Saturday, November 22, 2014

UPI reporter who told the world of JFK's death got his start at the Joplin Globe

The last time the Joplin Globe had any competition (other than this blog) was in 2006 when GateHouse Media, owner of the Carthage Press and Neosho Daily News, started a publication called the Joplin Daily.

The print edition of the Daily was published once a week, but it was designed to steer readers toward the daily version which was online.

John Hacker, now the managing editor of the Carthage Press, was the Daily's editor and when he was lining up columnists, I was one of the first ones on board.

My first column, which was about the Nancy Cruzan right-to-die case was well received, but the upper management at GateHouse did not want me to have a column in every newspaper. They were interested in hauling out the same suspects that get hit up every time someone who doesn't know news tries to hire columnists- pick someone from the Chamber Commerce, someone from the Humane Society, and some bigwig's wife or brother-in-law who has never written anything, but sure would like to try.

I apologized to John, but told him I had no interest in writing the column unless I was doing it on a regular basis.
I already had the column written for the second issue of the newspaper, about a veteran reporter who got his start at the Joplin Globe and who had died earlier that month.

The column was about Jud Dixon's brush with history, when he played a role in the coverage of an event that occurred 51 years ago today- the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The column, which I ran in the Turner Report is reprinted below:

"Get your Joplin Globe, five cents. Get your Joplin Globe five cents."

The job didn't pay much, but the country was in the midst of a depression, and every cent counted. Even more importantly for teenager Jud Dixon, it was his entry into the magical world of news.

That road took Jud from the Globe street sales to reporting jobs with the Globe and the Springfield Daily News to a seven-decade career in journalism that ended last month with his death at age 85 at his Dallas home.

Jud Dixon spent the last five decades of his life in the Dallas area, and it was there on Nov. 22, 1963, that the Joplin High School and Joplin Junior College graduate had a brush with history.

Jud was in charge of the United Press International (UPI) bureau in Dallas when he received word that President Kennedy had been assassinated during a political trip to the city. Within seconds, with the cool demeanor that characterized his entire reporting career, he sat behind his manual typewriter pounding out the story that no reporter ever wants to write, but at times like that, when people absolutely have to know what is going on, that’s when reporters must be at the top of their game.

"He was completely stone-faced, pouring it out of that typewriter," Jack Fallon, who was UPI’s Southwest Division editor at the time, told the Dallas Morning News. "Just by his presence, he kept everyone else around him calm."

Within moments, it was Jud Dixon’s version of the death of President John F. Kennedy that went out over the UPI wire to radio stations and television stations across the United States.

Though Jud Dixon’s coverage of that watershed moment in American history was what led his obituary, he perhaps did his greatest service to journalism and to the public after his retirement from UPI two decades ago.

Jud spent the next 18 years of his life as editor of the newsletter for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas fighting for the public’s right to know.

When Jud retired for a second time, Freedom of Information director Tommy Thomason praised his years of service. "Jud’s a journalist’s journalist. His entire career has been committed to open government as the basis of solid reporting of the issues and events important to his readers."

Jud Dixon knew the importance of a free and unfettered press serving as the public’s representative. He knew that when the workings of government were open to the public that this country could survive anything from unpaved streets to official corruption to the death of a president.

Kansas City students disciplined for silent protest on Ferguson shooting

Newsmakers Interview: Joplin City Manager Sam Anselm

Kansas City Public Schools working on image to keep kids in district

Top 10 fun things your Joplin R-8 tax dollars are buying

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of questionable expenditures scheduled to be approved by the Joplin R-8 Board of Education Tuesday night, without any discussion, as part of the consent agenda.

In fact, I will be discussing, some of the more expensive things listed on the district bills in a later post or two, but here is my top 10 list of questionable items that your money is buying.

10. $1,360 for charter bus rental for the Joplin High School grand opening

9. $1,646.95 for Dewey Combs sign for Junge Field

8. $500 to College Heights Christian Church as payment for "lost pipe and drape" during opening day ceremonies

7. $6,667.95 to bring in trainers from Educators for Social Responsibility. The training cost $4,593.95, while an additional $2,104 covered their travel expenses

6. $44.39 to Embassy Embroidery for Bright Futures grey polos

5. $357 for a "large piece of ribbon, listed under "opening celebrations"

4. $164.65 to the Rib Crib to feed the Board of Education before the October 21 meeting

3. $350 Rotary Club dues for Bright Futures coordinator Melissa Winston

2. $18,535 to the Core Collaborative for Common Core training and travel costs (Aren't we supposed to be replacing Common Core with Missouri standards?)

1. $176.29 to College Station Daylight Donuts, for donuts, coffee at the administration building

Any thoughts?

5:41 continues to top Amazon Joplin Tornado book charts

I have been pleasantly surprised over the past couple of years that even as many new books have been published about the May 22, 2011, tornado, that the book Carthage Press Managing Editor John Hacker and I published, 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, has remained at or near the top of the Amazon charts for books about that horrific day, even though three and a half years have passed as of today.

A glance at the rankings as of Friday night showed 5:41 at the top, with a couple of the newer books about the tornado moving into the number two and three positions:

1. 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner and John Hacker 163,857
2. Simple Pleasures, Kenna White 434,346
3. Tornado Warning: The Extraordinary Women of Joplin, Tamera Hart Heiner, 457,825
4. 32 Minutes in May, Joplin Globe 749,794
5. Life After the Storm, Debbie Fleitman 829,248
6. Joplin 5:41, Kansas City Star 993,342
7. Lily: A True Story of Courage and the Joplin Tornado, Carolyn Mueller, 1,095,970
8. Miracle of the Human Spirit, Mark Rohr 1,744,740
9. When the Sirens Were Silent, Mike Smith 1,796,593
10. Shatterproof, Katrina Hoover 1,964,375
11. When the Storm Passes, Julie Jett 2,082,703
12. Using Social Media in Disaster Recovery, David Burton, Genevieve Williams, Rebecca Williams, 2,180,238
13. Hindsight: Lessons Learned from the Tornado, Zac Rantz 2,288,202
14. Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner and John Hacker 2,381,602
15. Singing Over Me, Danielle Stammer 2,461,109
16. 5/22, Stories of Faith, Stories of Survival, Scott Hettinger 2,512,652
17. Scars from the Tornado, Randy Turner 2,813,145
18. Out of the Wind, D. Ed Hoggatt 3,181,053
19. Joplin Tornado House of Hope, Tim Bartow 3,220,271
20. Joplin, Missouri Tornado of May 22, 2011 3,434,284
21. Mayday in Joplin, Donald Clugston, 5,431,193
For those who found 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado rewarding, the story continues in Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado. The book features more survivor stories, as well as thorough coverage of the events of the next 12 months through the Unity Walk and the Joplin High School Graduation.

New Joplin R-8 Board policy aims to silence those who disagree

One of the telling moments in the recent history of the Joplin R-8 Board of Education came following the October 21 meeting when KZRG reporter Joe Lancello was interviewing board member Dr. Debbie Fort.

Board Attorney John Nicholas interrupted the discussion and let Lancello and Fort know in no uncertain terms that only the president of the Board of Education, Annie Sharp, could speak for the board.

The interview ended. Lancello did not receive the information that he wanted to pass along to his station's listeners.

It would be naive to believe that Nicholas saw the interview, suddenly realized that an egregious violation of board tradition (there was no policy and no law that would require a board member to stay meekly silent on the sidelines) was taking place and intervened to protect the integrity of the board.

Someone gave him the order, whether it be Superintendent C. J. Huff or Annie Sharp, or perhaps even another concerned board member like Mike Landis.

That intervention was even criticized on the Joplin Globe editorial page, which has served as a both a shrine and a place of strong support for C. J. Huff in the past.

If the Huff Administration gets its way, the removal of board members' First Amendment rights, as well as the First Amendment rights of employees will be cast aside and a new policy will centralize the message in the hands of the superintendent, the president of the board of education, or anyone designated by one of the two.

While the policy is careful not to say that any board member or employee is prohibited from speaking, it is less than subtle in passing along the message that you keep your mouth shut or you will suffer the consequences.

The first reading of the policy is on the consent agenda for Tuesday's 6 p.m. meeting of the Joplin R-8 Board of Education.

Amusingly, especially coming from the C. J. Huff Administration, one of the reasons listed for doing this, and included in the policy, is to "eliminate rumors and misinformation."

This comes from the same superintendent who said that the new Joplin High School had not failed an August inspection, told the media and patrons that computer tech official Ronny Justin Myers did not have access to children, when in fact, he had access to their computers both at school and while they were at home, and switched stories every two minutes on how the six-and-a-half-mile ribbon came into being (and let's not even mention the school district's financial situation).

Another reason for the policy, it says is even more galling- To "promote a climate of trust."

Six years late and millions and millions of dollars short.

SUBSCRIPTION OFFER- Help make sure the voices of those who disagree with the C. J. Huff Administration as well as those who are willing to closely examine what is going on in the Joplin R-8 School District, city of Joplin, and our judicial system continue to be heard. A subscription button is located on the upper right hand corner of this page. Subscriptions cost $1 per week, $3 per month, or $30 per year. Those who do not want to subscribe through PayPal or by credit card may send a check to me at 2306 E. 8th, Apt. G. Thanks for your support.