Saturday, April 23, 2011
Hanrahan fired; Speck puts the hammer down on First Amendment
In his speech, Dr. Berglund quoted Hanrahan as saying the faculty adviser position “is one of the few jobs in which the better you do your job, the more likely you are to lose it.”
Thanks to the hard work of his young reporters and the lack of support from Joplin’s daily newspaper, T. R. Hanrahan will soon join the ranks of the unemployed.
Hanrahan, who does not have tenure, was told a few days ago his services would not be required for the fall semester. Many were surprised he lasted this long. His young staff broke one story after another revealing controversy and incompetence during the three years the university has been led by President Bruce Speck.
Hanrahan never backed down from his belief that a reporter’s job is to seek the truth. Not once did he tell the young people under his charge to back off a story because it dealt with a sensitive subject. He never took the easy route. Had he done so, he might still have a job.
A few weeks ago, the Chart won MCMA’s Sweepstakes Award as the best newspaper in its division, while its editor, Brennan Stebbins, was named Journalist of the Year, for exposing the university’s hiring, without a background check, of an accounting teacher who had pleaded guilty to embezzling at least $130,000 when he worked at the William McKinley Museum in Canton, Ohio.
That was just the latest in a string of scoops that embarrassed university officials, including the following:
-A complete investigation into the hiring of Speck, who was the only person interviewed for the position.
-The back-door dealings between Speck and a Kansas City medical school president to bring a satellite school to Joplin. (The plan fell through and the medical school president has been indicted for theft.)
-One of Speck’s underlings removing all copies of the newspaper from a recruitment fair because it had stories that were critical of the university.
-Complete coverage of a faculty vote of no confidence in Speck’s administration
-Coverage of the president’s refusal to speak with members of the media, including the Chart, and a strong editorial noting how juvenile it was for the president to stay silent on important issues.
That is only a partial list. Were it not for the hard working young reporters at the Chart, the taxpayers would have remained blissfully unaware of what was going on in this area’s most prominent institution of higher learning.
For a long time, the Joplin Globe did not print anything about the controversy at MSSU. Finally, one intrepid reporter, Greg Grisolano, began mining the nuggets that had been unearthed by the Chart and delivered a series of hard-hitting stories that earned him investigative reporting awards.
Unfortunately, by the time he received those awards, Grisolano had been pulled off the beat and the critical focus on the university was abandoned by the area’s paper of record.
The reasons why were revealed in an e-mail sent from Joplin Globe Publisher Michael Beatty, formerly the publisher of the Baltimore Examiner, to Speck.
In that April 6, 2010, e-mail, Beatty said he had put a stop to Freedom of Information requests filed by Grisolano, offered to bring the newspaper’s editor to meet with Speck to give him "examples of positive stories" the Globe wanted to run about MSSU, and offered Speck advice on how to manage the news to avoid further controversy.
The university and some of its top financial supporters are major Joplin Globe advertisers.
The Globe publisher’s shirking of his responsibilities as a newspaper publisher would have remained a secret, as I am sure Beatty intended, had it not been for a Freedom of Information request filed by The Chart.
The job done by the Chart staff, under T. R. Hanrahan’s direction, has been a sterling example, not just of what student journalism should be, but what journalism should be.
With the Chart effectively neutered by university officials and the Joplin Globe publisher asking which part of the president’s anatomy he can kiss next, it may be a long while before anyone can shine a light on the darkness at Missouri Southern State University.
(Photo: Hanrahan with the award-winning 2010 Chart staff after winning big at the annual MCMA awards.)