Michael Bushnell

And so it goes. 

Award winning NBC Overnight News anchor Linda Elerbee closed her program with that phrase and it seems fitting to use it to bring an unceremonious end to a 26-year career as the Publisher of one of the city’s best community news outlets. That said, June 28th was my last day at The Northeast News. 

The decision to depart so soon after the hiring of a new Managing Editor was not mine but the Board of Directors. Or, more specifically, the Board Chair of Historic Northeast — Media—who is also President and CEO of the Northeast Chamber of Commerce and the District Manager of the Independence Avenue CID. 

It would have been far more beneficial to the community and the news product to have a longer and more in-depth on-boarding process for the new Managing Editor (industry standard is six months), but that conversation didn’t happen and here we are. 

Rather than dwell on that negative and horribly flawed process that was used to get here (an email), I’ll take with me the knowledge that for the last 26 years the team at The Northeast News provided award winning news coverage to the neighborhoods of Historic Northeast Kansas City. 

There were many proud editions during that 26-year time span, most notably our wall-to-wall coverage of the fatal 2015 fire that killed two Kansas City, Mo., firefighters, from the day of the event when we covered the fire from inside the perimeter, to the verdict of the trial that sent Thu Huong Nguyen to prison for the murders of Firefighters Larry Leggio and John V. Mesh.

Another proud day was when we published a blank front page in March of 2021, calling attention to the plight of smaller, community newspapers across the country that are forced to close due to lack of revenue. That story was picked up by news outlets across the country and gained a global audience–all because a team of community journalists in an under-served neighborhood in Kansas City saw an issue and decided to take some pretty radical action. Pretty heady stuff when you think about it. We actually got emails from Australia and France in relation to that edition. 

Michael Bushnell and Abby Hoover holding the infamous
blank front page issue from March 24, 2021. | File Photo

Our annual April Fool’s Day issue, entitled “The Northeast Ruse”, was a series of made up “news” stories written in the spirit of April Fool’s Day. Two of the highest read are the stuff of legend, one being about the possible conversion of the old Ward’s (Super Flea) building into a regional jail. The other was our 2022 classic, Oz Condominium Plans for the old Hardesty federal complex. Both drew tons of reader response, and the latter was accidentally picked up as actual news by City Scene Magazine, the Urban Core Group, and the Business Journal. Ha!

To the team at The Northeast News over the years, “thank you” somehow doesn’t seem enough. Everyone knew what needed to be done, how it needed to be approached from a news coverage standpoint, and then delivered the story in a concise and understandable way. All without a lot of hands on management because we all played on the same community team. 

We won a few awards in the process too! The Northeast News, since 1999, has earned one hundred awards from the Missouri Press Association for excellence in Journalism. This included three Tilghman Cloud Memorial Editorial Awards for this NewsDog for opinion pieces that were critical of local government. 

Our Marketing and Design work was also recognized by the Missouri Press Advertising and Marketing Executives including a Best in Show award in 2020 for sweeping the Weeklies category in both our Print and Digital Editions. 

The new Managing Editor at The Northeast News is Julia Williams, who comes to us fresh from the Mizzou School of Journalism. She is competent, capable and has a passion for Community Journalism. She’s an excellent addition to our award winning team and is already looking at growing our brand and news coverage capabilities. 

Moving forward, I would encourage the community to support the team and the mission at The Northeast News. As smaller newsrooms across the country continue to close, support for community newspapers remains critical. An embedded and independent community news source is key to the overall health and vitality of its community and The Northeast News is no exception.  If you can afford it, hit that subscribe button and either donate some monthly cash or if you’re a business, help to sponsor content or a college Journalism Intern at The Northeast News. 

In closing, I would urge the community to remain vigilant and engaged. Question those in the seats of power, including elected officials and bureaucrats that advocate lying to the media or the public. Be critical of those that populate the Boards of agencies tasked with the betterment of our community with potential conflicts of interest. Newspapers are referred to as “the fourth estate” for a reason: to speak truth to power and hold those people accountable. 

Our stated mission is to continue to provide relevant, objective, and engaging news coverage for the Historic Northeast community in accordance with the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics: Seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, be accountable, and be transparent. 

Eric Meyer, Publisher and Editor of the Marion County Record in rural Marion, Kansas said this of Community Journalism during an interview with Kansas Alumni magazine: “This is a calling, something people do when they care about the community in which they live.” I sincerely hope that was reflected in my work. 

With that, twenty-six years of journalism here at the House of News comes to a close. Thank you Historic Northeast — it’s been a helluva ride.