Going to JEA/NSPA? Take a journalism tour of KC
Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE
If you are coming to Kansas City in November for the JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention, you must be either a teacher or student of journalism. Kansas City has an interesting journalism history and fascinating photogenic qualities.
If you are planning to visit any of the places listed here, take this trivia with you to entertain fellow teachers and students.
The Star’s main offices at 18th and Grand, built in 1911, are on the National Register of Historic Places. The architect, Jarvis Hunt of Chicago, also designed Kansas City’s Union Station. In 2005, the Star built a new print and distribution facility, called the Press Pavilion, for $200 million. The glass building at 16th and McGee streets allows for viewing of the presses from outside.
William Rockhill Nelson, a man as large as his vision for Kansas City, founded The Kansas City Evening Star in 1880. Former employees of the newspaper include:
- Ernest Hemingway, the novelist who worked as a reporter for the Star.
- Walt Disney, a newspaper boy who applied as a cartoonist but was rejected.
- William Allen White, founder of the Emporia (Kan.) Gazette newspaper and well-known small-town America columnist in the early decades of the last century.
Legend: Around 1889, Kansas City Mayor Joseph Davenport and Nelson allegedly got into a fight in Nelson’s office, and two editors and editorial writer William Allen White dragged Davenport out of Nelson’s office and threw him down a flight of stairs. Then, the newspapermen allegedly rushed to publish another edition of the newspaper to tell the story.
Grand things to do in Kansas City
- College Basketball Experience, 1401 Grand, in the Power and Light District
- Sprint Center, 1407 Grand; showing “Radio City Christmas Spectacular”
- Steamboat Arabia, 400 Grand, remains of a steamboat excavated from the Missouri River
- American Heartland Theater, in Crown Center, 2450 Grand, Suite 314; showing “Plaid Tidings”
- National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, 100 W. 26th St.
- Kansas City Toy and Miniature Museum, 5235 Oak St., Kansas City, Mo.
18th and Vine museum complex
In what once was a vibrant part of downtown Kansas City sits a newspaper that gained national prominence – The Kansas City Call. Started in 1919 by Chester A. Franklin, the newspaper for the black community in metro Kansas City became a national voice as one of the six largest African-American newspapers in the country. The Call’s office is located near the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum, two great stops for anyone who enjoys baseball and jazz.
Fact: In 1984, the Kansas City Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Kansas City Association of Black Journalists placed a bronze plaque at The Kansas City Call honoring Roy Wilkins. Wilkins, best known as the executive director of the NAACP from 1955-77, served as the Call’s editor from 1923-31.
Hallmark Visitors Center
KC is the national headquarters of Hallmark Cards, and the company is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Among the exhibits at the center, 2450 Grand, is a view of the card production process.
Fact: Hall Brothers began as a picture postcard company. Founder Joyce Hall added greeting cards in 1912 to give people a quick way to communicate by mail, since fewer people had the time at the turn of the century to sit and write long letters. Eventually writers and designers were hired to write the verses and design the cards.
One of the unique features of Kansas City’s Union Station has always been its Grand Hall Clock. When Kansas Citians and others said to each other, “Meet me under the clock,” everyone knew where to go. When it opened in 1914, Union Station, at 30 West Pershing Road, was the second largest train station in the country.
Fact: Margaret Richards of United Press (forerunner to United Press International) was at the scene of the Kansas City Massacre on June 17, 1933. That was the morning that a few notorious gangsters, including “Pretty Boy” Floyd, decided to spring Frank Nash from federal custody. However, in the hail of gunfire, the men killed Nash along with four officers and federal agents. Richards got close enough to identify Nash in the car, getting blood stains on her new shoes. She put the cost of the shoes on her expense report, but UP denied payment.
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Nelson stipulated when he and his wife died, his home would be razed and an art museum would be built on the land. Admission to the museum, 4525 Oak St., is free. Among the free exhibits in November are Thinking Photography: Five Decades at the Kansas City Art Institute and Solitary: Alienation in Modern Life.
Fact: For you photojournalists, one of the best photo ops in Kansas City is on the museum’s front lawn with the shuttlecocks, otherwise known as giant badminton birdies, created by Claes Oldenburg and Coojse van Bruggen and erected in 1994.
Country Club Plaza
Just to the west of the museum is the Country Club Plaza, the nation’s first shopping district designed as a destination by car, in competition with neighborhood stores. First open in 1923, the architecture is patterned after Seville, Spain. Forty fountains and 50 sculptures are mixed in with the shops and restaurants. Look for the tile mosaics on the buildings.
Fact: One of the most spectacular events covered locally and nationally each year is the Plaza Lighting Ceremony on Thanksgiving night. About 500,000 people show up to watch the 80 miles of lights with 280,000 multi-colored bulbs come on all at once. Kansas City celebrities who have thrown the switch in the past are Walter Cronkite, Paul Rudd, George Brett, Marcus Allen, David Cook and Jason Sudeikis.
Harry S. Truman Library & Museum
About 20 minutes east of Kansas City is Independence, Mo., where the Oregon, California and Santa Fe trails began, and the home of President Harry S. Truman is located. This year is the 60th anniversary of the Korean Conflict, and the current special exhibit at the library is “Memories of Korea.” The library is at 500 W. Highway 24, and the Truman home is nearby at 219 Delaware. You also can see the National Frontier Trails Museum and the 1859 Jail, where, yes, they held the outlaw Frank James, brother of Jesse, for a time.
Fact: Secret Service agents helped Truman escape from reporters at his house on the night of the 1948 election. Truman went to Excelsior Springs, a small resort city north of Kansas City, for the night. Despite the fact that Truman was ahead in the returns all night, the media held firm to the belief that Truman could not beat Thomas Dewey. You have probably seen the famous photo of a victorious Truman holding a Chicago Tribune with the banner headline, “Dewey beats Truman.”
Near the Downtown Marriott is Bartle Hall, which has pylons on one end topped with four different aluminum sculptures. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – you decide if you like them.