Sunday, October 25, 2009
A capsule summary of the new book, Newspaper Days
I have always been amused at Bill and Hillary Clinton's complaints about being the victims of a "vast right-wing conspiracy."
As far as I can tell, they made it through the White House days just fine, even surviving the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I, on the other hand, actually did lose my job because of a vast right-wing conspiracy of sorts, which I outline in several chapters of my new book, Newspaper Days, which is on sale at Amazon.com and which will be available at other internet sites and at Joplin-area retail outlets in the next few weeks.
Following is a review of each of the 26 chapters in the 232-page book:
"Newspaper Days" takes me from my first journalism job in 1977 with the Newton County News in Granby until I stepped into the little trailer outside of Diamond High School to begin my teaching career in the fall of 1999.
The following is a breakdown of the chapters in the book
1. Goodbye Carthage Press- The book begins with Ralph Bush firing me on May 17, 1999.
2. A Little Background- My first job at the Newton County News, how I landed it, ran a stopsign and was involved in an auto accident the same day, the murder of Barbara McNeely, being fired, landing a job as Lamar Democrat sports editor, losing that job due to budget comebacks, taking the job as editor of the Lockwood Luminary-Golden City Herald and the closing of that newspaper. (It's a long chapter, but it's broken up into smaller parts.)
3. Returning to the Newton County News- I return to the Newton County News, working for Emery Styron, get another chance as editor and deal with some fascinating people, including City Marshal Duane Beaver, Mayor Bob Snyder, and my cartoonist Scott White, my first interview for a teaching job, my showdown with some drug dealers who wanted to do me bodily harm, getting fired through the U. S. Mail, and then being rehired at the Lamar Democrat.
4. Lamar Democrat Revisited- How Tommy Wilson and Dave Farnham ruined the Democrat as a daily and turned it into a weekly newspaper and how Doug Davis saved the Democrat from going out of business, the return of the Democrat to local ownership, the younger reporters I worked with, Murder at the 71 Motel and leaving the Democrat to go to The Carthage Press.
5. The Early Days in Carthage- How I almost left a couple of months into the job to return to the Democrat because I didn't have anything to do, the Webb City Police Department investigation, the Nancy Cruzan case, my battles with the late Bill Denney, when he was sports editor,
6. The Transition from Reporter to Editor- How I found out about my promotion weeks before Jim Farley or Neil Campbell finally told me, teen drinking, the Joplin Globe reporter who accused me of making things up with the Webb City police investigation (and how she had to eat crow when everything I wrote about was testified to under oath in a civil suit), eavesdropping on closed sessions of the Jasper City Council and Lockwood Board of Education, the rise of Bubs Hohulin, the state senate race between Marvin Singleton and James Spradling, Bill Webster and Roy Blunt battle for the GOP nomination for governor, and finally becoming managing editor.
7. Taking Charge of the Newsroom- Starting with Amy Lamb, Randee Kaiser, Ron Graber, and Jack Harshaw as my staff, the Doug Ringler murder, how Amy Lamb energized the Press staff with brilliant coverage of Terry Cupp's preliminary hearing and with other strong features,
8. Nothing Succeeds LIke Excess- Early stories during my time as managing editor including Amy Lamb's coverage of the execution of the man who murdered Harold and Melba Wampler of Jasper, Ron Graber becomes a hero in his hometown of Freeman, South Dakota, following the arrest of Lamar con artist Pat Graham, Randee Kaiser leaves vacation to cover Carthage developments in the Oklahoma City bombing case, my Sports Talk columns on former Lamar volleyball coach Armando DeLaRosa, who murdered his wife and then killed himself, and on Seneca football coach Alvin Elbert and his friendship with eight-year-old drunk driving victim Abby Phipps
9. The Lamar Press- This chapter details our 49-week adventure in printing the best weekly newspaper this area has ever seen, including columnists Nancy Hughes, Kim Stahl, Katie Gilkey, Doug Oakes, Susan Davis-Mabe, and Marvin VanGilder, Cathy Bland's trip to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington to visit her father, Lamar war hero Howard Layne Jr., who was killed in Vietnam, the Leigh Hughes story from first kiss to lasting love, and how we closed the newspaper in style with Cait Purinton's investigation into the Lamar Guest House.
10. The Sale of The Carthage Press- American Publishing Company buys the newspaper from Thomson and we come under the regional management of the Cope family of Neosho, bookkeeper Carolyn Baker embezzles $42,000 and costs Jim Farley his job (and then sues us for vacation pay) How American Publishing became Liberty Group Publishing, using a process that later put the company CEO in prison, and then how Liberty became GateHouse Media
11. Red Oak II- Artist Lowell Davis recreates his hometown Red Oak three miles outside of Carthage, then in a weak moment, burns his studio. Eventually, former Carthage resident Terry Reed reaches an agreement to buy Red Oak II, and attempts to attract investors through an event called the American Heritage Festival, The speakers' lineup for the festival is a who's who of conspiracy theories in the U. S.
12. A Storm Brewing in Carthage- As Jasper County officials become concerned about the American Heritage Festival, Terry Reed takes his case to the people through the Mornin' Mail
13. The American Heritage Festival- With The Press at its lowest point, Amy Lamb, Tricia Gould and Brian Webster had left, Ron Graber and I team with three interns, Jana Blankenship, Brooke Pyle, and Marla Hinkle, to cover Janet Kavandi's space shuttle flight, the KOM League Reunion, and eventually the festival.
14. And Those Nuts...- The Kansas City Star makes it look as though Carthage is a hotbed of racism, and I write the column that marked the beginning of the end of my newspaper career, Lowell Davis decides not to sell to Terry Reed, I hear Reed tell a radio talk show host that he is suing me for libel, the Globe and the Mornin' Mail beat me on the story.
15. Monday Morning Coming Down- The details of the lawsuit, how we handled it in the pages of The Press
16. Our Response to the Libel Suit- Ralph Bush pens an answer to the Reed lawsuit, I dig up new information about Reed's past lawsuits and the background of some of those who spoke at the American Heritage Festival
17. Moving Forward- I am allowed to add Jo Ellis, John Hacker, and Rick Rogers to the Press staff, coverage of the death of Congressman Gene Taylor and Staff Sgt. Kenneth Hobson of Lamar, who died when the U. S. embassy at Kenya was bombed, Rick Rogers and Ron Graber redesign The Press, The American Heritage Festival receives national coverage in a far right wing magazine. Liberty Group Publishing does not contact a lawyer, the Kansas City Star's attorney launches a full-frontal assault on Terry Reed,
18. All the Way to the White House- Terry Reed says the American Heritage Festival lawsuit will take him all the way to the White House, uncovering a conspiracy against him and others involved in the festival, Ralph Bush tells me to make a move that eventually costs me my job.
19. Number Five in the State- This chapter details how The Press was the number five newspaper in the state in the Missouri Press Association Gold Cup contest in 1998, thanks to the hard work of Stacy Rector, a high school senior whose work on our Teen Tuesday section won the press the Community Service Award, Work by Ron Graber, Cait Purinton, and Brian Webster was also rewarded, I find out that the judge almost ruled against us in the Terry Reed lawsuit
20. Abandoned- The Press runs a weeklong series on drunk driving that receives much acclaim, I receive a bill for nearly $8,000 for attorney fees in the Reed lawsuit,
21. The Beginning of the End- Ralph Bush puts me on probation for, among other things, having too much local news on page one, Ralph decides to fire John Hacker, Rick Rogers decides to leave The Press for a job at Missouri Southern, Jennifer Martin celebrates 30 years at The Press, though her departure would come only a few months after mine
22. The New Regime- Rick Rogers and Ron Graber replace me as managing editors of The Press, Ralph Bush fights to keep me from getting unemployment, I become paranoid about Rick Rogers' possible role in my departure, this old war horse is put out to pasture
23. Third in the State and Nobody Knew It- The Press was beaten only by the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the 1999 MPA contest, but no one at the Press realized it. THe newspaper wins first place awards for community service, the drunk driving series, investigaative reporting (the drunk driving series) and best feature story (written by teenager Stacy Rector), but plays up its wins for sports coverage and design, the American Journalism Review looks into my firing, Terry Reed drops the lawsuit against me, and later against The Press, I discover the real reason why I was fired
24. Looking to the Future- The Joplin Globe tries to take advantage of my firing,
25. Newspaper Job Possibilities- I talk to Jim Farley, the Siloam Springs newspaper, the Springfield News-Leader and Neosho Post about jobs. The Nevada Daily Mail hires me to sit around and wait until the managing editor is fired and I can take over, I interview for teaching jobs at Webb City, Diamond, and East Newton, but get passed over, I have to choose between taking the managing editor job at Miami, Oklahoma, or being a substitute teacher for a year. Another teaching job opens up and I have to make a final decision on whether to stick with journalism or teaching.
26. School Days- I become the shortest teacher in the Diamond Middle School Language Arts Department (I'm slightly under five-nine, the women were both six feet tall) I found myself surrounded at Diamond by many familiar faces. My teaching career begins.
That is just a capsule summary of what is included in the book. I would guess that anyone who lived through those times will see some things they had totally forgotten about, or find out information they had never heard before.