Today's Neosho Daily News featured a bombshell...Randy Cope is stepping aside as publisher of the Neosho Daily News and has put former Carthage Press editor Rick Rogers in his place.
Rogers worked with me twice...in 1995 as a part time sports writer, then again beginning in August 1998 as sports editor. The news staff we had during my last 10 months at The Press was the best small newspaper staff I have ever seen. In addition to Rick and me, the staff featured photographer/staff writer Ron Graber, city/courthouse reporter Jo Ellis, formerly of the Joplin Globe, and the best spot news reporter around, John Hacker. (I suppose I shouldn't leave out our young intern Jana Blankenship of Webb City, who did a fine job doing some lifestyles and teen reporting.)
I had already been lucky enough to have two excellent sports editors during my first five years as Press managing editor, in Randee Kaiser and Brian Webster, but Rick took the sports pages to a different level, not only with a literate writing style that meshed pretty well with my own forays at sports writing, but with probably the best sports page layout this area has seen.
Rick and Ron Graber immediately began working on a redesign of the paper, which we unveiled in October 1998 with the issue immediately following the crowning of Kacey Baugh as Carthage Maple Leaf queen.
That staff was responsible for what was probably the greatest accomplishment of any small paper in Missouri in the past 10 years. In the Missouri Press Association's annual Better Newspaper Contest, newspapers compete for the Gold Cup Award. No, we didn't win it, but The Press, with 26 larger newspapers in the daily category, finished third, its highest finish ever, trailing only the Kansas City Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Rick picked up awards for sports section and sports writing, but also shared in the first place awards we won in the categories of investigative reporting and community service for our series on drunk driving. Rick not only did the layouts for every part of that week-long series, but also wrote an excellent feature on Scott Hettinger, a Carthage Senior High School graduate, who lost the use of his legs in a drunk driving accident.
I have no idea how Rick will fare on the business end of running the Daily, but Daily readers can expect some major differences in the near future. I would guess Rick will make sure there is a redesign of the Daily, and most likely will make efforts to improve the paper's photography, which has been a weak point.
I would imagine the local sports section will be vastly improved, both in layout and content. I expect that will also apply to page one, and hopefully to the editorial page, which has had problems for a long time.
I eagerly anticipate seeing what changes Rick makes to the Neosho Daily News. If someone of Rick's caliber had been at the helm a few years back, the Neosho Post would never have been able to get off the ground, much less succeed at carving a chunk out of the Daily's readership base.