In theater, the term "exit stage left" means that a character leaves a scene quietly, without a lot of noise. Naturally, we'll be exiting stage right -- we're iconoclasts. We've been leaving for, like, weeks.
As of last week, The Parkville Luminary ceased publication after nearly eight years of continuous publication. The business decision was easy to make, but not for the reasons you're probably thinking. Creatively, journalistically (is that even a word?), and from a community service standpoint it was pretty hard to let go.
Our associate publisher Gia McFarlane and I agreed to shut the paper down this past September. We had outlined a comprehensive plan to move our media brand forward. It was a stunning plan, all laid out there on a table at Piropos, her and I looking down upon it like the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces and Gia McFarlane. Then we looked at each other and asked, "do we really want to do any of this?"
That was nearly 80 days ago. I could have gone around the world in that time.Instead, I went to Indiana. (That's another story.) Anyway the answer was no. I had wanted to close the paper after our fifth year, and all I did was complain about the all-nighters. I tried to form an alliance with a Platte City paper but nobody from either staff seemed to get it. It was time to do something else.
Yet, there we were in racks the next week as "The Luminary Lite." This was due to a sudden interest from a regional publisher. In order for the newspaper to remain "legal" in the postal sense, we needed to keep hitting the press or there could be no deal with that publisher. Last week, the talks fell through.
Not wanting to jump the shark or put out a second rate product and without a suitable person to hand it off to -- and after a Hollywood ending the next night (read about it in the book) -- I had to call it a wrap. There are still some older episodes of The Luminary floating around. We'll be removing most of our newsracks in the coming weeks after the holiday.
Our reporting made a difference and it was fun to see the changing of the guard finally start to happen downtown. The new EDC is a great entity and, providing the right person wins in the next election, Parkville will continue to move in a positive direction.
The Luminary was based on a business plan I created at the turn of the century, when technology was starting to change in ways that made a newspaper like The Luminary possible. Digital photography, layout software, .pdfs that could be e-mailed to your printer. Then came smartphones, wireless access and even more powerful laptops. The savings were dramatic as opposed to older business models.
In 2004, Parkville did not have a newspaper -- in fact there were only three news racks in the entire town and they all were fitted with the Kansas City Star flag. We met the need for a local paper in August of the same year. Our original staff included the legendary Nancy Jack (the first full-time woman journalist in Kansas City), Bill Grigsby ("The Prince of Parkville), my former editor Amanda Hay from The Olathe Daily News, photography from my former boss at CNN, Barbara Pyle, and ESPN's Rob Neyer. It was a good little band.
I'm happy to report that from day one, we did not have a salesperson. Ever. In fact, I think I only made one or two outcalls the entire time. The reasons why are numerous, but the main reason is that if we couldn't generate enough excitement from the publication, if the major institutions of the town "didn't get it," we wouldn't survive long enough anyway. From day one, The National, The Deuce, Parkville Commons, Park University, Gomer's, Piropos and scores of others supported the newspaper and not once did they ever try to influence our editorial side. They were great partners.
Over the past few weeks I've worked with some of the finest designers from places like Hallmark, computer geeks from IBM, and newsies from CNN and Hearst in an attempt to come up with some sort of iPAD, social media, online this and that but I couldn't do it. It was making my ears bleed. The technology changes every day and everything I saw looked just like what everyone else was doing. So we stopped doing that, too.
Newspapers like the Luminary can still work, they just need a journalist that can kick, pass, run, play defense, have a thick skin and take care of their news racks. Believe me...it ain't scrapbooking. It is extremely hard, deadline oriented work. I've pulled all-nighters every Thursday for 7.5 years. That's veering into heart attack land. I'm burned out. It was a good run.
So some FAQs:
Will The Luminary re-emerge as a monthly?
How about an old-time "EXTRA" should some major news event occur? Like, Godzilla attacks Parkville or a meteor strikes a hot dog stand? Then?
Absolutely.We've done it before. (see left)
Will we do The Luminary Hour radio shows again?
Up to Youngblood. I'm game.
Update the website more often?
Yes, I'm writing most of the time anyway. We will post Police reports, urgent matters like Amber Alerts, hurricane warnings etc. I think I might turn it into a sort of aggregation site, link to other articles pertinent to Parkville or things I think will interest you. Kind of like a Drudge Report meets The Daily Beast sort of thing. Maybe we'll become media critics? And we will get it iPAD ready. I love that thing.
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As for me, the publisher, I am increasing my workload for Hearst Newspapers, where I pen a weekly sports column for King Features Syndicate and, literary agent willing, working slowly on a book of the best of those columns sometime towards the end of next year. My band, "The Bad Decisions," will surely rock you into a state of utter disbelief in the coming year, too.
Thanks for reading! And see ya around town!
The Parkville Luminary