Top lessons learned about the media and blogging in 2016

2016 was quite a year.

2016 was quite a year.

I began 2016 as part of The Kansas City Star editorial board’s four-person writing crew, which shrank to two in March and to zero in early October.

I ended 2016 retired and writing a blog called “Yael on the Trail,” spouting political opinions about Kansas, Missouri and Kansas City — with the odd personal items thrown in.

What’s been learned in the year of continued failure in Gov. Sam Brownback’s Kansas, an up and down year for Kansas City and The Year of Donald Trump?

— People love to read opinion articles.

Fine, I knew that already from 32 years of editorial board service. So count this as an important lesson re-learned. People respond on Facebook to many blog posts. They debate and defend my views as well as theirs. They attack my views and those of others. It’s exhilarating, humbling at times and often lots of fun.

People want that opinion laced with facts and reporting through interviews, which was done for many of the 120 or so blog posts written since mid-October. It’s why monthly reports on job creation in Kansas still show up here, for instance, as well as reviews of often-spurious claims made by too many politicians.

One more thing: None of this happens without reliance on solid reporting by The Star, The Wichita Eagle and many other media outlets.

— Local editorials are still important.

After The Star sliced the editorial board staff to “cut costs,” a major metropolitan daily newspaper starting in October has gone almost three months without staff-produced editorials. Yet the sun kept coming up in the east. Progress continued on many fronts in Kansas City. So who needs the ivory tower writers?

The people of the Kansas City area do. Many of The Star’s editorials from some very gifted journalists did make a positive difference on dozens upon dozens of big and small issues alike over the last 32 years. All of this was done by writers who got to know this region, especially its many flaws and its tremendous potential.

Letters to the editor are well read, and readers enjoy cartoons as well as national opinion columns. But a strong local editorial voice — which I hope The Star continues with its new editorial page editor — is still crucial for a newspaper and a large city like Kansas City.

— Blogging allows unfettered opinion to flow.

It was great being able to say *almost* everything I wanted when writing for The Star. That feeling of freedom is even more pronounced now. OK, that has led to more name-calling, a few infantile tweets, more of the things that some people hate about opinion writers. But I’d rather fall on the open and honest side than the cautious side on this blog.

— Blogging is not a money maker (duh).

The long decline of advertising in print editions and the reliance on digital revenue has been a recipe for disaster for the newspaper industry. I can see why. People on the internet don’t have to pay for what they read. It’s relatively easy to support Yael on the Trail, and it’s been pleasing to see how many have done so at $5 a pop though it’s clearly not a way to make a living.

For now, this blog continues for pretty simple reasons.

It’s enjoyable trying to make sense of what’s going on in Kansas, in Kansas City and in Missouri.

Brownback, Kris Kobach, Trump, Eric Greitens and dozens of other public officials need to be held accountable for their actions. Opinion writers can help do that.

Coming Sunday: What’s next in 2017 for Yael on the Trail?

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