The good news is that the Joplin Herald is worth every cent I paid for it.
The bad news is the Joplin Herald is worth every cent I paid for it.
The darned thing is free.
What Publisher Dan Chiodo described in his Tuesday Joplin Globe column as something akin to the Second Coming has less meat than a vegetarian special.
The writing ranged from pedestrian to decent, there were no compelling columns, there was only one hard news story in the entire paper (and I'm being generous on that one), and the sports writing was deadly dull.
It was almost like reading The Joplin Globe.
I commented in a post Tuesday that the Globe appeared to be firing a preemptive strike toward anyone with an eye toward starting a weekly newspaper in the area. Commenters indicate two such publications in the work- The Joplin Business Journal, started by the same company that publishes the Springfield Business Journal, and a weekly newspaper that plans to stress school, sports, and other light, positive stories.
So, coincidentally, the powers that be at the Globe decided this was the time to launch a special business publication and a weekly newspaper that simply carries stories that should have been in the mother newspaper all along.
What did the first edition of the Joplin Herald include?
-The page-one story features the following lead: "Gabe Fast loves to sing at home with his family. And even though he's only in the fifth grade, he's found a way to sing at school, too."
-An introductory column by editor Debby Woodin that gives the reader no reason to read the newspaper. It's almost as if Ms. Woodin is screaming, "After all of the good work I have done for this newspaper all of these years, how did I get stuck with this?"
-Page 3 has the first full-page advertisement that the Joplin Herald has landed...no, wait, it is a full-page advertisement for the Joplin Herald. That ought to bring in the bucks.
On page four, the Herald begins what seems to be its bread-and-butter coverage...Joplin schools. It features four pages of news-release type items and no coverage of education whatsoever.
The Missouri Southern State University coverage starts on page eight. It features four news briefs, a by-the-numbers story on how students are coping with the gas crisis and another one of the Globe's overused and outdated features- the man-on-the-street, with this one exploring how higher gasoline prices have affected the students' budget, something which could have just as easily been placed in the story. MSSU is a university and a major employer, yet there are no stories that actually explore anything of substance.
The Metro section starts on page nine, and except for one bulletin-board type story that includes information about the indoor hockey arena proposal, there is nothing.
The newspaper features the type of records material that should be the staple of the Globe and not require an extra newspaper- building permits, food inspections, Joplin police logs, road construction notices, etc.
One of my favorite items in the newspaper was the subhead for a column written by Carolyn Trout of the Joplin Public Library: "Explore Joplin's virtual history in your pajamas." If someone has virtual history going on in their pajamas, that story needs to be moved to page one.
A new newspaper needs to fire its best shot its first time out. You only have one opportunity to make a first impression. The Herald forfeited its chance. It appears rather obvious now that Dan Chiodo failed to give Globe readers the entire truth when he explained why the Herald was necessary. This was just the Globe's craven effort to cut off competition. Ironically, this predatory business tactic comes from the same newspaper that assigns one of its best reporters, Andy Ostmeyer, to write a regular column on the nefarious antics of Wal-Mart.
A new, sassy, no-holds-barred weekly newspaper could be just the medicine Joplin needs. The Globe's new product is not it. The Joplin News Herald is just Globe-lite. Unfortunately, too often these days, the same description applies to the Globe.