Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Joplin Globe picked up six awards, including three first-place mentions, in the annual Associated Press Managing Editors contest. The winners were announced Saturday during the organization's annual convention in Branson.
Surprisingly, despite this outstanding finish, I found no evidence in today's Globe that the editors thought enough of it to even mention it. If I missed it, someone please let me know.
It is an unfortunate truism in journalism that many of the best stories are written about tragic events and so it was with the Globe's winners. The Globe took both first and second place in the Spot News category for continuing coverage of a house fire that killed a Joplin police officer, a series that featured some of the newspaper's best work during 2004.
First place went to Nammi Bhagvandoss, Aaron Kessler, and John Hacker for their work on the initial stories about the explosion. Second place was earned by Jeremiah Tucker and Ms. Bhagvandoss for "240 is out of service," the coverage of the funeral of the police officer, spot coverage, with a strong lead, that appeared to be written in Tucker's style.
Tucker won first place in the feature category for his profile of Linda Franklin, who was fighting cancer, a battle which she unfortunately lost later in the year.
The Globe's veterans picked up the rest of the awards, with the sports staff earning two, a first place for Sports Editor Jim Fryar for sports feature and a third place for Anvil Welch in spot sports.
The Globe's other award, a second place in community service (which normally is a category reserved for investigative reporting) went to the woefully misused Andy Ostmeyer, a talented reporter who is stuck writing a regular column on Wal-Mart. Ostmeyer's winner was an article questioning whether police target Hispanic drivers.
The Globe's awards came in the category for papers in communities with population between 15,000 and 50,000. Other newspapers entered in that division included the Sedalia Democrat and the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian.
The six Globe awards weren't the only ones with Joplin connections. Former Joplin resident Craig Vonder Haar, sports editor of the Washington Missourian, picked up two awards, taking third place in spot sports in the small newspaper division, and second place in sports feature. Vonder Haar's identical twin brother, Bruce, was the longtime sports anchor at KODE and now runs JET-14, the Joplin R-8 School District TV station, which can be seen on Channel 14 on Cable One.
It would be nice if the Globe could do something to point out the excellent work being done by its reporters. A few suggestions:
-Run a house ad a few times with their photos and a description of their accomplishments. There is no crime in tooting your own horn and it shows your reporters you're behind them.
-Set up links on the Globe website to their award-winning stories and maybe dig up a few award-winning Globe articles from the past and devote some space to them. This not only rewards the writers, but gives other Globe reporters something to shoot for.
-Give them a raise, for heaven's sake, or at least a bonus.
"I've been offered tickets to ballgames and things like that and I've just refused. Government is all about perception. I don't go to anything now unless I pay for it."
That statement, of course, referred to lobbyists and was made by Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan, in today's edition of the The Daily Oklahoman.
The Oklahoman explored lobbyists' gifts to legislators. Former state senator Mike Fair received the $8.22 lunch. "It's a bad habit to get into it," Fair told the Oklahoman. "It makes it easier and easier for a lawmaker to expect or desire something from these people. And they're not sinister people but they do want the law to fall their way."
Lawmakers accepting gifts from lobbyists is considered to be a problem in Oklahoma, even though its laws, on the surface, at least, appear to be tougher than Missouri's. A lobbyist cannot spend more than $300 a year for any Oklahoma official. Reports are filed twice a year on any gift of $50 or more.
Missouri, at least, requires monthly reports, but does not set a limit any more on how much can be long as it is all reported.
The spring break trip of nine Missouri Republican legislators to Hot Springs is not surprising. What is revealing is that the legislators see nothing with wrong with it. It's just like having dinner bought for them in Jefferson City, a couple of them claimed. Well, yes, there is something wrong with it. As Mike Fair said, the legislators come to expect the goodies and many of them do not have to be claimed for individual legislators. This is avoided by inviting a whole committee to lunch or to a game or providing all of its members with some other gift.
Lobbyists perform a valuable function in our system by providing legislators with information. That should be all they provide to legislators, but don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.
As I mentioned earlier in The Turner Report, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on "The Blogging Boom," Saturday during the Society of Professional Journalists Region 7 Conference at the University Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield.
Also participating in the discussion were Andrew Cline, an assistant professor of journalism at Southwest Missouri State University, who publishes a blog, "Rhetorica" at , and Greg Matthews, online editor at the Springfield News-Leader. I learned quite a bit from Cline about the history of blogging, and Matthews talked about reporter blogs, including the one done by News-Leader sports columnist Scott Puryear.
From what I understand, I was the only eighth grade teacher involved in any of the 11 sessions that were held Saturday. I reviewed the genesis of The Turner Report, which involved my challenge to my eighth graders that if I planned to make them write every day then I would do so, too.
Otherwise, I basically reviewed what I did, took some questions from the audience, and then had the opportunity to meet with some interesting people from the print and broadcast media following the panel discussion.
Thanks again to Bob Leger, editorial page editor of The News-Leader, for inviting me.

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