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April 19, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Aaron Barnhart, an influential TV critic with the Kansas City Star, has not written his column, “The TV Barn,” for the newspaper since December and has not posted on his Facebook page since January prompting colleagues to express concern about his health. Jim Romanesko, the longtime media blogger, commented today, “The Star, which normally leaks like a sieve with layoffs and personnel changes, is very close-mouthed about the veteran columnist. Rumors about serious health issues abound.” Barnhart was one of the first to write a column about television for the Internet, with what he called a weekly “electronic sheet” titled “Late Show News,” then moving to the mainstream media. In 2000, he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and began interspersing his TV columns with items about his treatment at the the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He told an interviewer at the time that there had been a mixed response to his columns.”Some people responded melodramatically, some recoiled and I stopped hearing from them. It seemed the whole thing needed to be normalized, because the odds you’re going to have cancer in your lifetime are one in two if you’re a man and one in three if you’re a woman.” In an email to Romanesko, Kansas City blogger John Landsberg, who began raising questions about Barnhart’s absence, said, “I personally think that readers deserve an explanation when a high-profile journalist or columnist is no longer in the newspaper. They are public figures and major influencers and ones like Barnhart have a national following.” But Derek Donovan, the Star‘s public editor, wrote to Romanesko, that a newspaper company is “a private business, with all the legal responsibilities to its workers that any other employer must follow. As long there hasn’t been a violation of journalistic ethics, the conditions of a journalist’s employment are a private matter. The employee may choose to divulge more, but the newspaper company can’t — and shouldn’t.”