Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A few local media watch items:
-Congratulations to Michelle Pippin of the Neosho Daily News, who broke the news that accused drunk driver Edward Meerwald Jr. had admitted to having drunk driving arrests in the past. Anytime innocent people are killed by drunk drivers, it makes sense to check with the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In this area, that is especially important since the head of the organization is former Diamond Police Chief Jim Murray and he takes his responsibilities seriously. Today's Globe still did not have any information on any previous arrests and did not even have the information I put in The Turner Report last night about his previous guilty plea in a Jasper County case. (As far as I can tell, that one was exclusive to this blog, which is a bit embarrassing since it is a public record that is easily obtainable. Unfortunately, many area reporters do not make these simple checks and rely entirely on what officials tell them.)
-Ms. Pippin also has been the only reporter for an area newspaper to write about the Diamond R-4 School District's bizarre decision to sue Edison Schools. (It was reported at www.wildcatcentral.com .) It hasn't been mentioned in the Globe, which is surprising since the Globe had covered the growing dispute earlier
-Saturday's Lamar Democrat came in the mail this morning and featured three big local news stories. The biggest was that Lamar National Guard Armory personnel have been moved out of the city and are preparing to be deployed. Another big story was the sudden resignation of Lamar High School football coach Tim Casper, while the third story concerned the resignation of Middle School Principal Don Tuck, a Lamar native and longtime R-1 employee, to take a high school principal position at Willard. With this boatload of strong local stories, the biggest decision should have been which one to place in the most prominent spot on page one. Unfortunately for the Democrat, none of the three stories were the lead story. Editor Rayma Bekebrock Davis wrote a story on an emergency room physician at Barton County Memorial Hospital who teams with his wife to write fiction under the name of Hannah Alexander. The story was certainly worthy of space in the paper, but you're not going to sell any papers at the rack with the story and two photos covering the entire top half of the page. Another story, "Dade County voters asked to consider sales tax to support the ambulance district" also received more prominent play than the top three stories. In this particuilar issue, it won't affect newsstand sales since the Back-to-School section and the Lamar Fair section are included, but the way page one stories are positioned gives the readers the idea of what the editor thinks is important.
-Regarding the coverage of the two Lamar school stories, Tim Casper's resignation is apparently the result of a scandal involving a female student. Understandably, it is going to be hard to get information on that for the local newspaper. The information also came in at press time, but it appears Superintendent Mike Resa was either not asked direct questions or the paper didn't reflect his responses. If he can't tell you the reason why Casper resigned, then directly quote him saying something like, "We don't comment on personnel matters," or even "no comment." Do not make it look as if the questions weren't even asked, even though they may not have been. The resignation of Don Tuck also was undercovered. In this case, time was not a factor. The paper indicates his resignation was accepted at a special meeting last Tuesday. That should have given the Democrat time to interview him. After all, he is from the community, he is well known here and well respected. The story did not say how long he had been principal, what jobs he held prior to that time or even mention that he was originally from Lamar. This could not have been an easy decision for Don. It would have been nice to have read that in the local newspaper.
It was a pleasure recently to read that the Neosho R-5 School District had hired Chuck Blaney to be the new high school principal. I first met Blaney when he coached the Lamar High School football team and I was sports editor of the Lamar Daily Democrat in 1978. Blaney later served as LHS principal for 10 years. He returned to his native Pennsylvania for several years before taking the Neosho position. When my position was eliminated at the Democrat in December 1978, Blaney was the one who convinced me I should return to college (I still had one year left) and get my teaching degree. I didn't do that immediately because two months later, Democrat Publisher Dennis Garrison asked me to be the editor of the weekly newspaper Boone Newspapers owned, the Lockwood Luminary-Golden City Herald. I did that for about a year until that newspaper went out of business. After that, I returned to college, got my teaching degree and immediately went into teaching...18 years later.If it hadn't been for Chuck Blaney, I would not be entering my sixth year of doing something that I really love doing.
Speaking of good hires by area school districts, special credit should go to the Carthage R-9 School District, which hired the multi-talented Ronna Patterson to serve as an assistant principal at Steadley Elementary School. Ronna, who was a freshman at East Newton High School, when I was a senior (but she's far better preserved than I am) has been in the East Newton School District.

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