Area viewers received a quick primer Thursday on the changing state of the newspaper world Thursday night as KOAM anchor Dowe Quick explored the viability of newspapers in the age of the Internet.
It was revealing, but not surprising, to see that Joplin Daily editor John Hacker had faith in the future of paper-and-ink newspapers, while Joplin Globe editor Edgar Simpson seemed to indicate that newspapers are going to go the way of the passenger pigeon.
Hacker is an old-fashioned newspaper type who is smart enough to see the value of the newspaper, and who is trying, with some success, to combine that sensibility with today's news consumers' desire for up-to-the-minute news. He has been hampered by a poorly designed website with limited reader interaction and an undermanned news staff. Still, he has one thing going for him- people root for the underdog, especially when they have seen the Globe's arrogance growing over the past decade.
Simpson, on the other hand, does not appear to be comfortable on either the print or the Internet side of the operation. The Globe has continued to follow a philosophy of keep trying everything and hope something sticks. The Globe has increased its Internet content and made it more timely in an effort to combat the Daily, but it is still so protective of the bread-and-butter print edition that it does not give enough content for readers who do not want to wait until the following morning to find out what really happened. This is a big predicament for the Globe.
These are some of the things the Globe has tried over the past several months:
-Posting reader reaction to Internet stories- This was a great move and has helped the Globe to rapidly increase its Internet readership.
-Starting a weekly Joplin-based newspaper to blunt the beginning of the Daily. This has been a miserable failure. Not only does the weekly have no discernible identity, no buzz, and little original in the way of content, but in launching it, Globe Publisher Dan Chiodo let readers know it was being started because there was not enough room in the daily newspaper for Joplin news- not the greatest public relations move.
-Starting a series of blogs. I don't have any way of knowing how much traffic these are receiving, and the effort is laudable, but I haven't seen any of them that have the ability to generate water cooler buzz. I would like to see Carol Stark combine the coping with cancer portion of her blog, which is fascinating and well done, with more insight into her Globe duties. Take the reader into the Globe newsroom. Jeremiah Tucker's blog has limited interest, primarily for younger readers, and how many of them are going to go to the Globe just to read his entries? The Globe intern blog promised to be one that would offer insight into the inner workings of the newspaper. Instead, it has been another daily offering of me, me, me. The intern's column offers an opportunity to examine the inner workings of the newspaper; instead it has been wasted on overpersonalized college commentary. The blogs of the minister and the military wife are fine additions, but again, so far nothing has really stood out.
-Daily e-mail bulletins on important events and previews of the Saturday Globe. I like the previews and I appreciate the bulletins, but some of the items that have been sent out, such as one last week on the arrest of some thieves while they were breaking into a business, marginalize the value of the service.
-The meth series- This was well done and finally, good use was made of Max McCoy's investigative abilities. At the same time, there has been nothing to create buzz during the two weeks since the series ended, except for one of the subjects of the meth series losing her job.
-The Sunday changes. What's the big deal? Now there is a section devoted to Joplin/area news and it has the opinion pages in it. There do not appear to be any significant changes in content. And now there is a real estate section. The Sunday redesign was unveiled like it was the second coming. It appears to be more of a sleight-of-hand effort to throw off the Daily's momentum by making it appear that the Globe is actually improving its local and area news coverage.
The Joplin Daily, on the other hand, may be achieving its goals (whatever those may be) but it has not made much inroads in the hard news category or in the opinion category. When your opinion section is jam-packed with the writings of Gary Nodler, Marilyn Ruestman, Ron Richard, and Bryan Stevenson, you are not giving the readers much reason to return. Other columns have smacked of the me, me, me syndrome described above.
The sports section has improved and former KODE sports anchor, now Joplin High School media instructor Bruce Vonder Haar's columns have centered around Joplin sports teams and issues and have been thought-provoking. The game coverage suffers from the same predictability that hampers the Globe's.
The center point of the Daily is not its weekly Sunday edition, but its Internet edition and that has had problems from the beginning. It does not provide the easy interactive features that the Globe website has, and if it plans to beat the Globe by being up to date technologically, that is a must.
The Daily has landed stories that do not show up in the Globe, and it has proven itself to be a worthy competitor for the Globe on many local stories. It still has a long way to go, but then again, the competition has barely begun.