It seems the publisher of the Kansas City Star has taken on a new hobby. As evidenced by his “Publisher’s Note” over the weekend, Mark Zieman has taken up science fiction writing. He isn’t much better at that than at managing the Star.
Let’s start with Zieman’s contention that the Star is a “paper for the people.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The Star’s goal is simple and obvious: agenda driven news and opinion designed to tell the story that they want told.
Zieman blames the Star’s lost revenue on “the deep and widening recession,” but the truth is that the Star has been bleeding for years. Circulation is dropping, and ad revenues closely follow circulation. The massive layoffs over the last few months would not have happened if the Star was “solidly profitable” as Zieman claims.
Zieman writes that the Star has “1 million local readers a week.” We can tell you this is an exaggeration in several senses. Zieman tries to define “readers” by guessing how many people might read a single copy. This is an old newspaper trick designed to make numbers look better for advertisers. The facts are, according to McClatchy’s own website, that 2007 circulation numbers were just over 250,000 for the daily paper. If you access the non-biased data at the Audit Bureau of Circulations (www.accessabc.com) you find that the Star is losing paying customers at the rate of about 10,000 per year. This is not a healthy trend.
Zieman goes on to discuss the advantage he believes newspapers have over other informing media. He cites “staff, responsibility and ethics policies” and claims the Star presents “facts” in “an objective format”. Someone clearly forgot to tell that to some of the Star’s reporters, columnists and editorial staff. While many of the Star’s staff is objective, several reporters are well known for their liberal leanings. To be blunt, this newspaper has earned derogatory nicknames like the Falling Star and the Red Star. For Zieman to ignore that speaks to how much he does not see his paper as “for the people.”
The Source has to wonder; if the publisher of the paper is willing to gloss over, and even lie about, the problems the paper has, what chance is there that those problems will be addressed? If this was “your newspaper” as Zieman claims, he would take your criticisms seriously. His innuendo that reader complaints are limited to missed driveways, misspelled names and misprinted crossword puzzles is pathetic and delusional. Perhaps Mr. Zieman should spend a few hours outside of the executive suites and take a tour of the real world.
- Circulation problems at the N&O, the Miami Herald, and the Sacramento Bee
- More on McClatchy circulation problems