The comedy of errors that has marked Speck's reign at MSSU, was beginning to crumble before a devastating onslaught of unfavorable publicity.
That brought about Speck's childish decision to cut off all comments to all media. Normally, that would have been the beginning of the end for any administrator, but Speck was rescued from his bunker by the man whose employees should have been the first to shine the light on the atmosphere of fear and loathing that had enveloped the university that I proudly received my degree from three decades ago.
Much information about what was going on at Southern was uncovered by Chart editor Brennan Stebbins through Freedom of Information requests. Globe reporter Greg Grisolano was following that same beaten bulldog path, until he was curbed by the Globe's new publisher.
The proof of that is an e-mail sent from Publisher Michael Beatty to Speck April 6, 2010. That e-mail became public thanks to another Freedom of Information request filed by Stebbins. The contents of the e-mail are printed below:
Bruce,In that brief message, Beatty described the steps he had taken to remove the Joplin Globe from its duty as the watchdog for the taxpayer and placed it squarely in the column of public relations for a major advertiser.
You will hear that we are withdrawing our requests for your schedule, Rod's schedule, and your expenses. On that note, I think it might be best that next week you and I and Carol get together at the university to meet about how it would work better with our communications.
I have five examples of positive (Note: Beatty is the one who put the word "positive" in bold.) stories that we wanted to do on MSSU this past week or so and we could not get a response back. We wanted to do an arboretum story for Arbor Day, a story on the mansion's renovation, a story on the Science Fair, of course the prairie issue and lastly how you saved money for the university with the hiring of the two new VP's.
As I thought more about the issue of the spokesperson, I will share with you what I experienced in Baltimore. I was used to the spokesperson to be more of the facilitator for the organization on how the message should be controlled. Examples would be we call Rod about a story, he knows how you want the story played out so he picks the spokesperson. This gives him/you appropriate individual time to develop the message. The process is really about controlling the message when working with the press and keeping transparency to the taxpayers.
I think we can find a middle ground so that all will be satisfied with the process.
During the past 13 months, nothing has changed and no evidence of that is more painful than the shameful way Beatty's newspaper handled the firing of Chart adviser/journalism teacher T. R. Hanrahan.
A week passed before Hanrahan's dismissal was even mentioned in the Globe and then it was in the form of a letter to the editor (ludicrously referred to as a guest column) from one of Hanrahan's former students.
Last Sunday, about a week and a half after the news of what had happened to Hanrahan first became public in The Turner Report, Globe Editor Carol Stark weighed in with a vacuous Sunday column, in which she indicated it would be impossible to get to the bottom of what happened to Hanrahan. (Assigning a reporter to dig into the story would most likely have uncovered the truth, but far be it from me to tell a newspaper editor how to do her job. More likely, she has been told not to do that part of her job.)
At that point, not one news story had been written about Hanrahan.
That changed today.
A rally was held on the MSSU campus for Hanrahan. It was the top story on the local TV stations' newscasts. The First Amendment issue, so lightly glossed over by the Globe in favor of excuses about "personnel issues" played a prominent part in the broadcast coverage.
The Globe also provided coverage of the rally- no photos, buried on page six, with a quote designed to let the readers know the rally did not really amount to much.
In the past, newspapers have been in the forefront when First Amendment rights have been threatened. Despite the praise Carol Stark paid to the Chart in her column last week, her newspaper may have buried the fierce, independent campus newspaper that has served Missouri Southern well over the years and then thrown dirt over that grave.
In so doing, the newspaper has also buried what was left of its integrity.