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Central Standard

Biggest Kansas City Stories Of 2014, According To Hyperlocal Newspaper Editors

Suzanne Hogan

When national news editors review the top stories of 2014, Ebola, Isis and the World Cup might top the list.

But when we talk to editors of some hyper-local Kansas City papers, very different stories emerge.

Joe Jarosz, managing editor, Northeast News:

  • Efforts to pick up trash on Cliff Drive to make it more of a city destination; a measure was proposed at a Kansas City Parks and Recreation meeting to reduce traffic on Cliff Drive to one lane.
  • Murders are down 40 per cent in the East Patrol division since this time last year.
  • The community rallied around Thatcher Elementary, a shuttered elementary school in a historic building once scheduled for demolition. The school district gave the group Save Thatcher Save Our Schools time to find a developer or funding to preserve the building.

Barbara Bayer, editor, The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle:

  • The shootings on the campus of the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom. The community came together to heal, and Bayer says people feel safe. "You see a lot more security. I see policemen hanging out at the preschool that's on the Jewish Community campus. In some respects as a parent, it's maybe supposed to make you feel safer, but I don't know that I like seeing as much security. It reminds me of what happened. But I do feel safe there." She adds: "I think people are going about their business, I think people are paying more attention, and you have to pay more attention. Whereas you used to walk into a lot of buildings, now you have to ring doorbells, they're locked." 
  • A crime spree in South Kansas City in September. A member of the community was murdered. "That doesn't happen," says Bayer.
  • A Kansas City native was killed in a terrorist attack in Israel in November. "It shocked people terribly. We had not one, but two connections to that incident."
  • Congregation Beth Torah celebrated its 25th anniversary and commissioned the writing of a Torah. It's all hand-written on parchment paper by scholars, and throughout the year, people could put their hands on the hand of the scribe to play a part in writing the sacred text. Chabad House in at the University of Kansas in Lawrence is also commissioning a Torah.
  • Jewish Family Services started a campaign calledIt's OK To Talk About Itto open up a discussion about mental health issues. 

Eric Wesson, editor, The Kansas City Call:

  • Controversy surrounded the UMKC purchase of land in Beacon Hills, around 37th and Troost, to build and develop housing projects. HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) helped develop the land and with HUD development came Section 3 and work opportunities for residents. 
  • The Ferguson, Mo. death of an unarmed black teenager in a police-involved shooting and the discussion about "black males being left out of the equation." Seeing a system that people feel is not working for minorities mobilized people in Kansas City, Wesson says. "You have a lot of little groups that started out. One KC Struggle is one of the groups that are bringing it to the forefront." Wesson says he's still waiting for a candid conversation about race in Kansas City. 
  • The shooting of a young girl in a Kansas City convenience store. "The bottom line is people's inability to resolve conflict, and I think that's something we have to address on all levels."

Joe Arce, publisher, KC Hispanic News:

  • Two police chases in Kansas City, Kan., forced the KCK police department to review their pursuit policies. A woman at a stop sign was struck by a vehicle that was being chased by police. The woman was killed in that collision. Two months later, another person, this time a child, was killed in a police chase in Kansas City, Kan. 
  • Children crossing the border from Central America. The local Catholic diocese provided refuge to some children, Arce says.
  • Disappointment with President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration. "They're not too excited about it, to tell you the truth," he says, speaking of the people in his community. "The reality is, the executive order will take probably a year or 2 to be implemented if it goes all the way, but in the meantime, all these people are still living in the dark."
  • West High School, a vacated former school on Kansas City's West Side, caught fire. It's under contract and the neighbors are concerned about whether someone will be able to renovate the building. 
People don't make cameos in news stories; the human story is the story, with characters affected by news events, not defined by them. As a columnist and podcaster, I want to acknowledge what it feels like to live through this time in Kansas City, one vantage point at a time. Together, these weekly vignettes form a collage of daily life in Kansas City as it changes in some ways, and stubbornly resists change in others. You can follow me on Twitter @GinaKCUR or email me at gina@kcur.org.