Give credit to the Springfield News-Leader.
In its Friday edition, the day after the death of pop icon Michael Jackson, the newspaper's lead story concerned Gov. Jay Nixon's budget. That was a story that obviously had a major effect on its readers. Two stories and a photo were included in the budget package. Michael Jackson's death was on the front page, which is a judgement that I wouldn't try to argue with, but it did not dominate the page.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch led with some enterprise reporting from its staff about a former police officer who runs a towing company ripping off customers. The budget cuts were also featured on page one, as well as Jackson. Again, the Jackson coverage was not overdone.
The Carthage Press did not have one word about Michael Jackson on page one and its readers were not shortchanged a bit, considering that The Press is an afternoon paper and it would have been hard to find someone who was interested in Jackson's death who had not already heard about it or been reading about it elsewhere.
While John Hacker was on vacation, The Press' page one continued to be dominated by Kevin McClintock stories. In the Friday edition, including the death of a Carthage woman in an accident a a major gift to the Humane Society.
The Neosho Daily News had its Jackson coverage on page three and once more, there is no argument from me with the stories that were on page one. The top story was mostly wire, but it was a story about a local topic- the arrest of white supremacist Robert Joos. Another story concerned how state budget cuts would affect Crowder College.
And then there's the Joplin Globe. As I noted in an earlier post, the Globe devoted the entire top of page one to Michael Jackson's death. Joe Hadsall's budget cut story did not even make it to page one, a ppor decision by Globe editors It appears everything was in the packaging and not the content. The Globe had a nice, pretty looking, but ultimately boring package on whether the sales of firecrackers would be affected by the economy. Of course, it had some of the items that Globe editors love, useless man-on-the-street comments and a nice-looking photo. All Hadsall had was a cut of a $25 million forgivable loan to Eagle Picher that could mean actual jobs for the Joplin area.
The Globe also ran the Robert Joos arrest and an article about the upcoming opening of a Joplin water park that had been closed following a child's drowning.
What would have been interesting if what would have happened if Michael Jackson had died the following day. The Joplin Globe had one of the strongest page ones it has had in some time in its Saturday edition.
Nine died in a crash in Oklahoma, Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White pleaded guilty, and the reopening The Swimmin' Hole was marred by a fight and arrest which the Globe's award-winning photographer T. Rob Brown captured in vivid detail. Now that is solid local news coverage. The second-day stories on Michael Jackson were pushed inside.
But what if Michael Jackson had died the same day. Would the Globe have bannered his death and pushed the deaths of nine people on the Will Rogers Turnpike to lower on page one. Would another potential award-winning photo by T. Rob Brown been pushed off the front page or shrunk to where no one could be recognized so Globe editors could put a lifesized photo of the self-proclaimed King of Pop on page one?
Would one of the other stories have been sacrificed. For instance, the guilty plea of a 16-year-old whose acts of two and a half years ago made everyone in Joplin realize that school shootings can happen anywhere?
We will never know what the Globe editors would have chosen, but I remember a few years ago when the Globe had a choice of putting a story and photo about Janet Jackson's infamous wardrobe malfunction and the death of much-beloved veteran Globe reporter Gary Garton on page one.
The Globe opted for the Jackson package...even though the actual event had taken place months earlier and this story was simply about the FCC investigation. Globe editors sacrificed the one opportunity they had to pay a proper tribute to someone who devoted his adult life to the newspaper, so it could put a cheap tabloid story on page one.
I have no doubt about it. If Jackson had died a day later, that, not the deaths of nine unknown people, would have been the top story.