Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Gary Black may not need to go through the effort of trying to get his death sentence set aside.
The 49-year-old Joplin man whose brutal, racially-motivated murder of Missouri Southern State College student Jason Johnson was detailed in the Aug. 18 Turner Report, may be getting help from the courts already.
Missourinet reported yesterday that an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment may already be in place in the state. Attorney General Jay Nixon is asking the Missouri Supreme Court to clarify its position so survivors of murder victims can at least know the truth about what is going on.
The Carthage R-9 Board of Education voted to increase its levy 42 cents, even though voters approved a 67-cent increase. That modification still isn't enough for a group that claims (with good evidence) that Governor Bob Holden was misleading the state about the need for tax increases in Carthage and other districts.
While I can sympathize with the group, no one doubts the effect property taxes have, there has to be a better way to go about this.
First, let's see just how the R-9 Board spends the money. More money into education is a good thing, especially if it is used properly.
Second, let's remember that Bob Holden is a lame duck governor. Whichever person replaces him has to be an improvement.
Third, isn't it about time we talked to our legislators about finding a more equitable way of funding our educational system than property taxes? (And no, I am not talking about lottery proceeds.)
The Joplin R-8 Board of Education reviewed MAP scores last night. For some reason, the board did not leave the meeting feeling scores had "plateaued" as a headline in The Joplin Globe last week indicated. The test results were positive. Again, my major concern being a middle school communication arts teacher was how well Joplin students did in that category. Compared to the other 17 schools listed in Sunday's Globe, Joplin had more students in the top two categories than 12 and was virtually even with two others. The scores were also slightly better than those posted across the state. Thank God we "plateaued."
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that The Globe had a semi-correction on page one of its Saturday edition. The correction didn't really mention what it was correcting, however. They might as well have not wasted the space.
I am still shaking my head about The Lamar Democrat's coverage of the announcement that O'Sullivan Industries is moving its corporate headquarters from Lamar to Atlanta. The story was buried at the bottom of page one, where it was not visible at the rack. The prominent space at the top of the page was awarded to routine stories written by editor Rayma Bekebrock Davis and Dick Cooper about the Lamar R-1 School Board and the Lamar City Council. Were those stories worthy of page-one attention? Of course they were, but as far as people in Lamar were concerned (and I have already received several comments) the only two major stories going on in the city are the O'Sullivan situation and the fair.
The Saturday Democrat featured no staff-written stories about either event. The coverage of O'Sullivan was limited to a word-for-word reprinting of the self-serving press release issued by the company, right down to the Lamar dateline.
The Democrat's coverage of all things O'Sullivan over the past several months has mystified me. When Tom O'Sullivan Sr. died, the story was featured on page one, but not bannered across the top as you would have expected with the death of the man who probably had a bigger effect on the city than just about anyone.
That decision was especially appalling when I recall something that happened in April 1985. I received a call from Democrat Publisher Doug Davis, who was in Alabama at the time, if memory serves me correctly. He wanted to scrap the page one we had been preparing in place of the big news that the Democrat was back under local ownership. Doug had purchased the paper. He required me to put a 144-point (war is usually declared in 72-point type) headline with the words "Democrat sells" bannered across the top of page one.
The return of the Democrat to local ownership was actually treated with larger headlines than the newspaper used for the death of another Lamar man who contributed a lot...former President Harry S Truman in 1972.
I will repeat what I said a few weeks ago...the way a newspaper plays the stories tells the public what that newspaper feels is important. The minute that press release came through, Democrat reporters should have been manning the phones trying to keep their readers informed by filling in the gaps. They should not have to wait to find out what's going on in their city by reading The Turner Report or The Joplin Globe.
It's getting close to time to head to school for some more nouns, pronouns, and adjectives so I'll catch you later.

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