KZRG and Buzz Ball at The Carthage Press should have ignored Jasper County Public Administrator Rita Hunter's threat to file a libel suit against the Joplin Globe.
That is what some of those commenting on The Turner Report have said, indicating Mrs. Hunter's comments were a late and unsuccessful campaign tactic. And while that may be true (though I believe the lawsuit could very well be filed), the actions taken by KZRG and Buzz Ball were right on the money. Any time an elected official, especially one who has been in the news as much as Rita Hunter has, threatens a lawsuit against the largest newspaper in the county, it is legitimate news.
That being said, there was far more to the story, and that is what makes it difficult for it to be a subject of fair reporting by other media outlets. (I should mentionthat I wrote about it, too, and did exactly the same thing.) It's tough to have to say that the competition has been doing excellent work that no one else has even tried to do.
I did not hear the report on KZRG, but neither Buzz Ball nor The Turner Report mentioned the reason for the lawsuit. Joplin Globe reporter Susan Redden's examination, over the past few months, of the way the Jasper County Public Administrator's office has operated, is one of the finest examples of shoe-leather investigative reporting this area has seen in years.
Ms. Redden has told the story through interviews with people who have grave concerns about the way Mrs. Hunter has handled the office, but Ms. Redden has also provided ample room for Mrs. Hunter to make her own case. And every step of the way, Susan Redden's reporting has been backed by public documents and court records.
If you have not read Ms. Redden's articles, and want to know what all of the fuss ia about, here are five representative links:
Usually, members of the media are reluctant to congratulate each other on a job well done. Hopefully, that will not be the case this time. If Rita Hunter brings her libel suit against the Globe and Susan Redden, it should be decried in editorials and any story about the lawsuit should be sure to mention the things the Globe has been written about Mrs. Hunter. Perhaps some follow-ups on that writing would be in order, and not just by the Globe.
Sadly, in our society, anyone can bring a lawsuit about anything even if the lawsuit has no merit.
In this case, a lawsuit would be petty and vindictive.
And if it was just a threat, designed to keep Ms. Redden and the Globe from publishing any more articles about Rita Hunter, it was a waste of time for Mrs. Hunter...but it was still a legitimate news story.