There have been few times over the past several years that I have read a story in the Joplin Globe and thought, "I wish that had been my story."
But that was exactly what I was thinking when I read the series of stories veteran Globe reporter Susan Redden wrote on the corruption in former Jasper County Public Administrator Rita Hunter's office. It was a superb combination of interviews and digging through the records.
The Globe's problems do not stem from the quality of its reporters. It has a solid core of veterans who have done excellent work in the past and hopefully, will be given the opportunity to do more in the future.
That is why it was so disappointing to look at Monday's print edition and see the use that is being made of these veteran reporters.
I always like it when a newspaper tells me something I didn't know. I certainly did not need to look at page one of our newspaper of record and see "SCORCHING" blazing across the top underneath a photo of a teenager taking a drink of water. The story about the heat wave that has hit this area was written by Susan Redden.
To compound that misuse of talented personnel, an inside story on the heat was written by another of the Globe's best reporters, Debby Woodin.
Those two stories, both of which contained useful information, but should have been handed to more junior reporters, were among only five staff-written articles in Section A and only three of those, including the two weather stories, were about Joplin.
The other Joplin story, buried toward the back of the section, was another veteran reporter, Jeff Lehr's story on a tornado looter pleading guilty.
Staff writer Kevin McClintock offered a story, placed across the bottom of page one, about the Niagara Falls tightrope walker performing in Branson through Aug. 4. The other local story, written by Andra Bryan Stefanoni, was about the upcoming Pittsburg City Commission meeting.
McClintock is an excellent feature writer, but is the Globe so desperate to attract the Branson advertising money, that it is willing to devote valuable manpower to covering something that is not in its reading area?
Even if you accept the argument (and there is some truth to it) that some Globe readers go to Branson for entertainment and want to know what is going on there, how about simply taking the news releases from the Branson entertainment outlets, stamp "From staff reports" on them and print them. That process has certainly been used on many Joplin stories over the past few years.
The Joplin Globe is rapidly squandering the good will that has been headed its way ever since the May 22, 2011, tornado. The decision to close obituaries to online viewers unless they bought a subscription to either the print or E-editions hurt.
What has hurt more has been this turn toward fluff and news-lite during the Michael Beatty era. Since Beatty took the reins, we have seen the spectacle of a publisher telling someone being covered by his staff, Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck, how to manage the news.
We have seen a decided preference for soft news on page one and shorter, less detailed hard news stories often buried elsewhere in the paper.
And these things are happening at a time when Joplin needs a hard-hitting newspaper more than ever. Millions of dollars have come through this area since the tornado. Closer examinations of how that money is being collected and how it is being spent should be a staple of the Globe, not because it is looking for scandal, but because it has to be the watchdog of the people.
This is not the kind of enterprise reporting that can be done by television stations.
The situation in Joplin calls for a newspaper that is willing to offend someone every once in a while, even if that occasionally doesn't sit well with the Joplin high rollers that Beatty seems intent on pleasing.