It took nine issues, but Wednesday's Joplin Herald finally hit the mark, at least in two areas.
The Herald, which no one has convinced me yet has any reason to exist, finally exhibited a voice with its page-one feature on the return of Macy's to Joplin (Famous Barr at Northpark Mall will soon change its name). The historical references brought back memories for older readers, while editor Debby Woodin's column on the same subject on page two was the first time that her column actually gave readers a reason to stop on page two.
Of course, all of this material would have been better in the pages of the Globe. The rest of the Herald was again filled with interchangeable columns, rehashes from the mother paper and glorified filler material.
At the same time, the newspaper that brought about the somewhat hurried creation of The Herald, has been serviceable, but for the most part has simply been a better-looking Herald in some ways.
Sunday's print edition of Joplin Daily was about 50 percent sports, with far too much of that devoted to Thomas Jefferson and McAuley schools. Those schools should definitely receive coverage, but more of the Daily's readers have children in the Joplin R-8 School District or are graduates of that system. Plus, everyone pay taxes into that district.
The same thing applies to the education coverage, which receives short shrift in comparison to sports, a major failing in nearly all newspapers. Sunday's print edition featured question-and-answer sessions with a private school teacher and with a private school student. Again, those schools should be covered, but if this newspaper wants to make an impact, comprehensive coverage of the Joplin R-8 schools is the direction to go.
The columns being featured in the Daily are a mix-and-match assortment with none standing out. None of them were poor, but none of them did anything to give the paper an identity. It appears that the powers-that-be at Liberty are getting in the way of John Hacker's efforts to put out a newspaper with an emphasis on news. There were far too many pictures, and far too little news. The second Joplin Daily, even more than the first, appeared to be a triumph of style over substance. The Daily can only rely on reader dislike of the Globe for so long before it has to establish its own journalistic credentials.
As far as the Joplin Daily website is concerned, the addition of some interactive elements has been helpful, though so far people have not taken advantage of them much as far as I could tell. The Daily has broken a few spot news stories, but it still has not had the kind of news stories that will make it an everyday stop for net surfers.
Even more worrisome for the new publication, I am not hearing any kind of a buzz about the Daily. That won't happen until the Daily establishes an identity of its own, something that cannot be done with a flashy looking newspaper or website or with great looking photos. It has to be done with a series of stories that will make the public stand up and take notice.
And maybe I will be proven wrong, but my guess is that the new publication's editorial approval of a proposal to bring a hockey facility to Joplin is at odds with how most of its readership thinks about that topic. That is the danger when the people in charge (and I am specifically excluding John Hacker from this, because I find it hard to believe that John would take any time out from hunting for news to write an editorial praising the arena proposal) are mostly in their 20s and early 30s and hang around with other people in their 20s and early 30s.
Unfortunately for the newspaper, that mindset, which also is evident in what it chooses to emphasize in its news pages, threatens to derail a promising project.