Thursday, December 30, 2004

Cable subscribers in Carthage and Lamar should be paying attention to what is going on with Cable One and Nexstar. The showdown will be transferred to those communities one year from now.
The Turner Report has featured over the past several days updates as Nexstar, owner of KSNF and operator of KODE (and de facto owner, according to documents filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission), has demanded cash, initially 25 cents per month per cable subscriber, now 30 cents, to allow Cable One to continue providing the channels to its Joplin subscribers and to its station in Texarkana, Texas. Cable One has 34,000 customers in Joplin and 22,000 in Texarkana.
Nexstar is also battling with Cox Communications, owners of the Lamar and Carthage cable systems, asking for cash to continue to allow Cox to carry KRBC, the NBC affiliate in Abilene, Texas, and KLST, a CBS affiliate, and KSAN, an NBC affiliate, both in San Angelo, Texas.
The issue should be a bigger one across the U. S. at this time next year since only a handful of stations had deals that expired at the end of this calendar year. Most of them expire next year.
The battle has spilled over into the news coverage offered by KODE and KSNF. While KODE recently broadcast a staged demonstration (reportedly by a dish satellite provider) against Cable One, and both stations have featured statements and crawls during their newscasts which offer a one-sided viewpoint of the controversy, neither station has sent its cameras to cover another noteworthy development.
I stopped by the Cable One office this afternoon to see how many people were picking up free antennas so they can continue to receive the two Joplin stations. I didn't have to go inside. The parking lot was jampacked, the line to get the antennas was stretched out well beyond Cable One's doors and cars were in the street waiting to get into the parking lot.
Multichannel News, an industry publication, said that Cable One had already given away 1,500 antennas as of late last week.
The problems with Cable One seem to be clouding the two Joplin stations' news judgment in other areas, as well. KOAM was the only station to show tape during its 6 p.m. newscast moments ago of an incident in Cassville today in which a deputy was injured and a suspect was shot. It made for great television. I didn't catch what KODE had on the story, which led off the KOAM report, but KSNF only featured reporter Kourtney Kullor reading information about the incident. That is the danger when decisions are being made for two stations' coverage instead of each station's news directors making their own decisions. Surely, two news directors wouldn't have decided not to have a team in Cassville.
KOAM also scooped its fellow area stations on the decision of a Neosho family to sue the Neosho R-5 School District and a school bus driver as a result of their son being killed by the driver recently.
Sad news for people who enjoy listening to the best music of all time, the music from the 1950s and 1960s. Reports are coming out of southeast Kansas that 103.5 will only retain that format through Jan. 31, then will join the long list of country stations in the area.
The Pittsburg Morning Sun is reporting that Meadowbrook Mall will undergo an expansion. The mall owners bought nearby property in November 2003 and plan to add a new shopping development, blending the mall and the development and adding new businesses that don't overlap with the current ones, according to company owners.
A number of new laws take effect in Missouri as of Jan. 1, 2005. One will require all school employees, not just teachers, who undergo criminal background checks before they are hired.
Great story by John Hacker on page one of The Joplin Globe today concerning the amount of comp time McDonald County is going to have to pay to nine deputies who were fired by incoming Sheriff Don Schlessman.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

If I were still in the newspaper business, I would be enjoying this battle between Nexstar and Cable One. If Nexstar pulls the local stations off Cable One at midnight Dec. 31, more people might have to get their information from newspapers (or turn to KOAM, which by necessity, carries many more Kansas stories than either of the Joplin stations).
I am not exactly enamored with Cable One, but I have been watching for the past two years the negative effect Nexstar has had on the quality of news at KSNF and KODE and the most recent cheapening of the newscasts with blatant commercials for the company (disguised as news) attempting to stir up the viewership against Cable One has further added to that impression.
I wasn't doing The Turner Report in late 2002 when I first heard that KSNF and KODE were essentially both under the control of Nexstar. The first inkling I had was when a class at Diamond Middle School, where I was teaching creative writing and reading skills classes at the time, had KODE anchorman Jimmy Siedlecki as a guest speaker. Though Siedlecki was very open and honest with the students and answered all of their questions, I was left thinking that no good will come from this.
Mission Broadcasting owns KODE, according to FCC records, but that is just a thin veil to keep Nexstar from violating rules prohibiting ownership of more than one station in a local market. Nexstar already owns Mission Broadcasting, in almost every way a business can be possibly owned, according to filings with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.
The following paragraph is taken from one of Nexstar's SEC filings:
"We own and operate 27 television stations. Through various local service agreements with Mission Broadcasting, Inc. ("Mission"), we currently program or provide sales and other services to additional television stations. Mission is 100% owned by an independent third party. (Note: Keep reading) Mission currently owns and operates the following television stations: WYOU, WFXP, KODE, KJTL, KJBO-LP, KRBC, KSAN, KOLR, KCIT, KCPN-LP, KAMC, KHMT, WUTR and WBAK. We do not own or control Mission or its television stations. In order for both us and Mission to continue to comply with FCC regulations, Mission maintains complete responsibility for and control over programming, finances, personnel and operations of its stations. However, as a result of our guarantee of Mission's debt and our arrangements under the local service agreements and purchase option agreements with Mission described below, we are deemed under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America ("U.S. GAAP") to have a controlling financial interest in Mission."
So Nexstar has a controlling financial interest in Mission, but doesn't own the company. That certainly is convenient. In its SEC filings, Nexstar officials say they have agreements in place to officially buy Mission's stations when it receives the FCC consent...and with FCC commissioners being appointed by a Republican administration which has favored large companies getting even larger, that consent is likely to happen.
Initially, Nexstar's intrusion into KODE was through sharing of news production, technical maintenance and security, according to the SEC documents. As of Oct. 1, 2004, KODE and KSNF now have a joint sales agreement, allowing Nexstar to control a larger share of the advertising dollars in the Joplin area.
Why should this matter? FCC regulations only specify that each station be independently programmed. Apparently, the way the news operations at KSNF and KODE have done this is to use exactly the same news footage, but put it in a different time slot on their newscasts. Essentially, the area has lost another journalistic voice. The credo at KODE and KSNF is to find the fire, find the accident, find the regularly scheduled meeting, make a trip or two to the mall, and wait for the local sheriffs to call with another meth bust. That's cheaper and those things should be a part of the news, but when they are the sole extent of the local news coverage it's the viewer who suffers.
While KSNF and KODE continue to pay bottom dollar to most of their news personnel, the same can't be said for the compensation received by the top officials at Nexstar, according to SEC sources.
CEO Perry Sook, 46, made $4,970,982 in fiscal year 2003 (nearly five million dollars). Of that total, he received $4,325,000 as a bonus! His regular salary for that year was $638,951 and he received $7,031 in other compensation.
Chief Operations Officer Duane Lammers who has been the point man for Nexstar's attack against Cable One hasn't been doing badly himself. He received a salary of $274,808, a bonus of $250,000, and $4,101 in other compensation for a total of $528,909.
And for those who didn't read this morning's Globe, Lammers has turned up the heat on Cable One, saying he no longer will accept 25 cents per month per subscriber. The price has now gone up to 30 cents per month per subscriber.

Though he has already been rebuffed at least twice in his efforts, convicted bank robber William J. R. Embrey, a former Granby resident, is taking another shot at suing the federal government, claiming that Highway Patrol officers who stopped him near Norwood on Dec. 5, 1998 and found a gun in his possession, violated his civil rights.
In the lawsuit, which was filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, asks that his sentence be tossed out. Embrey was sent back to prison after he violated the terms of his probation by having the gun in his possession.
Embrey claims he had a "personal and fundamental right" to carry the gun "for personal protection." He says that at his plea hearing on Sept. 10, 1999, he admitted only "that he possessed a firearm and that had been transported in interstate commerce." He did not admit, he said, that he was a felon or that he had prior convictions. He claims the federal government did not provide proof of those convictions, though records indicate Embry was convicted for bank robbery and kidnapping.
Embrey is serving as his own attorney.
Earlier Embrey sued the Missouri Highway Patrol officers who stopped him, Stephen L. Grass and C. N. Ponder, as well as Assistant U. S. Attorney David C. Jones, Magistrate Judge James C. England and Darryl B. Johnson Jr. Embrey, acting as his own attorney, outlined the "facts" in that petition. He said Grass and Ponder were "trolling the highways for the purpose of targeting out-of state and rental vehicles then creating and/or finding reasons to stop said vehicles for the sole purpose of searching for drugs" on Dec. 5, 1998. Embrey, 60, and his half-brother, Luie White, 51, Diamond, were charged with possession of firearms by a convicted felon following the traffic stop, according to court records. White, who was driving, initially denied knowing who Embrey was, according to a news release from the U. S. Attorney's office, but then identified him as Herbert Jensen.
After further questioning, the passenger identified himself as William Embrey. The trooper asked for permission to search the car. At that point, according to the federal indictment, Embrey began to show heart attack symptoms and asked for antiglycerine pills which he said were in the trunk of his car. Embrey has a history of heart problems.
As he got out of the car, the trooper noticed two 9 mm ammunition clips on the seat where he was sitting, according to the indictment. After putting Embrey in an ambulance, authorities said, a loaded handgun was found on the ground where he had been sitting. Three shotguns, three revolvers, more ammunition, Halloween masks, wigs, makeup, gloves, a police scanner and two-way radios were also found in the car's trunk. According to an Associated Press report, one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said state and federal authorities believed Embrey and White, who were convicted in 1980 for the 1979 robbery of the Cornerstone Bank of Southwest City, were preparing to rob another bank. The Southwest City robbery took place on March 11, 1979, when Embrey and White approached Darrell Spillers and his family at their Southwest City home and demanded money.
Spillers, a bank official, took more than $11,000 from the bank, while Embrey and White held his family hostage. They took for Oklahoma in Spillers' car, taking him with them as "insurance," in case Spillers had called the police while he was at the bank. When they reached their getaway car, they released Spillers unharmed. Embrey was later convicted in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri on charges of armed bank robbery, in violation of the Federal Bank Robbery Act and kidnapping in violation of the Federal Kidnapping Act. On Sept. 19, 1980, Embrey was sentenced to two consecutive 20-year sentences. After numerous appeals were thrown out, Embrey finally struck gold in 1997 when a panel of the Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled that he should not have been convicted of kidnapping as well as bank robbery and that he was, in effect, being punished twice for the same crime. Since Embrey had already served his time on the bank robbery charge, he was released from prison. The full court of appeals later reversed that decision and Embrey was free on bond awaiting a hearing on his appeal when he was stopped near Norwood. He had been living and working in the Fargo, N. D., area since he was freed on appeal. White's efforts to appeal his kidnapping conviction were also unsuccessful...because he waited 18 years to file them. The reason he waited so long was because he had already served time and was out on probation when he was arrested in Missouri on the weapons charge.
In his earlier lawsuit, Embrey asked to be awarded $250,000 from each of the Highway Patrol officers, and asked that an injunction be issued against them to keep them from trolling and targeting out-of state and rental vehicles.
A secret settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed by a Cassville man against a major Arkansas construction firm.
Joseph L. Clinkenbeard sued George's Inc., of Springdale, Ark., for wrongful dismissal. The two sides signed off on a settlement, which includes a confidentiality agreement. Clinkenbeard served as assistant human resources manager at George's' Cassville plant from November 2001 until he was fired in March 2003.
Clinkenbeard claimed he was fired after he fired an illegal alien after learning the man had supplied him with false identification. Shortly after the firing, according to Clinkenbeard, he was reprimanded by human resources manager Gerald Runkles who allegedly told Clinkenbeard "that any time he was made aware an employee was not legally qualified for work within the United States (he) was to allow the employee to continue working until the employee completed his full shift for the day."
Clinkenbeard objected and he was fired, according to the petition.
In his lawsuit, Clinkenbeard said he wanted compensation for "lost wages and benefits, lost career opportunities, (and) mental and emotional distress."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The idea of running a feature updating the top stories of 2004 is a good one, but I question the necessity of dragging the Jubilee Christian Fellowship Church through the mud one more time just to relive the sex scandal that resulted in the conviction of its former minister, Donald Peckham.
Donald Peckham pleaded guilty to two counts of child sexual abuse and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. That's it. He's in prison, the story is over. Yes, you could make an argument that what happens to the church is news, but you can make a better argument to leave these people, all of whom are innocent of the crime that sent their former pastor to prison, alone. Apparently, that is not going to happen. I have no problem with remembering the Peckham story in a year-end wrapup. It was major news and The Globe did a fine job of digging into the story, but please don't tell us that the church is going to be a subject of follow-up stories. That truly smacks of yellow journalism.
Congratulations to John Stockdale. If Stockdale, who has been a Barton County commissioner for more than two decades, read today's Globe, he probably was surprised to learn he is the county's presiding commissioner. Especially since Gerry Miller is the presiding commissioner, and Stockdale was re-elected associate commissioner in November.
The Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Patriot-News carried the story today on the closing of the Pennsylvania House furniture plant owned by La-Z-Boy in nearby Lewisburg. The closing was reported in The Dec. 27 Turner Report, and in previous postings. The Patriot-News adds, "La-Z-Boy set aside $700,000 for union workers to share as severance pay. To get the full amount, $7.5 million worth of furniture had to be produced by the end of the year. The mark was achieved on Dec. 15 and then exceeded.
For exceeding their quota, the Pennsylvania House workers received $96.22 for each year worked.
That slap in the face came after La-Z-Boy shut down the facility and shipped the work to China.
As I have mentioned numerous times in The Turner Report, the Chinese still are not good enough at doing the upholstery work that is done at the Neosho La-Z-Boy plant to shift that work overseas, but company officials have indicated they will waste no time in doing so when the Chinese are ready. La-Z-Boy-Neosho employs approximately 1,500.
Three days remain until Nexstar pulls KODE and KSNF off Cable One in Joplin and also removes KTAL, its station in Texarkana, Texas, from Cable One. The company has already sacrificed the credibility of the news departments at both Joplin stations (and probably the one in Texarkana, as well) by running one-sided crawls at the bottom of the screen during their newscasts, treating a staged protest as if it were legitimate news, and not presenting both sides of a news story that affects thousands of their viewers.
Nexstar's animosity toward cable was shown when its officials backed the proposal of Jeff Smulyan, CEO of Emmis Communications, to eliminate cable television.
According to Radio Today, Nexstar officials were among those on stage at the National Association of Broadcasters Media Show in April in Las Vegas.
Smulyan is proposing a digital antenna system which he said would "allow broadcasters to take back some of the revenue stream now owned by cable without spending much additional money on infrastructure."
The service would offer 30 "must-have" channels such as perhaps ESPN or CNN for $25 a month with a receiver box that would cost $99. According to surveys taken by Smulyan, 27 percent of consumers said they would go for that idea. If the $99 boxes were free, that number goes up to 49 percent, he said.
According to Radio Today, Smulyan told the broadcasters they would only need 10 percent market penetration to succeed. "Our goal," Smulyan said, "is that 100 percent of this business is owned by 100 percent of the broadcasters in this industry."
Smulyan also sounded the battle cry that Nexstar is following and that others will probably follow, as well. "Our signals have value and we want to get paid."
Smulyan also said, "The television industry has allowed a third party to take our product and profit from it."

Monday, December 27, 2004

The final piece of furniture made at the Pennsylvania House plant in Lewisburg, PA rolled off the line today, according to WGAL-TV in Lewisburg's web site.
The plant, which is owned by La-Z-Boy, was shut down when its work was outsourced to China. The closing leaves 425 people unemployed during the holiday season. The jobs didn't have to be lost. La-Z-Boy officials rejected a $37 million buyout package from employees despite the intervention of the governor of Pennsylvania. Workers speculated in interviews with local media that the buyout was rejected to keep them from becoming competitors. The workers say La-Z-Boy made sure the plant was bathed in red ink by buying a large number of unnecessary purchases during the past few months. One example: one day before the plant was closed, according to the report, a new truck and snowplow were ordered. Other large-ticket purchases were also made, the workers claimed.Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said at news conference, "Somewhere we have to draw the line and say we can't lose everything to China."
The closing of the Pennsylvania House plant was made at the same time as closings of three other plants. La-Z-Boy officials said the manufacturing would be shipped to China.
As was reported in The Turner Report in November, so far, La-Z-Boy's plans have not affected the Neosho plant, which employs nearly 1,500 workers, but only because China still does not do as well with upholstery orders. That will likely change since Chinese officials are already working at improving in that area. La-Z-Boy officials have already indicated that when China is ready to handle production, they will waste no time in shipping it there.
The Missouri Ethics Commission has released the text of the letter of admonition which it sent to Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge last week. It reads as follows:

December 22, 2004

Mr. Ron Doerge
208 West Coler
Neosho, MO 64850

Re: Complaint No. E4187

Dear Mr. Doerge:

Please be advised that at the December 16, 2004 meeting of the Missouri Ethics Commission, the complaint filed against you was considered. The Commission determined that taxpayer resources were used in support of a candidate. the Commission instructed me to inform you that this was a violation of section 115.646, RSMo and that, in the future, taxpayer resources should not be used to support any candidate or ballot measure.
The Commission voted to take no further action on this complaint and to close our file.


R.F. Connor
Executive Director

As it was pointed out in The Turner Report. the Ethics Commission's decision is merely a slap on the wrist for the sheriff and considering the narrow scope of its investigation, was probably the best result that anyone could expect.
Considering everything that happened in the sheriff's election this year, especially the events surrounding John McCormack's radio candidate forum, I have no doubt that a more broadbased investigation would have uncovered other uses of taxpayer equipment by the sheriff, but nothing that would overturn an election. The simple fact is that once the sheriff endorsed Copeland, it was pretty much over for the other candidates. Everything else, including these activities which have brought so much embarrassment to him in his final days in office, was just overkill.
Interesting story in The Lamar Democrat about an upcoming basketball game between Lamar and Monett. Veteran coach Richard Marti returned to coaching the Lamar boys this year after a successful 15-year run as girls coach (he coached the boys team for the previous 15 years). The new coach at Monett is Marti's youngest son, Brett. That definitely makes those of us who remember a five and six-year-old Brett getting the basketballs after his father's games and sinking a high percentage of outside shots. Brett later was a standout at Lamar High School and at Southwest Baptist University.
Brett is one of many with Lamar ties who have positions in the Monett school system, including High School Principal Dave Stewart and Middle School Principal John Jungmann.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

One key point that has been made in The Turner Report over and over is that the deaths of prominent citizens are not covered properly by area media. When a newsworthy person dies, whether it be a person who is newsworthy for a lifetime of accomplishments, or someone who became well-known because of a connection to a news event, death is always an important and major event in a community and newspapers that treat the dead with the respect they deserve are the newspapers that earn a loyal following.
Two examples of how not to do it were the Lamar Democrat's coverage of O'Sullivan Industries founder Tom O'Sullivan's death earlier this year, and the Neosho Daily News's recent coverage of the death of former Neosho Mayor Col. Jack Cornett.
The Daily did not even put Col. Cornett's death on page one. It ran his obituary on page two and never ran a separate story. This is not the way to treat the death of a man who served as mayor, helped create the present library, taught at Crowder for several years, and was a long-time businessman in the city.
The Democrat did run Tom O'Sullivan's death on page one, but not enough in a prominent enough fashion, considering Mr. O'Sullivan created the company that has been the biggest employer in the city for four decades and he was a longtime member of the board of education and civic leader.
I also have criticized The Joplin Globe's coverage of the death of its longtime reporter/columnist Gary Garton, who certainly deserved a page-one tribute in the newspaper whose pages he enlivened for decades. The Globe chose to run a photo and outdated story of the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake controversy on the same day Mr. Garton died. A small photo of Mr. Garton was featured above the banner with the direction to go to page three to see the story. He deserved better than that.
One newspaper editor/publisher who knows the importance of the proper coverage of death in a local newspaper is Bob Foos at the Webb City Sentinel.
Civic leader Robert Baker's death received prominent page one coverage in Friday's Sentinel. Mr. Baker was a former mayor, was responsible for the purchase of the land that became King Jack Park, served on the school board, and was a founder of the accounting firm of Myers, Baker, Rife, and Denham.
Foos' coverage honored the long and distinguished career of Mr. Baker, let the community know that a man's accomplishments are going to be remembered by his local newspaper after he dies, and did what a community newspaper is supposed to do.
One of the worst things that has come from the squabble between Cable One and Nexstar (which you can read more about in earlier Turner Report entries) is the awareness that Nexstar is perfectly willing to allow the news teams at KODE and KSNF to prostitute themselves in order to promote the company view.
There is a big difference between running advertising saying that Cable One should fork over the money for the local stations' programming, and running advertising disguised as news. That was exactly what KODE was doing the other day when it showed footage of protesters who were upset with Cable One. I am curious about these protesters. Who are they? Who organized them? Quite frankly, this does not seem to be the kind of thing that would have people taking to the streets. The TV stations have also made it appear that there is only one side to the issue. Normally, that would be the expected behavior for one company that is having a dispute with another company, but news is a different animal.
KODE and KSNF have an obligation to explain these complicated issues to their viewers and neither one has stepped up to the plate to do so.
Maybe they think the public won't remember this or that the public doesn't know what constitutes a lapse in journalistic ethics. The dumbest thing you can ever do is to underestimate the public.
And how about these dish network advertisements that are disguised as news? Unfortunately, KODE and KSN are not the only ones guilty of that. The Joplin Globe recently ran a feature on former weatherman Jeff Welborn's company had gave a percentage of how many more satellite dishes he was selling since this controversy came up. In this case, percentages only tell us part of the story. A car salesman can have a great day increasing his sales from one car to four cars, but it's still only four cars that have been sold. How many satellite dishes has he actually sold. Have there been 100 or 200 new ones sold? Maybe. I don't have any idea from the Globe story, but I have my doubts. This sounds more like the Globe inadvertently helping Welborn and the TV stations create a groundswell for a product by making it sound like everyone is buying it.
Just a hint for a story that has not been covered by The Globe or any of the TV stations. If the documents filed by the lawyers for the Webb City R-7 School District in the Brad Mathewson civil rights lawsuit Wednesday are accurate, it seems hard to believe that he just began causing problems after he came to Webb City. (That is, of course, stressing that the documents are accurate). A little research into his days at Fayetteville High School would seem to be in order. I was surprised when that was not done by the Northwest Arkansas Times, which wrote almost totally about Mathewson's Webb City controversy and very little about his time in Arkansas.
One of the biggest stories to hit Barton County a decade ago was when a deputy was found guilty of embezzling a substantial amount of money from the Barton County Sheriff's Department. She was placed on probation and required to repay the money, which she did.
One of the biggest stories to hit Jasper County in recent years was the resignation of Sheriff Bill Pierce after a string of stories in the Globe revealed how he was making money off the commissary at the jail, and a few other problems, which definitely all appeared to be criminal in nature.
The Globe did the right thing in keeping the heat on Pierce. The Missouri Attorney General's office did the wrong thing by not filing criminal charges against him, just as the Barton County courts did the wrong thing by not giving the deputy prison time. When someone who is sworn to enforce the law breaks an oath and walks on the criminal side, that person should be sent right to jail, do not pass GO, do not collect $200 (or more if you really know how to run a commissary).
I would like to see the Globe take the same approach with the Ron Doerge situation in Newton County. Doerge's comments that the ethical violation he has been found guilty of was actually done by someone else are not going to stand up to scrutiny. Who is this phantom person? If he is actually the subject of a criminal investigation, when can we expect to see charges filed? How can Doerge actually say he did not use the office computer for election purposes when he has already admitted that he wrote the questions for John McCormack's radio sheriff candidate forum? The Globe and the Daily need to begin interviewing every disgruntled employee (and heck, just for good measure, talk to a few gruntled ones, as well). The election of a sheriff is an important thing for Newton County and for a man who is charged with enforcing the law to show such contempt for the people he is sworn to protect, well...that is a story that needs to be told.
And how about the situation in McDonald County. Someone stole money from the sheriff's department, according to a recent state audit. Who is this person? Has she been charged? If not, let's get something done. Why has there been no followup on this in the media?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The high-stakes game of chicken continues to be played out between Cable One and Nexstar with only eight days remaining until KODE and KSN will be removed from Cable One unless the company forks over big bucks to Nexstar Broadcasting.
It doesn't matter what finally happens in this modern-day version of the O.K. Corral. The only winner is going to be KOAM-TV.
KOAM General Manager Danny Thomas is pleased about the public brawl between Nexstar and Cable One. It has given him and his station a chance to stand above the fray and not get involved in the petty bickering.
It also has given him a chance to plug his station, which he did in a Dec. 15 interview with the Pittsburg Morning Sun. "KOAM- TV was the first and has been the longest airing free over-the-air television station in the four states," Thomas told the Sun. He continued, "We have substantially more viewers than any other local stations. We believe that providing our news, weather, and entertainment free to everyone is the best model for us. This strategy has served our viewers, our advertisers, and us for well over 50 years."
Thomas told the Sun he was upset about all the free publicity the other local stations are receiving as a result of this dispute, but that's a little hard to believe. If Cable One doesn't give in to Nexstar's demands, KOAM will increase its viewership over the two Joplin stations and it already has the most popular network in CBS and the most popular show on television in "CSI."
Thomas told the Sun, KOAM already has 75 to 80 percent of the viewers in southeast Kansas. If Nexstar loses this gamble (and it should) KOAM stands ready to make serious inroads in southwest Missouri, as well.
I'm sure Thomas got the Joplin stations' ire when he told The Sun, "For instance, it's all about 'oh, gosh what happens if we lose KODE and KSN." You weren't watching them anyway."
The Joplin Globe's poll on the Nexstar-Cable One feud shows that more than 60 percent of the people are siding with Cable One on the issue, with about 15 percent siding with Nexstar, 15 percent not caring which side wins and 10 percent not caring.
On their 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts, channels 12 and 16 carried the story about the Webb City R-7 School District's filing of a motion to dismiss former student Brad Mathewson's civil rights lawsuit against the district.
Those who read the content of that motion in the Dec. 22 Turner Report must have wondered why the local TV stations skirted the issue of the disturbances that school officials claim Mathewson caused at the high school.
The filing included a signed affidavit by High School Principal Steven Gollhofer, in which he said a complaint had been filed with the Webb City Police Department after Mathewson allegedly grabbed another boy's groin while the two were in the school library. Mathewson had also allegedly showed students photographs in which he and another young man were kissing each other. Gollhofer also said he had received numerous complaints about Mathewson's t-shirts. While it is politically correct these days for newscasts to reflect the viewpoint that gays have freedom of speech under the U. S. Constitution (and they do), it is journalistically correct to provide information that gives the school officials' side of the story.
I do not believe the TV stations purposely failed to carry this information, at least I hope that is not the case. More likely, they simply did not have access to it. Any representative of a local TV station who would like a copy of the motion and/or the affidavits submitted by Gollhofer and Assistant High School Principal Randy Richardson should e-mail me at I will be happy to forward them. You don't even have to give The Turner Report credit...although that would be nice.
The TV stations weren't the only ones guilty of incomplete journalism. The Globe and the Neosho Daily News again failed to distinguish themselves on the coverage of the Missouri Ethics Commission's findings against Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge. As long as the only person they contact for the story is Doerge, they are never going to get the complete story. The time for the area newspapers to contact these so-called "disgruntled employees" is long overdue. If they don't know who works or who has worked for the sheriff, those records are available at the county courthouse. The County Commission has to sign off on paychecks for the employees every month. Get those records and call everyone. Some of them won't talk, I'm sure. They all may back Doerge's version of events, but you are never going to know until you make the calls. It's all fine and good for The Joplin Globe to trumpet its Sunshine Law request for the copy of the letter of admonition that was sent to Doerge. If the Globe and the Daily had been doing their jobs instead of using one-source journalism (with that source being the subject of the investigation) the truth about this mess would have been much clearer by now.

A 39-year-old Tennessee man who came to Diamond to have sex with an underaged girl who turned out to be a middle-aged policeman will not receive a new trial.
The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District Wednesday rejected David R. Bullock's contention that his seven-year sentence after being found guilty of attempted statutory rape and attempted sexual exploitation of a minor should be overturned because of entrapment.
Bullock came to Diamond after having internet conversations with Murray, who was posing as a 13-year-old girl. According to court records, Jim Murray, a Diamond police officer, created "Ashley Anne," using a profile and photograph, and visited teen chat rooms to see if child molesters or pedophiles would "hit on him."
On Sept. 24, 2002, according to the court record, Murray logged on to a teen chat room with a title, "Older Guys Looking for Younger Girls." Shortly after he logged on he received a "whisper" or private message that could only be seen by him and the sender, who was using the screen name "Lover of Young Females."
Bullock told Murray he was from Missouri and stayed in the St. Louis area a lot. Murray replied, "Neat," but said that St. Louis is on the other side of the state. Bullock asked "Ashley Anne" if she wanted to meet "for real." "Ashley Anne" replied that she was not very pretty and did not think he would want to meet her.
Bullock gave Ashley Anne his instant messenger name "Young Lover 33" and told her to go to it before the chat room closed. Ashley Anne asked Bullock for a picture and asked him how often he came to the Joplin area. Bullock said he didn't get to Joplin very often, but he could be there the following week.
Ashley said, "Wow! I would have to get permission to stay at a friend's house. Where would you want to meet?"
Bullock then asked "her" if she were "a naughty girl."
Ashley replied, "I can be as naughty as you would would have to teach me."
After they switched to instant messenger, they began questioning each other about their backgrounds. Ashley answered "neat" each time Bullock said anything. Bullock eventually steered the conversation toward sexual topics. He asked Ashley if she ever "plays on" the phone. Ashley said she didn't, but she a friend who did. Bullock asked Ashley if she was a virgin, what grade she was in, and what she was wearing. She said she was a virgin and she was in seventh grade and she was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. He then asked her if she wearing a bra and panties, what kind of panties she had on, and what color they were.
After Ashley told him she was alone in the room, Bullock asked her to touch herself in a sexual manner, then asked a number of extremely personal sexual questions. He then asked her to remove her panties.
He finally brought the conversation around to setting up an actual meeting. He asked for Ashley's phone number. She told him her dad was at home and asked for his number. Bullock insisted on being the one who called, according to the court record, saying "I'm trying to be careful. After all, the law doesn't like men and kids."
All of this took place in the first conversation between the two, according to the court record. They talked 17 more times between Sept. 25, 2002, and Oct. 18, 2002. "Ashley" attempted to get Bullock to send a picture of himself. He said no because "there are too many cops out there" who don't like "men and underaged girls."
Ashley said, "But I'm agreeing, what's wrong with that?"
Bullock eventually began discussing their upcoming sexual encounter saying he would not use protection because he would have no feeling and set the meeting up around her menstrual cycle so she would not need birth control.
He began asking Ashley to bring some of her younger friends with her. "He suggested he liked girls who were real flat chested and as young as six years of age." He asked Ashley who her youngest friend was. She said she had a friend who was 10 years old and in the fourth grade and she knew a girl who was a third grader. Bullock suggested he would start off by having sex with the third grader, then the fourth grader, then Ashley.
Bullock warned Ashley that what they were planning was against the law and they would get in trouble if any of them talked. The meeting was finally set for Oct. 18, 2002, right after school at Murphy's One Stop convenience store in Diamond. Ashley was told to get a bathroom key and meet him there.
Bullock drove to Diamond, stopped at Murphy's, left his ar, looked into the window of the store, and walked back toward his car. A female decoy, who was in he store, carried the key to the bathroom, walking a few feet behind Bullock, according to the court record. In Bullock's car, he had an aluminum case with a web camera and drive, a laptop computer, and numerous CDs.
Bullock admitted he had talked with Ashley, but said that if she had shown up he was going to "contact the police to advise them to counsel Ashley about the dangers of meeting someone she only knew from the internet."
Bullock's trial was moved from Newton to Jasper County, where he was found guilty after a one-day trial. In his appeal, he claimed that he should not have been charged since he never took a "substantial step" toward committing a crime. The court ruled that his conversations were the steps that he had taken.
The appellate panel also rejected his claims of entrapment saying that entrapment is when an officer induces a person to "engage in conduct that he is not otherwise ready and willing to do." Since Bullock had brought up the subject of meeting Ashley, he had not been entrapped.
The court did not buy Bullock's claim that he had expressed reservations about committing a crime. "His reservation was not in committing the crime but in getting caught," the decision said.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Brad Mathewson's displays of gay pride involved more than just wearing t-shirts, according to documents filed earlier today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
In their motion to have Mathewson's civil rights lawsuit dismissed, district officials say another Webb City High School student filed a report with the Webb City Police after Mathewson "grabbed his groin area while researching in the library and frequently 'hit on' or 'flirted' with him."
That wasn't the only reason district officials say Mathewson's behavior, as well as his selection of clothing, was creating a disruption at the school.
The filing included a signed affidavit from High School Principal Stephen Gollhofer, a defendant in the lawsuit, that Mathewson had been flaunting his sexual preference in other ways. "Specifically, students complained that (Mathewson) was showing, and forcing in some instances, inappropriate photographs to students which depicted (Mathewson) and another male lying on top of one another, and the other male kissing (Mathewson's) neck."
Mathewson's claims that his t-shirts had not caused a disruption at the school were also disputed in the motion. "Students also complained about (his) t-shirts, and informed the administration that the t-shirts were inappropriate, as well as distracting."
The motion also says that district officials had genuine fears for Mathewson's safety. "The district had already handled and addressed threats of violence against (Mathewson). This all canvassed against a backdrop of a school which has, for years, maintained a strict dress code, and taken the strong stance that it will not permit disruption to the learning environment." Those factors would prevent Mathewson from being able to get an injunction to allow him to wear the shirts on the basis of the evidence, the motion said.
The motion adds, "(Mathewson's) right to express his position on homosexuality must be balanced against the district's responsibility to maintain a safe and harassment-free educational environment, free of disruption, for all students."
The motion says that even if Mathewson had not dropped out of school on Dec. 7, he still could not prevail because "his constitutional rights have not been violated. Speech that disrupts the school environment is not protected speech. The Webb City School District has provided quality education for years. In doing so, the district provides the best educational environment possible for its students."
The motion continues, "The district takes no pro, nor anti, position on sexual orientation issues. The district's only stance is pro-student."
The Constitution allowed the district to take the steps it did even if there had been no disruption, the motion said.
The district also noted a California court decision, in which a student was not allowed to wear an anti-gay t-shirt because of the potential disruption it might cause. Webb City High School's educational environment was "permeated with tension," the motion said.
The district's attorney, Sarah E. Lawrence of Doster, Mickes, James & Ullom, LLC, began the motion by noting that Mathewson does not have a standing to sue because he is no longer enrolled at Webb City.
Courts have consistently ruled against students in those situations, she said.
In a signed affidavit that accompanied the motion, Assistant Principal Randy Richardson said he met with Mathewson and his mother Marion Mathewson, on Dec. 7, talked over problems with Mathewson's attendance "and options for getting Brad back on track academically. At the conclusion of our meeting, it was my understanding that Brad would be returning to class. This understanding was based upon our meeting and Brad's mother's question to Brad as to whether he had his things for school.
Immediately after the meeting ended, Richardson's affidavit says, "I received a call from the high school secretary informing me that Brad was dropping out of school."
In his affidavit, Gollhofer said Mathewson was "never disciplined" for wearing the t-shirts. "He was merely directed to change or turn around his t-shirts.
"Further, Brad is not the only student that has been instructed to change a t-shirt. Numerous other students have been directed to change t-shirts displaying a variety of different messages that the district administration felt was either inappropriate or disruptive to the school environment."
American Civil Liberties Union officials have acknowledged in media interviews that it will be difficult to pursue the case since Mathewson dropped out of school. Their hope seems to lie with a group of students who wore t-shirts to support Mathewson the week after he filed his lawsuit. Reportedly, 11 students wore such shirts. Four followed administrators' requests to change the shirts. Seven others were sent home after refusing to do so. ACLU officials have indicated they will try to get one of those students to continue the case.
Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge is not the only outgoing sheriff facing some difficulties. A lawsuit filed Dec. 21 in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri targets McDonald County Sheriff Robert Evenson, who was defeated in his re-election attempt and one of his deputies who apparently has a penchant for correcting the grammar and spelling on prisoners' grievance forms.
In his lawsuit, William Poole asks for an audit of the prison commissary, claiming that money is missing from inmate accounts.
Poole claims prison officials did not allow him to receive much-needed medication, causing him to have seizures and forcing his hospitalization. Poole says he filled out a postage request form to send a letter to the circuit clerk, but it was "brought back and torn up in front of me by Michelle Amos."
Lt. Amos also ignored staff memos to provide Poole with his medication, he claimed.
Poole also sent in grievance forms filled out by him and two other prisoners, all of which he indicates were corrected by Lt. Amos, though the deputy's signature on the forms is virtually illegible. In one dated Dec. 12, 2003, she denied a request by Poole to use the canteen and to see the sheriff, scolding him for not spelling using and sheriff correctly. Someone should have gone over her work since she wrote, "Peroids and commas need to correctly," then with a flourish, added, "Denied- ask your lawyer."
Another Poole grievance, dated Dec. 4, was returned with an "F" grade and "-50" written on it. Poole was complaining about a deputy not giving him soap to shower with and being disrespectful toward him, even though Poole was told if he wouldn't play with the soap he could probably have some.
On the same day, inmate Don Barkfelt also received an F, according to a copy of a grievance form entered into Poole's petition. Barkfelt wrote, "Was refused soap to take a shower and was very out of line with his language with us this morning." Lt. Amos replied, "Great story and introduction, but need and ending to this story.
The third grievance filed over the soap situation, submitted by Joe Darryl Andrews, was also graded F. "English helps" and "sentence doesn't make sense" were written on the grievance form. "Please rewrite the request so it can be read and written correctly."
Poole claims that when he filled out a form to file his lawsuit, it was torn to pieces in front of him by Lt. Amos. "(She) smiled at me as she tore up another sheet of paper that had dates and times on it. I did keep one sheet and that is the information that I am sending you to keep secure," Poole wrote.

The Missouri Ethics Commission is no longer investigating Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge.
An Ethics Commission official told me a few moments ago that the letter of reprimand, which was sent earlier this week, concludes the probe. "Once we send the letter, the investigation is over," the official said.
The complaint, which is reprinted in a Turner Report posting earlier today, indicated that Doerge had misused taxpayer funds in support of the election of his self-anointed successor, Kenneth Copeland.
Though the official did not provide me with any more details, it is apparent from the action taken that the Commission found that the sheriff violated the law, but it was not deemed to be a large enough violation to forward to the Missouri Attorney General's office for further action.
The letter of reprimand is a public document, the official said, but the Ethics Commission's policy is not to release it until the subject of the investigation has had the opportunity to see it. Anyone wanting a copy of the record can make a Sunshine Law request, the official said, adding that the letter will probably be available early next week.
A motion to dismiss former Webb City High School student Brad Mathewson's civil rights lawsuit against the R-7 School District is expected to be filed tomorrow in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Tomorrow is the deadline for district officials to respond to Mathewson's lawsuit. They were given an extension a couple of weeks ago. District officials will contend that Mathewson no longer has a standing to sue since he is no longer a student in the school district. Mathewson told the Kansas City Star he dropped out because his grades were falling due to the problems surrounding his stand in favor of gay rights.
The situation began when Mathewson was sent to the office by a teacher for wearing a Gay-Straight Alliance t-shirt from his former school in Fayetteville, Ark. Mathewson was told by administrators to change shirts, turn the shirt inside out, or go home. He went into a bathroom and swapped shirts with another student, who wore the Gay-Straight Alliance t-shirt for the rest of the day without incident, according to Mathewson's lawsuit.
Later, Mathewson wore a homemade T-shirt proclaiming that he was gay and he was proud. Administrators gave him the same options as before. This time, Mathewson chose to go home. Then he followed the same game plan followed by a gay student in Dearborn, Mich., who took his school to court after he was not allowed to wear a t-shirt proclaiming that President Bush is a terrorist.
Bret Barber of Dearborn went to the American Civil Liberties Union, which took the Dearborn School District to court and an injunction was issued allowing Barber to wear his shirt. That case had been well-publicized and was known to members of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Fayetteville last year when Mathewson was a member.
Mathewson called the ACLU, which agreed to hire local attorney James Fleischaker to represent him. A lawsuit was filed against the R-7 School District asking for the same type of injunction, claiming that Mathewson's constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression was being violated by the administrators' decisions.
R-7 administrators have said that Mathewson's shirts violated the dress code and were banned because they potentially could create a disturbance.
Mathewson's decision to drop out of school may not end the lawsuit. ACLU officials have told The Joplin Globe and The Kansas City Star that they are talking with a group of students who protested against the Mathewson decision by wearing homemade T-shirts. Seven of those students were sent home by district officials. ACLU officials indicate they are trying to get one of those students to pick up the banner and continue with the lawsuit.
Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge had his wrists slapped by the Missouri Ethics Commission Dec. 16 for actions he took to ensure the election of Kenneth Copeland as his successor.
The Ethics Commission revealed today on its website that it sent a "letter of admonition" to Doerge, though no further details were given. The letter will apparently is the final result of the investigation since other cases discussed at the Dec. 16 meeting were forwarded to the attorney general for action.
The complaint was lodged against Doerge in October and was first revealed to the public by Jack Dickens, the administrator of . The complaint said, "I as employee of Newton County under the direction of my superiors set up a make believe group called 'County Citizens.' This group was to ask questions of other candidates running for sheriff. My superior, Sheriff Ron Doerge, endorsed one candidate Ken Copeland. No questions were to be asked to that candidate. This work was to be done on duty so that answers could be given to Sheriff Doerge immediately. Information was to be used to see that the candidate Ken Copeland was elected because Sheriff Doerge could stay on in the Department as a advisor. I followed instructions of the Sheriff."
The Neosho website and The Turner Report have pointed out for several months the ethical lapses committed by the sheriff during the election. After he endorsed Copeland, a former Newton County deputy, as his anointed successor, Doerge attempted to pull a Geppetto act, orchestrating the election through manipulation, not just of his employees, but also of the media.
In particular, Doerge used KBTN radio talk show host John McCormack. McCormack scheduled a candidate forum on his program and supposedly asked Doerge to supply him with questions, apparently without ever considering the conflict of interest.
It later became apparent that Doerge had most likely concocted these questions, a subtle form of electioneering, on taxpayer time and on county equipment, though he steadfastly denied any wrongdoing and blamed everything, as usual, on "disgruntled employees."
What should be a black eye for Doerge's reputation and for the reputation of incoming sheriff Copeland may be just a blip on the radar screen. Everything depends on how the traditional media covers this story. It is undeniably going to be publicized on this weblog and on Neosho Forums and perhaps on the Seneca Forums and Diamond Forums sites, but how will it be handled by the three television stations, The Joplin Globe and The Neosho Daily News.
Will the same amount of coverage be afforded to this that was given to the farewell party that was given for Doerge recently. As I have pointed out time after time, there is little investigative reporting done by the local media. If some charge is leveled, the media reports the charge (at least some of the time), gets a response and considers that to be an investigation. No effort is made to see whether the charge has merit.
The Daily reported the initial complaint to the Missouri Ethics Commission by claiming it had been done by a man known only as "admin" (short for administrator) on Neosho Forums. It would not have taken much investigation to uncover Mr. Dickens' identity. He is not hiding behind that name. He has been interviewed by the Springfield News-Leader and The Globe. Of course, in the same article the Daily said it knew who "Admin" was. Well, if that was the case, what possible justification could the newspaper have in not providing its readers with that information?
I don't blame the Daily's reporter on this one. This appears to be an editor's decision. After making Dickens appear to be some shadowy figure lurking around the corner trying to cause problems for the sheriff, the Daily went back to the same type of so-called "investigative journalism" that has given investigative journalism a bad name. A response was obtained from Doerge and that was that.
Even less investigative reporting was done when the investigators from the Missouri Ethics Commission office came to Neosho to investigate the allegations. The only source of information for stories about that visit came from Doerge...the subject of the investigation. Of course, the local media was not going to get anything out of the investigators, but there were other sources, none of which were mined for information.
Let Doerge call anyone who gives information against him a "disgruntled employee." The history of investigative journalism, as well as congressional investigations, and police investigations, is filled with thousands of legitimate cases that came as a result of information obtained from "disgruntled employees."
Sometimes these people have an ax to grind or can gain an advantage by leaking this information, but many of these people come forward because they legitimately believe something wrong is taking place and they want to do something to stop it. I find no evidence in the media investigation that anyone went any further than talking to the sheriff about the investigation.
This would be a great time for the media to step forward and examine the way that Kenneth Copeland was elected and the role Ron Doerge played in that election. The sad thing is, that in Newton County, all Doerge had to was throw his support behind Copeland and that probably guaranteed Copeland the election. These other machinations were totally unnecessary. There is a story that needs to be told here. It is being told at sites like Neosho Forums and this one. Now it's time for The Joplin Globe, the Neosho Daily News, and the local television stations to do their jobs.
The Missouri Ethics Commission delivered to what amounted as a slap on the wrist, not only to Ron Doerge, but to the entire media establishment in this area. If it had ever provided balanced coverage of Doerge's administration, these events of the last few months may never have happened.
National attention has once again been drawn to O'Sullivan Industries in Lamar. Furniture Today, an industry publication, last week reported on the resignation of Michael O'Sullivan, the last member of the company's founding family to hold a top position there.
Locally, it has been reported by The Joplin Globe. As usual, the story has been totally ignored by the hometown newspaper, The Lamar Democrat, which has still not reported about the resignation two months ago of Daniel O'Sullivan as chairman of the board of directors. In his resignation letter, which was printed in The Turner Report first, O'Sullivan made it clear that he had a problem with the direction in which the company was going. That story remains untold, at least as far as the Lamar paper is concerned. The only information Lamar readers have received from their local "paper of record" about the largest employer in the area has been what has been spoonfed by the company's public relations people. That information should be funneled to the public, but not without an effort to determine what is really going on.
For most people, the Christmas season is a time to celebrate family, a time filled with presents and get-togethers and caroling and all types of traditional activities.
Not everyone is celebrating this time of year and that has been driven home to me twice during the past few days.
One of the best students in my sixth hour communication arts class at South Middle School lost her father last week after he suddenly died from a massive heart attack at age 50. Earlier in the week, I had one of my Journalism Club members come to me and ask apologetically if it would be o.k. if she wrote a story about herself. I asked her what the topic would be. She wanted to tell everyone how she was dealing with a diagnosis of cancer. I quickly gave her the go-ahead. It is still uncertain how far along the cancer is or how much of an immediate threat it poses to her, but I was impressed with her resolve to tell the story, even at a time when she is obviously scared to death while she awaits test results.
I hope something positive can come out of this holiday season for those two courageous young ladies. Keep them in your prayers.
The Neosho Daily reports that metal detectors have been added to the west entrance of the Newton County Courthouse and that the east entrance has been closed. I have no problem with an armed security guard at the courthouse, That would be an excellent idea. I have no problem with metal detectors at courtroom entrances, which was the way things had been done in Newton County.
When you take drastic steps like these, you are telling the people who would disrupt our democratic processes that they have won. People should be able to come to their courthouse without being treated like common criminals. If this is anything like Jasper County (which has since removed the metal detectors), county employees and people who are favored by those county employees will not have to go through the metal detector. I will drop my opposition to these on the day that everyone from the clerks and janitors through the sheriff, deputies, and judges have to take their time and drop their metal on the tray.
There is something wrong when taxpayers can't go to pay those taxes without being considered to be suspects.
The Carthage Press reports that the Carthage R-9 Board of Education was scheduled to discuss Newton Learning at its meeting last night.
Newton Learning is the summer school arm of Edison Schools, a for-profit company that contracts to operate schools. Newton Learning already handles the summer school operations for Sarcoxie, McDonald County, and East Newton in this area.
Officials from each of these school districts has expressed satisfaction with the way Newton has operated their summer schools. The company provides the curriculum, based on Missouri standards, hires the teachers and pays them (and these are almost always teachers from the school district) and provides an incredible wealth of supplies, which it allows the district to keep when the summer school session has been completed. Every school district that has contracted with Newton Learning in this area has made a profit.
That includes the Diamond R-4 School District, which had Newton operate its summer school in 2002. The school made more than $200,000 profit and used the enrollment figure for reimbursement from the state for the next two years, but dropped Newton after 2002. Superintendent Mark Mayo claims that the company has had problems with other area school districts, but the districts he mentions, as far as I can tell, have never had anything to do with Edison Schools or Newton Learning.
The R-4 School District is suing Edison for a little over $80,000 it says it should not have to pay the company. If Diamond Superintendent Mark Mayo thinks Newton Learning should be sued, that should be reason enough for Carthage to sign up with the company immediately.
I am not a big proponent of these for-profit companies in education, but the only thing Newton Learning has done for area schools, Diamond notwithstanding, has been to take the huge burden of operating a summer school program off their shoulders and allow them to sit back and watch the money pour in.
It's a shame that Diamond taxpayers are having to foot the bill for this clueless Don Quixote adventure.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Dec. 31 deadline is approaching for Cable One viewers in Joplin, including me. If an agreement is not reached between Nexstar Broadcasting, the company which owns KSNF and manages KODE, then those stations will no longer be carried by Cable One.
The Joplin stations are not the only ones Nexstar is threatening to pull from Cable One. According to PR Newswire, the company is also saying it will take KTAL, the NBC affiliate in Texarkana, Texas off Cable One.
In the ads Nexstar is running on KODE and KSNF, it sounds as if the company is doing its best to serve its viewers. Who knows, maybe they were sending the same kind of message to viewers at their station in Billings, Montana. Earlier this year, Nexstar canceled the local news programs on its CBS and UPN stations in Billings and laid off 26 reporters and anchors, citing bad ratings as the reason, according to the Billings newspaper.
Nexstar vice president Brian Jones reportedly said eliminating the news operation was the difference between the station being in the red and in the black. This statement was made just two weeks after Nexstar bought the station from Boston-based Quorum Broadcast.
In line with their public service mission, one station replaced its news program with reruns of "Everyone Loves Raymond." The other aired "Blind Date."
Nexstar stations across the country have also become known for their increasing use of odious infomercials. The same practice is becoming commonplace at the two local stations. Anything for a buck.
Again, I will say it, while I have no illusions about Cable One and its owners, The Washington Post Company, I would rather do without Channels 12 and 16 rather than see them profit through this brazen extortion.
Oldtimers in this area remember the days when a young Mickey Mantle would climb out the windows of the Drake Hotel in Carthage and carouse at night. This was before the Mick became one of the most feared sluggers in the history of the major leagues.
Mantle, a native of Commerce, Okla., is the subject of a new book written by Carthage native John Hall, author of "Majoring in the Minors' a fine work about the KOM League, (Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri) which operated in this area in the 1940s and 1950s.
"Mickey Mantle: Before the Glory", featuring a forward by Mantle's widow, Merlyn Mantle, will be on sale in late February or early March. Any reader who would like to order an autographed copy from the author, can contact Mr. Hall at: 1709 Rainwood Place, Columbia, MO 65203. The book costs $29.95.
John Hall has done more than anyone to keep the tradition of minor league baseball in small-town America alive.
The year 2004 is about to come to an end. This is the time of year when news organizations begin to review the past 12 months and come up with a list of top stories. I don't intend to do that, but I have been reviewing my past entries and found that since I began my blend of investigative journalism and commentary in July, The Turner Report has featured more than 50 scoops, some of which were later picked up by the traditional media and many of which have never been touched. Just a sampling:
-Congressman Roy Blunt attempted to sneak legislation favorable to his wife's company, Phillip Morris, into the Homeland Security Act.
-Blunt's son, Secretary of State Matt Blunt, had a lawsuit filed against him by area gadfly Martin Lindstedt of Granby. The national media had barely addressed the story about Congressman Blunt, primarily in the investigative reporting magazine "Mother Jones" while the Joplin Globe and Neosho Daily picked up on the Lindstedt-Blunt lawsuit.
The Turner Report really took off in August.
-The families of James Dodson, Neosho, and his granddaughter Jessica Mann, 7, of Joplin, filed wrongful death lawsuits against Edward Meerwald of Noel, the drunk driver who killed the pair on July 31. This story has not been picked up by any other media.
-Sexual assault charges were refiled against former Carthage R-9 Board of Education member and Carthage Police officer Michael Wells. The Carthage Press later picked up on this story.
-The Missouri Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from convicted killer Bobby Lingle of Joplin. Lingle was convicted in connection with the 1999 deaths of Erin Vanderhoef, Springfield, and her four children. The story was not picked up by any other media.
-The move of Lamar-based O'Sullivan Industries' corporate headquarters from Lamar to Atlanta, GA, came as a result of tax breaks offered by the state of Georgia. The story ran first in The Turner Report, then later in the Globe. It has yet to run in The Lamar Democrat.
-O'Sullivan Industries' new CEO Robert Parker is being paid $1 million a year, far more than any CEO the company has ever had. The Globe picked up on the story later. It has yet to run in The Lamar Democrat.
-The Turner Report revealed the Newell-Rubbermaid connection and how Parker, the former head of a Newell-Rubbermaid division had brought in two of his confederates from that company for high-paying positions at O'Sullivan. The Globe carried the story later. It has yet to appear in The Lamar Democrat.
-Area middle school communication arts MAP test results appeared here before they ran in the Globe.
-Gary Black, who is on Death Row for killing a Missouri Southern athlete, appealed his sentence to the Missouri Supreme Court. No one picked up on that story until a few months later when the Globe carried an Associated Press story on the Court's decision to have Black resentenced.
-Former Creedence Clearwater Revival leader John Fogarty, Kid Rock, and Sheryl Crow were among those suing Club Miami in Joplin for unauthorized use of their music. No one has picked up on that story.
-Liberty Group Publishing, the company that owns The Neosho Daily News, the Carthage Press, the Neosho Post, and The Big Nickel, was put on the auction block. So far, no one else has run with that one, including The Neosho Daily News, The Carthage Press, the Neosho Post, and The Big Nickel.
-Five malpractice suits had been filed in Jasper County Circuit Court against two of the people involved in a criminal drug case at Freeman Neosho Hospital, Dr. Jeffrey Wool and Neidra DePuy. No one ever picked up on that story.
-The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals rejected Jasper County sex offender Michael Goddard's attempt to keep from being committed. No one else ever covered the story.
-The Diamond R-4 School District sued Edison Schools. No one has picked up on that story.
- At one time, six of the seven members of the Diamond R-4 Board of Education, had close relatives working for the school district. No one ever picked up on this story.
-Controversial Diamond R-4 Superintendent Mark Mayo's contract was extended an extra year through 2006. The Turner Report was the only outlet to feature that information.
-The Turner Report revealed that State Representative Steve Hunter had accepted numerous gifts from Ameristar Casinos and also reviewed gifts received from lobbyists by other area legislators. No one else has covered the story.
-O'Sullivan's million-dollar CEO Bob Parker had it written in his contract when he took the job that he could resign and receive a $1 million payout if the corporate headquarters was moved from the Atlanta area. This deal was signed long before O'Sullivan moved its quarters to Georgia. No one else has picked up on this story.
-The River of Life Ministries of Joplin declared bankruptcy. River of Life is not a church group, but an operation that has several managed care homes in the area. Apparently, this has not only eluded other media outlets, but also the Missouri Division of Aging since managed care home operators have to show financial viability according to state law.
-A number of drivers who had their driver's licenses revoked by the state for drinking-related offenses had them restored on technicalities by Jasper County Judge Richard Copeland. No one has picked up on this story.
-Former Midwest Conference teachers told The Turner Report that the new Spring River Valley Conference, formed primarily for football purposes, was giving short shrift to academics. No one has touched this story.
-State officials investigated a case of fraud committed by two Diamond R-4 teachers against the Missouri State Teachers Retirement Fund. The story has not appeared anywhere else.
-Former Southwest City Police Chief Ron Beaudry sued the city. The story first appeared in The Turner Report, then later in the Globe and the Daily.
-The Turner Report was the first media source to reveal what awards were won by The Joplin Globe and the Neosho Daily News at the annual Missouri Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.
-Parallels between what Bob Parker and company were doing at O'Sullivan Industries and what had happened at their former company, Newell Rubbermaid, were printed here. No one else picked up on these.
-An appeals court upheld the sentence of convicted Joplin killer Eldon Tinsley. No one else had the story.
-The appeal of Brent Londagin, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a mentally-handicapped young man, was upheld by the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals. No one else had the story.
-A wrongful death malpractice lawsuit was filed against Joplin doctor Blake Little. No one else had the story.
-Newspaper companies dropped out of the bidding in the auction of Liberty Group Publishing, the owner of The Neosho Daily News, The Carthage Press, The Neosho Post, and The Big Nickel. No one else had the story.
-The Turner Report was second behind in carrying the news that a complaint had been filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission against Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge. The traditional media carried the story later.
-The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of Leroy Norman, who killed Angel Wells of Carthage. No one else had the story.
-The Turner Report was the only media outlet to run the severance agreements between O'Sullivan Industries and former top officials Tom Riegel, Richard Davidson, and Tom O'Sullivan Jr. No one else had the story.
-O'Sullivan Chairman of the Board Daniel O'Sullivan's resignation and the contents of his resignation letter were featured in The Turner Report a full two days before they were carried in The Joplin Globe. Two months have passed and the story has yet to appear in The Lamar Democrat.
-A state audit of the McDonald County Sheriff's Department showed that an employee had embezzled a considerable amount of money. The story was later covered in the Daily and in the Globe.
-Wasteful construction practices at U. S. embassies were increasing the chances that someone else could be murdered the way Lamar soldier Kenneth Hobson was in Kenya in 1998. This information from the General Accounting Office (GAO) of Congress was not covered nationally or in the local newspapers.
-La-Z-Boy turned down an employee offer to buy a Pennsylvania furniture plant so it could outsource jobs to China. No other local news source carried the story.
-A comparison was offered of salaries of area school administrators and teachers.
-A major lawsuit was filed against Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge.
-Background on a lawsuit that may have inspired the lawsuit filed by Webb City student Brad Mathewson against the R-7 School District was featured.
-The Turner Report was the only source to reveal that the two sides in the Mathewson case had been asked to accept arbitration.
-The Diamond R-4 Board of Education held a planning session at a private residence.
-SEC forms show La-Z-Boy, Neosho's biggest employer, is planning to increase the outsourcing of jobs to China.
-The Neosho R-5 Board of Education may have opened its search for a new superintendent with an illegal closed session.
-Brad Mathewson dropped out of Webb City High School. The Globe carried the story the next day.
-Michael O'Sullivan's severance agreement with O'Sullivan Industries.
-Robert Joos, pastor of the Sacerdotal Order of God in McDonald County, filed a writ of habeas corpus with the Missouri Supreme Court.
-The Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled that La-Z-Boy officials used unfair labor practices against a worker trying to organize a union at the Neosho plant. No one else has carried the story.
-State Senator Gary Nodler has filed a bill which would increase the punishment for anyone committing a crime similar to the one Edward Meerwald is accused of committing when he allegedly killed James Dodson and Jessica Mann while driving drunk on July 31.
In addition to these stories, The Turner Report has also featured a combination of media criticism, commentary on various news developments, and other information that has not been available from any other source.
Now it's time to stop looking back and start digging in and finding some more of these stories.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Dec. 31 deadline for reaching an agreement between CableOne and Nexstar, owners of Channels 12 and 16 in Joplin is rapidly approaching and the rhetoric is increasing with the passing of each day.
I am not necessarily a fan of cable TV operators, but when I see clear evidence day after day of how the local television stations have put their pursuit of money ahead of their viewers, I have no sympathy for KODE and KSNF at all.
Since Channels 12 and 16 came under the same umbrella a couple of years ago, we have essentially been stuck with one voice from those two stations. They cover the same news stories, often using exactly the same footage.
Several years ago, Randee Kaiser, Amy Lamb, and I taped three days worth of six o'clock news on the three local stations, then broke those broadcasts down into how many minutes the stations spent on news, weather, sports, meaningless chatter, and advertising. At that time, Channel 7, KOAM-TV, had the most local news per half hour with a paltry seven minutes and 23 seconds, if memory serves me.
I would not be surprised if that number is even lower now, even on the ten o'clock newscast, which has an extra five minutes.
Not only do 12 and 16 have the same owners, but Channel 7 and the new FOX station, Channel 14, in Joplin, also share a common news team. Instead of four local voices offering viewers variety and choice, we have two choices, which usually do not offer us much.
If Nexstar would guarantee us distinct voices between its two channels and promise to pay its news team enough to be able to train talent, then keep it in Joplin, their attempt at extortion might be a little easier to swallow.
There is no doubt they are making the money already to do better by their employees and their viewers, and with this extra money, they would have no excuse whatsoever to continue the bottom-drawer newscasts they are putting forth now.
Joplin is on the bottom rung of television markets in the U. S. It is the best place that people go for their first TV job, then go on to other places. Some of that will continue even if salaries and benefits are increased, simply due to the lure of the big city. But you would find some talented people who would be willing to stay here for a decent salary because they like this area.
Apparently, the only people who are raking in the bucks are the male news anchors at these stations. You can cover up a lot of mistakes with a professional, experrienced anchor, something Jim Jackson has been proving at KSNF for the past two decades.
I would miss getting my weather on the local stations if they carry through with their threat (even though my understanding is that Cable One is going to provide antennas so its customers can see Channels 12 and 16), but I could get decent weather on KOAM.
Law and Order, on the other hand, I would have a hard time doing without, but heck, those reruns will be on TNT before long.
The local TV stations need to put their viewers in front of their wallets for a change.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

My former student Alicia Bradley, now a sophomore at Diamond High School, has an interesting regular feature on her block (which can be found at called "Search Me Sundays."
In that feature, she examines what search engine entries people use to reach her website.
I don't know if I will make a regular feature of this, but it appears people are taking some fascinating paths to reach The Turner Report.
Out of my last 20 visitors via search engines, five of them came looking for information about former KODE-TV 5, 6 and 10 p.m. news anchor Malorie Maddox.
Two others must be looking into the continuing adventures of McDonald County pastor Robert Joos since they were seeking information on his Sacerdotal Church of David.
Others were researching Nancy Cruzan; Tom O'Sullivan, the late founder of O'Sullivan Industries; another former KODE anchor Tracy Turner; Missouri Representative Cynthia Davis, who is sponsoring a bill that would require the teaching of intelligent design as well as evolution; former KODE sports anchor and news director Erik Schrader; former Joplin Police Chief David Niebur; and the most interesting one, someone was seeking information on the subject "Matt Blunt and pornography."
Just two more days to go until Christmas vacation for the Joplin R-8 Public Schools. My students are taking their final essay test of the first semester today, while my Journalism Club students are meeting after school to complete their assignments before the break.
I am looking forward to some rest, relaxation, research, and writing, and hopefully to making a few minor changes in this website, which are designed to increase its value to the readers.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge's alleged wrongdoings during the election to choose his successor is a likely topic when the Missouri Ethics Commission meets in closed session Thursday, Dec. 16.
The meeting will be a teleconference. The preliminary agenda lists no starting time. The only items listed are:
1. Call meeting to order
2. Vote on agenda
3. Minutes of the Nov. 4 and Nov. 9 meetings
4. Opinion requests from Ms. Betty Scott and Mr. Eric Cunningham, then:
5. Adjourn to closed session
The closed session, according to the agenda is "for the purposes of discussing confidential or privileged information and to discuss investigations which are protected from disclosure by law.
Doerge himself confirmed that he Ethics Commission were investigators were recently in Newton County and at the sheriff's office.
The new media has played a key role in bringing news of Doerge's alleged misdeeds to light, to the public, the attorney general's office and to the Ethics Commission, as well as finally getting the Neosho Daily News and The Joplin Globe to take a look, albeit brief and unsatisfactory, into the mess that has surrounded Doerge. , an independently operated message board, printed a copy of a complaint to the Missouri Ethics Commission against Doerge, claiming Doerge created a fictional group to seek information against Republican sheriff candidates that could be used to support Doerge's personally-anointed candidate Kenneth Copeland. Copeland, of course, was elected overwhelmingly by Newton County voters in November. also featured an excerpt from an audiotape in which Doerge used profane language and vowed to take action against traitors in his department.Doerge, in his response to the Neosho Daily News, the first traditional media outlet to run the story, and The Globe insisted the ethics complaint was an action by a "disgruntled former employee" and he insisted that he never uses profanity.
A spokesman for K-Mart is reported to have said, "If we had as many shoppers as Ron Doerge has disgruntled former employees, we could bury Wal-Mart."
A spokesman for Wal-Mart offered no response to that comment, but claimed he could hire lower-priced disgruntled employees in China.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Gary Webb's meteoric rise to the top of the investigative reporting ranks was a thing of the past by the time he made his way to Carthage in July 1998.
He stood in front of a small audience at the Precious Moments Convention Center, relating information from his most famous investigative report...a series of articles in the San Jose Mercury News that claimed that indicated the CIA was responsible for the crack cocaine epidemic in African-American neighborhoods in Southern California.
For a young man, (Webb was only 43 at the time), he had already accomplished much during his two decades in journalism. In 1990, he was a member of the Mercury News reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of an earthquake.
For years, Webb had turned out one major story after another, some that ended up jailing crooked politicians, others that shed light on serious social problems. When the Mercury News first published "Dark Alliance" his series on the origins of the crack cocaine crisis, it appeared he was headed toward a Pulitzer of his own.
It never happened.
Major media sources, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times wrote their own articles sharply critiquing Webb's series. Later, the Mercury News management withdrew its support of the reporter and by the end of 1997, he no longer worked in San Jose.
In only a few months, Gary Webb had gone from being a top-notch reporter on one of the up-and-coming newspapers in the U. S. to being a featured speaker on the conspiracy circuit. The event at which Webb was appearing was billed as the first annual American Heritage Festival with the events being held at Precious Moments and Red Oak II.
Apparently, our American heritage was believing that the government was out to get us. Besides Webb, other speakers claimed that the U. S. government created AIDS, and that Y2K was going to be the end of civilization as we knew it.
The organizer of the event was a man whose talks had become a staple on the conspiracy circuit, Carthage native Terry Reed, whose book "Compromised: Bush, Clinton, and the CIA," claimed that Bill Clinton, the first President Bush, Oliver North, and others had been involved in a conspiracy to run drugs out of an airport in Mena, Ark.
Webb never quite fit in with this group. He was a man who had built his reputation on detailed investigations. Despite the fact that many of his allegations were borne out in hearings conducted by Senator John Kerry, the remainder of Webb's career was similar to the path that brought him to southwest Missouri six and a half years ago.
He moved from job to job with his one success in the years after he left the Mercury News being the book version of "Dark Alliance."
The career of Gary Webb ended late last week when he shot himself to death at his California home. It's always a shame when the world is deprived of that kind of talent.
Negotiations for the sale of Liberty Group Publishing, the company that owns The Neosho Daily News, The Carthage Press, The Neosho Post, and The Big Nickel, have slowed to a crawl, according to newspaper industry sources.
The same sources have reported that only investment firms are still in the running for the newspaper company; newspaper companies have fallen off by the wayside. Liberty is expected to fetch $500 million at a minimum.
A federal judge has granted the Webb City R-7 School District's request to be allowed more time to respond to former student Brad Mathewson's lawsuit against the school district. The district has until Dec. 23 to file its response, according to a document filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Mathewson filed the lawsuit against the school after he was not allowed to wear gay pride T-shirts. The status of his case remains in doubt after his withdrawal from the school last week.
Details of former O'Sullivan marketing director Michael O'Sullivan's severance agreement were filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission today.
O'Sullivan, the last member of the company's founding family to hold a major position at O'Sullivan Industries, signed the severance agreement Dec. 10, the document indicated.
He will continue to receive his regular salary during each biweekly period through April 6, 2005. His automobile allowance will be continued through that same time.
He will serve as an independent contractor with the company through Dec. 31, 2005, and will continue to receive medical and dental insurance through that date. He will be allowed to continue to hold stock options.
He will have term life insurance, long-term disability insurance, and accidental death and dismemberment insurance through April 6, 2005.
In return, O'Sullivan cannot sue the company for personal injury or property damage, breach of contract, defamation, libel or slander for anything published prior to the retirement date, or for a number of other reasons.
He cannot "make any disparaging or critical remarks" about O'Sullivan officials, he cannot go into competition with the company through the end of 2005, nor can he hire anyone who works at O'Sullivan prior to that time.
It appears the Atlanta connection has just about finished its mission to remove any remaining vestige of the family that created O'Sullivan Industries and made their extremely lucrative jobs possible.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

One of the most difficult decision facing newspaper editors is deciding whose deaths merit page-one articles.
While I was at The Carthage Press and The Lamar Democrat, I ran a number of deaths on page one. The end of someone's life is news. Sometimes the news came as a shock. Stories about teenagers and children who meet untimely deaths are always page-one material. I remember doing stories about Edna Volskay, a Carthage High School graduate who died of leukemia, Doug Ringler, the eight-year-old Carthage boy who was murdered 10 years ago, Kelli Dorsey, the Diamond High School athlete who died in November 1994, and a young Lockwood football player who killed himself in 1995.
Sometimes it was people in the prime of their lives, who died of illness or in accidents. The late Peggy Hillman of Lamar comes to mind.
But having worked at two newspapers in communities in which history is revered, I found myself spending a lot of time working on feature stories about people who were living in retirement after living lives filled with accomplishments. That list would include such people as Congressman Gene Taylor from Sarcoxie, former Lamar Democrat business manager Stan White, Richard Webster, Robert Ellis Young, and others.
If someone who had played a huge role in the Lamar community died, even if that person had not played a role in public affairs for years, that person merited a page one obituary. The same held true for Carthage citizens when I was at The Carthage Press.
I still haven't figured out what it takes to get a page-one story in The Neosho Daily News. Today's Daily featured a page-two obituary of Colonel Jack Cornett. Col. Cornett was a former mayor of Neosho, a former city councilman, a long-time businessman, a former Library Board member who was instrumental in the move to the present library site, a former teacher at Crowder College, and a 37-year Army veteran who, according to the obituary, "participated in the D-Day invasion of France on June 6, 1944, as a battalion commander parachuting into Normandy with the 101st Airborne Division. He was awarded the Silver Star for valor and the Purple Heart for wounds received during the Normandy fighting." He also received the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and the Master Parachutist Badge.
Newspapers have only one chance to get the death of a prominent individual right. I wrote a few weeks ago about how The Joplin Globe botched its coverage of the death of long-time reporter Gary Garton. I have written about how I felt the coverage of Tom O'Sullivan's death was mishandled by The Lamar Democrat.
The Neosho Daily News blew its chance to pay the proper tribute to Colonel Cornett.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Brad Mathewson's decision to drop out of Webb City High School, which was revealed yesterday in The Turner Report, then carried this morning in The Joplin Globe, has changed the outlook of the 16-year-old's lawsuit against the school district considerably.
The district's attorneys wasted no time filing documents in the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri reflecting the changing status of the case.
According to yesterday's filing, Mathewson's lawyer, Jim Fleischaker of Joplin, has consented to an extension of time for the school district to respond to Mathewson's original petition. The district now has until Thursday, Dec. 23, to file its response.
The extension will not cause any problems for Mathewson, the document said, since he is no longer enrolled at Webb City.
Of course, the additional time may become a moot point since Mathewson dropped out. According to the Globe, Webb City's lawyer believes Mathewson's decision effectively ends the suit since any decision concerning the R-7 dress code will no longer affect him. The article noted that other students were sent home the week after Mathewson filed his lawsuit when they wore t-shirts supporting his stance. Apparently, Fleischaker or American Civil Liberties Union representatives will contact those students seeking a continuation and broadening of the case.
Meanwhile, a woman who was tossed out of Soul's Harbor in Joplin, then arrested by the Joplin Police Department for disturbing the peace, is suing Soul's Harbor and the city, according to a petition filed Thursday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Lori Bordock, Springfield, is seeking more than a million dollars each from Soul's Harbor and the city of Joplin, according to the suit.
Ms. Bordock claims her civil rights were violated when she was handcuffed and put in a cell with "dangerous criminals" The mattress at the jail bothered her back and she said she was eventually forced to plead guilty to a crime she didn't commit in order to get out of that place.
"I could not take the inhuman treatment," she said, in the handwritten petition.
She filed the suit on her own, she said, because "the lawyers always ask for money. Ms. Bordock said she wanted the seven-figure payout to recompense her "for this horrendous incident that happened to me, a decent American."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Brad Mathewson is no longer enrolled at Webb City High School.
School officials have confirmed that Mathewson, who filed a lawsuit against the school district and High School Principal Steve Gollhofer after he was not allowed to wear a gay pride t-shirt, has "withdrawn his enrollment at the Webb City School District."
Mathewson's court case will continue.
More to come.

A strong circumstantial case for age discrimination and sex discrimination could be brought against the local TV stations for the way in which they treat their 5, 6 and 10 p.m. anchors.
For some reason, we go through a series of young women, one after another after another serving as anchors beside men who have been there for years.
This is not to say anything about the quality of the work done by Jim Jackson at Channel 16 or Dowe Quick at Channel 7. For years, Jackson was the only saving grace of KSNF, which now appears to be the closest to having someone beside the lead anchor who might be staying around for awhile in Tiffany Alaniz.
But there must be a good reason while these male anchors are staying around so long. I would guess they are paid well (and deservedly so), but why do we continue to see these pairing of middle-aged men with girls in their 20s?
Part of it I'm sure is this notion that you can attract more people to a newscast with a pretty young woman. Local news across the U. S. seems to have come to that conclusion.
In the meantime, we continue to have to get used to one new face after another.
The most recent defection was Channel 12's Malorie Maddox. I remember when she was doing KODE's morning show and the Diamond Middle School Student Council went on to promote its project to collect books for the new middle school library. She was very kind to us and thoroughly professional.
Ms. Maddox is now working at WOWT-TV, the NBC affiliate in Omaha, Neb.
Former Channel 12 anchor Amy Anderson, whose time in Joplin was marred by sexual harassment from her co-anchor, according to a Joplin Globe story, went from Joplin to WFTV in Orlando, Fla., where she was right in the middle of the coverage of the controversial 2000 election. She recently returned to Missouri as a general assignment reporter for KCTV5 in Kansas City.
Another former Channel 12 anchor, Tracy Turner, recently returned from a television stint in the Pacific Northwest to join the news team at KSPR-TV, Channel 33 in Springfield. The news director there is former KODE Sports anchor and news director Erik Schrader.
Ms. Turner did an extremely professional job in a story on Cait Purinton, when the Lamar High School graduate was making a name for herself as an award-winning teenage investigative reporter.
Yet another Channel 12 anchor, Heather Turco, went on to bigger and better things. Ms. Turco anchors the 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. news at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., TV station, where she also has a regular Healthbeat segment.
Sheradee Hurst, who recently left the morning show at Channel 16, has been a general assignment reporter at KJRH in Tulsa, Okla., since June.
It is nice to know that these young women have gone on to success in television in larger markets, but it seems a bit discriminatory that the local TV stations appear to be ready to pay good money to get male anchors, but not to either get experienced female anchors or to hold on to promising young female anchors until they become experienced professionals.