Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Whitlock's Absence Would Be Felt

This morning I got an e-mail from a friend of mine. In the message was a link to a story by Bottom Line Communications about Holly Lawton's recent announcement that she will resign as Sports Editor for The Kansas City Star.

BLC goes on to speculate that Lawton's decision stems from her differences with the Star's lead sports columnist, Jason Whitlock. According to an inside source, Whitlock had a problem with editors over-editing his columns and also wasn't a fan of working for a woman.

Later in the day, 810 WHB's Kevin Kietzman proposed the idea that Whitlock may have already written his last column for the Star on his radio show. After all, the newspaper had assured readers that the controversial writer was on a seven-week vacation and would be back soon. Problem is, Whitlock's last column was printed May 26th, so seven weeks has come and gone.

A couple things need to be made clear here. The BLC story seemed amateur and extremely biased. Before this morning, I had never heard of BLC, and if you can get past the sloppiness of their website, maybe you can fill me in on what exactly it is that they do.

So, past a possible Lawton/Whitlock quarrel, we'd be smart to take the rest of the story with a grain of salt.

Also, it's obvious Kietzman had ulterior motives. During his piece on Whitlock, Kietzman mentioned that it's possible the overweight writer is on a leave of absence because he has an addiction or is on a weight-loss program. Kietzman's goal, other than to insult Whitlock, was more about pointing out that he believes that most Kansas City sports fans haven't noticed the writer's absence than it was about analyzing what his absence might mean (like he tried to sell to his listeners).

If you don't already know, he and Whitlock have a bit of a history. Years ago, somewhat of a competition began between them when they worked together at 810 WHB (Kietzman was more or less Whitlock's boss). Eventually, Whitlock claims, Kietzman crossed the line and the two have been dissing eachother on and off by way of their respective outlets ever since.

So we know to keep our minds open when reading or listening to egomaniacal media-types. Still, Kietzman's theory absolutely holds water. The Chiefs have started their training camp, and Whitlock is nowhere near St. Joseph. During his absence from the Star, he has continued to write his column for Foxsports.com. Add to that the ongoing fear that newspapers have almost become obsolete in the era of the 24-hour news cycle, and it's not hard to imagine Whitlock's time with the Star coming to an end.

Kietzman preached to his listeners earlier that it was "interesting" that people didn't care if Whitlock wrote his column or not. It's natural Kietzman would feel this way. Not long after his arrival at the Star in 1994, Whitlock had become the King of Kansas City sports-media, a title Kietzman has long-starved for and never quite reached.

I really believe people do care. I believe they care now and I believe they'll care more if Whitlock's column is missing during football season. Since I was about ten years old, I've been reading his opinion on many sports topics, but mainly his unique criticism of the Chiefs. I didn't always agree with Whitlock, but I realized early on that that wasn't what it was all about.

It's more than just gaining readers and pleasing the eye or the ear. It's about writing with conviction and respect at the same time. It's about inspiring others, including myself, to write and to not be afraid of what it may sound like or who it might upset or whatever else.

If this really is it, I can't say I like the abruptness of it. Say what you want about Whitlock the man, his departure from the Star would surely impact the city and our newspaper negatively. If you're one of the many who disagree with his column often, it really doesn't matter. We need an opinion to hate.

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