wow.

I bet she is still covered under his insurance. So the Star is still paying her health insurance? Boy this whole thing smells like dead fish.

Anonymous said...

Derek Donovan is a slime ball. So what does that tell you about who he represents. It sure as hell isn't the readers.

Anonymous said...

Terry Greenberg is the editor of the Avalanche-Journal. I was very impressed with his methods of choosing columnists, and firing them as well. He is the reason local papers have a good chance to survive in my opinion. I think Terry paid attention to his readers, and his own sensibilities.

The reader comments that follow reiterate what we already knew.
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
-Your views-

-Lokeman column tripe,‘not true view from left’ -
“Ms. Lokeman does not speak for any liberal that I know. [Her rhetoric is disgusting and derogatory]……” (Even the liberals did not like her.)

-Lokeman's lyrics column seen as complete drivel-
“The Sunday column by Rhonda Chriss Lokeman lampooning a presidential candidate with lyrics to be sung to the tune of "Dixie" was complete drivel. [The Avalanche-Journal should hold journalism to a higher standard.”]

-Columnist is accused of lazy, sleazy journalism-
It is not the first column in which Ms. Lokeman has used this slur. [This is lazy, sleazy journalism, and has no place in the A-J.] ….[ I encourage you to drop Ms. Lokeman and find a more responsible representative "From the Left."]

L. A.-J. Index page:

Anonymous said...

Lokeman doesn't profess to be a liberal. She is a, "progressive" I.E. Marxist.

Anonymous said...

RCL is truly gagworthy. In the newsroom of The Kansas City Star, she's referred to as the "I,I,I,me,me,me" columnist. No one cared about her parties with her girlfriends, her trips to France to paint in Monet's gardens or much of the other garbage she wrote about (these were columns published in The Star prior to her becoming "syndicated.") Not to mention, she's not a good nor compelling writer. A replacement for Ivins! Please.

Groenhagen said...

"Lokeman, you may remember, replaced the late Molly Ivins. She more than fulfilled her liberal slot, but we were not impressed with the columns she wrote that were supposed to be sung to a well-known song."

Lokeman is an awful writer who is very cavalier with the facts. I don't believe I have ever read a column of hers that contained several factual errors that anyone with access with Google could have checked prior to publication.