It is becoming obvious that Joplin is becoming a media mecca. This town of 40,000 and his immediate surroundings are served by six television stations, KODE, KSNF, KOAM, KFJX, KOZJ and Jet 14, and within a few weeks, four newspapers, the venerable Globe, its bland and antiseptic stepchild, the Herald, the upcoming publication of Liberty Group Publishing and the Joplin Business Journal. Toss in The Turner Report, and let's face it, there are a number of avenues readers and viewers can take to get information.
The Globe's decision to take the initiative and launch a preemptive strike by starting the free weekly, the Joplin Herald, three weeks ago, seems particularly fascinating since it comes at a time when the newspaper has been losing one talented reporter after another.
John Hacker, who left to become editor of Liberty's new publication, is just the latest in a long line of reporters who have left the Globe. That is going to happen with young reporters, but in most places you have a few who develop a loyalty to the newspaper and want to stay, even for less money because this is a nice area in which to live.
That has not been happening to the Globe. Its ranks are filled with once prominent reporters, many of them burned out by misuse and by misguided news story quotas set up by editors who haven't been out to get stories since Ronald Reagan was president.
By all counts, the Globe is about six reporters short of a full staff, and since it is now owned by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., a company that is owned by the Alabama Teachers Retirement Fund, you can expect to see an effort by Globe management to meet its competitors with smoke, mirrors, and perhaps a catchy slogan or two.
Consider the reporters who have made their mark and then left shortly after they were hired:
Dena Sloan, Mandi Steele, RC Balaban, Jeremiah Tucker, Jeff Wells, Melissa DeLoach, Michelle Burhenn, and Ron Knox. Add to that, a veteran like Hacker, who has been the most solid, if not the only, spot news reporter the Globe had, and how can they even think about starting a weekly publication (which by the way, appears to be taking Debby Woodin and Dustin Shipman off the Globe's pages.
It appears the Globe is not only willing to cannibalize the mother paper to block off Liberty and the Business Journal, but it is also willing to shortchange that mother paper.
And even with all that, the Herald continues to be less than an artistic success. Though the school features were improved in the third edition, and there was a hard news story by Ms. Woodin, it otherwise had little to distinguish it from the two previous editions.
Even worse, the paper contained a reprint sports column from the Globe and a one-page Associated Press story. The AP does not belong in a local weekly.
Hopefully, when the two publications hit the streets, they will provide some stiff competition from the Globe and force the editors to make their daily product better.
If that happens, the winners in this upcoming newspaper war will be the readers.