A lusty debate between whether the Joplin Globe should have access to e-mails from various Missouri Southern State University officials continues, especially in the comments section of the Globe article on the request.
And while some raise legitimate privacy concerns, most of these, especially those which bring up student records (which could not legally be included anyway) appear to be orchestrated, likely by the same individual who is spearheading the petitions to keep Bruce Speck as president of MSSU.
Lost in the battle over the e-mails has been the repeat of a habit the Joplin Globe has fallen into in recent years- substituting blanket FOIA requests for basic, shoe leather reporting.
Globe reporters and editors would probably have most of the information they are seeking if they had not frittered away the past couple of years serving as a public relations outlet for the university.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with reporting the good things that are happening at Missouri Southern, but when significant events are occurring and they are either ignored or superficially covered by the Globe, it is hard to take the newspaper seriously when it all of a sudden discovers there's trouble in River City. The same trouble has been ongoing for months, it just has not appeared in the pages of the Joplin Globe.
The Globe was never able to dig in deeply enough to find out why Julio Leon was driven out of his position as university president, or why everything associated with Leon, notably the International Piano Competition and the university's international mission, was suddenly on the chopping block.
The Chart and The Carthage Press were the only publications that treated the demise of the International Piano Competition as a news story, and those publications, without the resources and the manpower of the area's newspaper of record, were not able to fully answer the question of why these programs, which brought distinction to the university, were suddenly toxic to then Board of Regents President Dwight Douglas and his rubber stamp unit.
When it came to the selection of a replacement for Leon, the only time the Globe appeared remotely concerned was when Douglas and the board violated the Sunshine Law by deciding the makeup of a search committee in an illegal closed session. The Globe was right to rip the Board of Governors for that transgression. Unfortunately, that was as close as the newspaper came to doing its duty when it came to the replacement search.
Questions should have been raised when only two of 41 applicants were deemed worthy of interviews. And when one of those finalists dropped out, taking a position at another school, and it became obvious that Dr. Bruce Speck was going to be the new Missouri Southern president, that's when the checking should have begun in earnest.
Globe reporters should have been examining court records, looking over Speck's published works, and most importantly, talking to those who worked with him at Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tenn., and at Speck's previous posts.
As far as I have been able to determine, only one person from Austin Peay has ever been quoted concerning Speck.
And since Speck arrived, the controversies concerning his dealings with employees, his attempts to eliminate programs and his horrendous public relations gaffes have either been ignored by the Globe or just briefly mentioned.
The Globe, as it has done in the past, notably on Joplin Police issues, has substituted blanket Freedom of Information requests for good old fashioned shoe leather reporting.
This has been a problem not just for the Joplin Globe but for the media in general. If something cannot be found by Googling it, just think up every name that might be involved and ask for every record that any of those people might have.
The Globe's approach on this story and other controversial issues mirrors what we see in much of the traditional media these days. If there is an issue, find one person in favor and get a quote; find one person who is opposed and get a quote, and let those quotes serve as the whole story rather than determining just what the truth is. That may give the appearness of objectivity, but it makes it appear that both sides are equally right and equally wrong, which is almost never the case.
I hope that the documents the Globe seeks eventually come into their hands, but in the old days, reporters would have found a way to get most of those documents without ever having to resort to a Freedom of Information request.
The Globe has missed the big stories at Missouri Southern State University for the past two years. This appears to be a Hail Mary attempt to get back into the game.