Monday, March 30, 2009

Joplin Business Journal bites the dust

Some people say that Joplin is not big enough for one business newspaper, much less two.

The Joplin Business Journal will reportedly publish its final edition Tuesday, leaving the field to Joplin Tri-State Business. The Journal, a project of the folks at Asay Publshing, has been in existence since the beginning of 2006, but has never made much of a dent with its reporting, most of which has been relegated to the "let's write a story and get someone to buy an ad because of it"type of business coverage.

Joplin Tri-State Business, started at approximately the same time by the Springfield Business Journal, has featured more actual news about the business world since its inception.

Both newspapers started about the same time, the well-established Joplin Globe was challenged by GateHouse Media's Joplin Daily, which had two things going for it, a solid concept and John Hacker, and failed to build on either of those positives.

It will be interesting to see what difference, if any, the demise of the Joplin Business Journal will have on the content of Joplin Tri-State Business.

MAP testing begins this week in Joplin R-8 schools

MAP (Missouri Assessment Program) testing begins Tuesday in Joplin middle schools, including at South Middle School where I teach.

It has been more than seven months since The Joplin Globe printed a negative article about South Middle School's MAP tests, never mentioning that eighth grade math and communication arts scores were up last year. (The article made it appear that South's MAP scores were endangering the district's chances of being accredited with distinction for a fifth consecutive year.

Disturbed by the Globe article, once I had the actual statistics in my hand, I e-mailed the information to the reporter who wrote the story. Not only was a correction never made, but the reporter never responded.

Apparently, rising test scores are not news to the Joplin Globe.

On a brighter note, as part of the preparation for MAP, South Middle School has held two community outreach evenings, both titled "Are You Smarter Than a MAP Tester." On our last evening, more than 100 parents and students attended. The parents were treated to a spaghetti red dinner (not at the taxpayers'e expense, I might add) and then were supplied information on the upcoming MAP tests, while the children played games. Teachers, administrators, and other staff members volunteered their time for the evenings, the second of which was held Thursday night.

We are talking about having similar community outreach evenings when we move to the new East Middle School in Duquesne this fall, even on occasions when they have nothing whatsoever to do with the MAP tests.

The photos accompanying this post come from the event.

Turner book signing set for April 24 at Hastings in Joplin

A signing for my three books, Small Town News, Devil's Messenger, and The Turner Report, will be held 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 24, at Hastings on Rangeline in Joplin.

This will most likely be the last Joplin signing before my fourth book comes out either late this year or early in 2010.

More information on the signing will be featured later on this blog.

The Turner Report chapter on the attack against public schools can be found on the Randy Turner Facebook page. A link is included in the section on the right hand side of this page.

Link added for Randy Turner Facebook page

A reader asked me over the weekend why I didn't post a link to my Facebook page on The Turner Report.

The simple reason is I hadn't thought of it. So a link has been added in the section on the right hand side of this page.

KC Star: FBI investigating Missouri legislators

According to Kansas City Star political reporter Steve Kraske, the FBI is investigating "pay for play" in the Missouri legislature, including allegations that lawmakers have to come across with campaign contributions in return for committee assignments or to receive hearings for their bills:

Three lawmakers told The Kansas City Star that they had been talking with agents and providing information. At least one lawmaker said he had recorded private conversations with lawmakers under scrutiny for the investigators.

The inquiry began at least a year ago and has continued into the current session of the General Assembly

This kind of investigation should come as no surprise to regular readers of The Turner Report, which has been chronicling the pernicious effects of money on Missouri's political system for years.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Carthage native Perkins featured in Post-Dispatch article

Though it reads more like something from Wikipedia, today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch includes an article on Carthage native Marlin Perkins, who was the longtime host of the television program Wild Kingdom.

Friday, March 27, 2009

No jail time for Brad Robinson

Former Rep. Brad Robinson, D-Bonne Terre, was placed on probation for five years Thursday following his felony conviction for leaving the scene of an accident.

Robinson, 42, was driving his pickup on Jan. 1, 2008, when he struck a man, severely injuring him. Surveillance video showed Robinson and his wife changing places to make it appear that Robinson's wife was driving, and then leaving the scene.

Remembering Johnny Blanchard

The Joplin Miners were the best team in the minor league Western Association during the 1952 season and the best player on that team was catcher-outfielder Johnny Blanchard.

Blanchard, only 19 at the time, led the league champs and the league itself that year with 30 home runs and 112 RBI.

It wasn't long before Blanchard graduated from the Joplin Miners to the parent New York Yankees to join the most famous player to ever play for the Miners, Mickey Mantle. With the Yankees, Blanchard has the misfortune of being a catcher on a team that already had future Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra and Elston Howard, but that did not prevent him from making an impact.

Blanchard, who died of a heart attack Wednesday at age 76, played enough to hit 21 home runs for the 1961 world championship team, a team some say was the greatest of all time. Blanchard hit two home runs in the World Series that year as the Yankees defeated the Reds in five games:

"Baseball was in his blood," his son Tim said. "He loved the card shows. He'd shake people's hand, ask their name and talk with people. He was the king of storytelling; that was his strength."

Blanchard enjoyed golf and was looking forward to seeing the new Yankee Stadium and participating in an old-timers' game this year.

"He lived a life people would dream of living," Tim said.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sentencing brings close to Neosho church shooting case

(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News.)

I am not sure I have ever seen anything quite like it on local television.
After watching the NCAA basketball games Friday night, I left the TV on KOAM as the late news began. The big news story was the guilty plea entered by Eiken Elam Saimon, the man who brought two loaded handguns into the First Congregational Church of Neosho Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007, and opened fire, killing church leaders and wounding others in the congregation.
Saimon pleaded guilty so prosecutors would take the death penalty off the table. He will spend the rest of his life in prison without possibility of parole.
All of that had been reported in the area newspapers and on television for most of the week. What newspapers could not convey, no matter who skilled the reporters, was the raw emotion coursing through the victim statements, primarily from the wife and son of one of Saimon’s victims, the church’s pastor, Kernal Rehobson.
With Rehobson’s son, it was a quieter rage, but the fierce, impassioned testimony or the widow, Lohvina Rehobson, was like nothing I can remember seeing on the local news before.
Though it does not pack the same punch as the televised testimony, this is what the Joplin Globe wrote about what Mrs. Rehobson said:
“Lovihna Rehobson had even stronger words for Saimon, who received three life sentences without parole, plus additional prison time, at the hearing. She reminded him how her husband had helped him, with food and money and in other ways since coming to the U.S.. Yet, Saimon had shot her husband in the face when he tried to approach and calm the armed intruder at the church service, she said.

“ ‘You are going to be rotting in hell,’ she told Saimon. ‘You are going to rot in jail.’ ”
Even in print, her words are powerful, but the sheer rage and passion of her statements could only be caught on television.
Even with the top of the newscast testimony on KOAM and the other local stations, the coverage in March 2009 was a far cry from what we saw nearly two years ago.
The news that a man had murdered three people and held a congregration hostage at a church, a place that we think of as a refuge from the evils that beset the outside world, stunned Neosho and the rest of southwest Missouri Aug. 12, 2007.
This was the kind of thing that happens somewhere else. This is what happens in the inner cities, or in Littleton, Colorado, or Jonesboro, Ark. This does not happen in Neosho. This does not happen in Newton County, Missouri.
For a brief time, the nation’s eyes were focused on Neosho. The hearing Friday received nowhere near the same attention. The local media covered it, but there was no CNN or New York Times or even Kansas City Star or St. Louis Post-Dispatch. If people across the nation wanted to follow up on the Neosho church shootings, they had to do it through stories sent out over the Associated Press wire.
Thankfully, we still live in a country where such a horrible occurrence is considered newsworthy, and not somewhere like Iraq where death and destruction is a daily fact of life and almost not worth mentioning in news reports.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nodler: We can't have crooks in politics

The Senate Financial and Governmental Organizations Committee held a hearing on a bill from Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, which would prevent felons from holding elected office:

I just think we shouldn't have felons holding public office. I think that's really the general intent of the legislation, and I think the current law is just not carefully crafted," Sen. Nodler said.

Nodler did not comment on what should be done with the crooks who have been lucky enough to avoid a criminal record. This certainly sounds like the kind of critical legislation for which we went Nodler to Jefferson City.

More furloughs for Gannett newspapers

Employees at the Springfield News-Leader and other Gannett newspapers will be taking another unpaid, week-long furlough during the second quarter of 2009, company officials have announced:

"We are about to begin the second quarter without any real relief in sight from this unprecedented economic downturn and its challenge to our company," said Gannett Chief Executive Craig Dubow in a memo to employees Monday.

"Despite all of your truly remarkable efforts to reverse the trend, our revenue numbers continue their downward slide and we have been faced with more difficult decisions," he said.

Gannett will force its employees to take unpaid time off so the company can cut costs in April, May or June. Most workers will take off for five days, but unlike a similar measure taken by the company in its first quarter, the duration of the unpaid time off will vary by division or location, depending on the division's operating needs and results.

Dubow and other top-ranking officials will participate in the furloughs, the memo said. Of course, a week off for them doesn't hurt them anywhere near as much as it does those on the lower end of the chain.

Hearing rescheduled for accused in Lamar Catholic Church arson

A pretrial hearing for John Franklin Manco, charged with arson and burglary in connection with the Feb. 6 fire that destroyed St. Mary's Catholic Church in Lamar, has been rescheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 14 in Barton County Circuit Court.

Thursday services set for Jack Parker

Some sadness for the KSN family today as Jack Parker, 84, husband of longtime Channel 16 fixture Carol Parker, died Monday after a long illness.

Services for Mr. Parker, who was a World War II veteran, and a longtime Joplin businessman, will be held 11 a.m. Thursday at First Community Church. The family will receive friends 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Parker Mortuary. His obituary is printed below:

Jack Douglas Parker, 84, of Joplin, passed away on March 23, 2009, at St. John’s Regional Medical Center following a long illness.

Jack was born on July 19, 1924 in Joplin, to Stephen Douglas Parker and Ferne Emily Hinckley Parker. After graduating form Joplin High School in 1942, Jack attended Joplin Junior College.

In 1943, Jack was among the first group of 18 year olds to be drafted into World War II. He served in the United States Army as a Ranger in England, France, and Germany. Following his service in the war, he graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, with a degree in Business and Marketing. He earned a degree in Mortuary Science from St. Louis University in 1952.

Jack married Carol Louise Clark on September 9, 1956. They had a happy and loving marriage for 52 years. She survives.

Additional survivors include three children and their spouses, Douglas and Sareeta Parker of Atlanta, Georgia, Stephen and Sarah Parker of Clever, Missouri, and Dianne and Kenneth Schramm of Joplin; eight grandchildren, Gregory Parker, Chelsea Parker, Mia Craigmile, Zane Craigmile, Angelina Schramm, Zenon Parker, Sahana Parker, and Arjun Parker. A sister, Betty Anne Parker Garrison of Fort Smith, Arkansas, survives. He was preceded in death by his parents.

Upon graduation from college, Jack worked as the Youth Director of the YMCA in Kansas City, Missouri. He went on to be the co-owner of Steve Parker Mortuary and owner of Wingo’s Camera Center, both in Joplin. He also worked as a realtor in the Joplin area.

Jack was active in the community. He was one of the oldest members of the YMCA, which he joined when he was in the 4th grade. He was a lifelong member of First Community Church where he also served as an elder, and past President of the Board. He was a member of the Joplin Rotary Club, MSSU Alumni Association, Silver-Haired Legislature, Joplin Elks Lodge #501, Joplin School Board, Joplin Jaycees where he was a past President, Ambassador for Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, Joplin Board of Realtors.

Jack loved his family and especially enjoyed his grandchildren and many friends. For over 30 years, Jack played golf on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Twin Hills Country Club with a group known as the Jolly boys. He met a group of Coffee Buddies every morning and dined with Carol and friends every Friday night at the Elk’s Club. His positive outlook on life rubbed off on everyone around him. He had a strong faith and lived his life accordingly.

Memorial contributions may be made to First Community Church, or to a charity of choice.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jetton unveils new website

Former Speaker of the House Rod Jetton has unveiled a new website for his political consulting firm, Rod Jetton & Associates.

In a message to supporters announcing the new website, Jetton wrote:

Because you were one of my strongest supporters during my time as Speaker of the House, I wanted to let you know what I'm doing for conservative candidates around the state. As you already know, I was term limited from running for Speaker again in 2008. I knew I still wanted to help elect strong conservatives in our state and continue our fight for Missouri families, small businesses and traditional values.

You and I accomplished much together when I was leading the Missouri House. We eliminated alot of red tape on our small business owners, drastically reduced the number of abortion providers in the state, passed concealed carry and castle doctrine, and balanced the budget without raising your taxes. It's amazing that in just four short years, we were able to accomplish all of those things!

Now, I am no longer in elected office, but I am still working hard to elect solid conservatives. I'd like to invite you to my company's website (click here to visit) to see just what we do for these candidates. I'm proud to say that last year we helped Senator Luann Ridgeway raise more money than any other state Senate candidate has in Missouri history! The 2010 election cycle is going to be busier than ever - but I want you to know I'm doing everything I can to keep liberals from turning back the clock on our hard work.

Please don't hesitate to call or email me anytime if you have questions about campaigns or would like to get involved. I'm looking forward to continuing our work together for many years to come.

KODE, KSN join Facebook

KODE and KSN have stepped into the Facebook era.

The new page includes updates on news stories, and items from station news personnel.

Valliere to return Monday, May 11

It will be another seven weeks before Toni Valliere will be back behind the anchor's desk for KSN.

Ms. Valliere, who is on maternity leave, is scheduled to return Monday, May 11. Since her leave began her co-anchor, JIm Jackson, has worked alone or has been paired with Stephanie Diffen, Stefan Chase, or Bonney Bowman.

Comments left on Jeff Roe, GateHouse Media stories

Since both stories were posted a few days ago, I thought I would post some interesting comments that were left to last week's posts on the Jeff Roe lawsuit and on bonuses for GateHouse Media officials:

The Jeff Roe comment appears to be from William "Buddy" Hardin, who has acknowledged being the one who provided the information on Joe Brazil that was used by Roe on his blog, The Source, and eventually led to Brazil's ongoing libel suit against Roe:

Neither Brazil nor his attorney requested that Roe take the story off his site until some time after the election. Why wait if it was wrong? All information for the story was a direct quote from a publicly available site that I simply googled. That post and Brazil's identity were verified by the author of the Darwin Awards Interestingly, a Brazil associate did contact the Darwin Awards before the election, resulting in the story being deleted. No reference to official reports were noted because the Florissant PD refused to release the police report, a public record that they later provided to the Journal. This tragic story was never used in any campaign piece. The "Source" posting was barely seen by anyone, this story keeps getting printed in local papers due to Brazil's pursuit of the suit. This has created 100 times the awareness of these events. Shouldn't he sue himself? Pols are public figures who are supposed to have thick skins, not eggshells.

On the GateHouse Media bonus story, a "Former GateHouse employee" wrote:

Absolutely ridiculous. At the Gatehouse paper I used to work at, hourly workers have been cut from 40 hours to 35 and the 401K match has been dropped all because of "cost-cutting measures". Meaning that 80 percent of the employees there have actually received a pay CUT.

There have been layoffs of employees who worked there for over 20 years, and those layoffs mean that it's harder for the others to get their work done in a regular 40-hour week, never mind the new 35.

A starting reporter made $23,000 - $25,000 - so Polly gets her BONUS that is three times what the people actually writing the news get in a whole year. Gatehouse Media is a disgusting example of how corporate greed is ruining this economy. It makes me sick that a company that is so pitiful can continue to operate on a corporate level as if it is going strong while chopping off the bottom or making their working even harder.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The advantage of television

There are times when television has a distinct advantage in covering a news story and the sentencing hearing for Neosho church shooter Eiken Elam Saimon was one of them.

I just finished watching KOAM's coverage of the event. I had already read Jeff Lehr's Joplin Globe article on the hearing, and as usual, it was well-written and professionally done.

Part of the article dealt with the emotionally-charged statements given by murder victim Kernal Rehobson's wife and son. Though Lehr, as always, transcribed those quotes accurately, there was no way his story could pack the intensity that the televised images held.

To see the fury of Mrs. Rehobson or the quiet, dignified comments of the pastor's son onscreen, provided far more impact in this case than the written word.

One of the criticisms of television news is that it does not provide us with the depth of information that newspapers do, but in this case, our local stations provided us with almost as much information as their print colleagues. Part of that, as I wrote earlier today, is because our local newspapers failed to take advantage of the space, both on the printed page and on the bottomless pit of the internet, that can be used to provide background and context. Instead of tying this together with the Aug. 12, 2007, events that brought us to this point, it was almost as if the newspapers were writing about an entirely separate, one-shot (no pun intended) news story.

This round goes to television, and in this trying time for newspapers, they cannot afford to be losing any rounds.

Ameren lobbyist contributes $11,000 to Nixon

Jefferson City attorney Joseph Bednar, Jr., a registered lobbyist for Ameren UE, contributed $11,000 to Gov. Jay Nixon's campaign account Thursday, according to a 48-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Bednar, who also represents Centene Corporation and Armstrong Teasdale, among other clients, is the lawyer representing Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, in the Isle of Capri case.

Smith allegedly used the identification of Rep. Joseph Aull, D-Marshall, to gamble at the Isle of Capri in Boonville during a lobbyist-financed junket on July 31, 2007.

Globe and Daily: Victims' families offer emotional testimony at Neosho church shooter's sentencing

A bulletin or two a little earlier in the day would have been nice, but the Joplin Globe and Neosho Daily News have posted their versions of this morning's sentencing hearing for murderer Eiken Elam Saimon.

The Globe offered one of its abbreviated versions (as if someone is going to spend extra money on the print edition Saturday) but included a portion of the victim impact statements of Pastor Kernal Rehobson's wife and son:

Lovihna Rehobson had even stronger words for Saimon, who received three life sentences without parole, plus additional prison time, at the hearing. She reminded him how her husband had helped him, with food and money and in other ways since coming to the U.S.. Yet, Saimon had shot her husband in the face when he tried to approach and calm the armed intruder at the church service, she said.

“You are going to be rotting in hell,” she told Saimon. “You are going to rot in jail.”

The Daily buried the testimony at the end of the story, with John Ford opening the article with information that had already been made available to the public long ago through the Globe and KSN.

One way, Ford could have jumped on the other outlets would have been by moving Saimon's chilling statements regarding his reasoning for the murders to the opening paragraphs:

I had one of them explain to me that in their culture, they don’t have the death penalty as a possibility,” Skouby said. “They will get finalization in this plea, as the Supreme Court will not overturn it down the road. And he understands that it is in his best interest to take this plea today.”
In both written and oral statements presented to the court, Saimon said the shooting incident was as a result of embarrassment he suffered at a barbecue days before the shooting. He said he didn’t bring any food to the event, and his relatives gave him a hard time about it, saying he was stealing food for his children.

“That made me really mad,” he said in a written statement known as a defendant’s factual basis for a plea of guilty. “I went home and thought about how they were all talking bad about me and how much I helped all of them when they first came to the U.S. I knew they would all be at church on Sunday afternoon.”

I would have used that for the lead, taken a more feature-oriented approach, taking Neosho back to that horrible day and included the basics of Saimon's plea agreement in a textbox.

The feature approach would have reminded readers that it was the Neosho Daily News that owned this story from the outset, using blanket coverage, combined with solid footleather reporting, and strong writing. Instead, the story on the hearing, if that is the end of the Daily's coverage, sounded a weak note.

Muschany- committed adultery, naked in teenage girl's room chasing burglar...and not guilty of sexual assault

Scott Muschany's an adulterer and was naked in a teenage girl's room; neither side in Muschany's two-day trial on sex charges disputed those facts.

What the proseuction did not do, the jury decided, was prove that Muschany was guilty of deviate sexual assault or improperly exposing himself to a teenage girl. (He just didn't have any clothes on when he checked in her room for a possible burglar." A Clay County jury found the former state representative not guilty today after four hours of deliberation.

Those supporting him can feel free to applaud, but think twice about giving him a hand.

Another shoutout for Bonney Bowman

Hopefully, someone at KSN has big plans for Bonney Bowman.

Having had the opportunity to watch her fill in both on the morning and noon programs, it is obvious that she is comfortable in front of the camera and does not force the on-air camaraderie with Jeremiah Cook, something which has been a problem at the station since Toni Valliere moved to the evening anchor desk.

Miss Bowman has no problem with hard news and can shift to something like today's dancing exhibition without missing a beat.

And did I mention that Miss Bowman brings out the best in Jeremiah Cook?

Since Miss Bowman is not originally from this area, I would not be surprised to see her snapped up by a station in a bigger market. The Joplin market has been the starting point for many solid broadcasting careers, and I have no doubt someday we will include Bonney Bowman in that number.

KSN first with news of actual plea in church shooting case

Eiken Elam Saimon, the killer who brought the meaning of terror to the city of Neosho on Aug. 12, 2007, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but since the actual plea was made this morning in Newton County Circuit Court, I have only been able to find one media outlet, KSN, that has the story.

KSN led its noon newscast with the story. KODE, of course, has All My Children on, while KOAM, which normally has a newscast, has the KU game in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

The Joplin Globe broke the story about the plea bargain earlier this week, and had information on the particulars posted Thursday, but as of this posting, has not confirmed the plea.

The Neosho Daily News, as far as I can determine, has been silent about the entire process, which is surprising considering the importance of the story to the Neosho community, and the outstanding job the Daily did in the aftermath of the shooting.

Life in prison for Neosho church killer

Eiken Elam Saimon, 55, will spend the rest of his life behind bars afted pleading guilty this morning in Newton County Circuit Court to three counts of first degree murder.

Saimon was sentenced to 30 years on each of four counts of assault and seven years on statutory rape and sodomy charges.

An armed criminal action charge against Saimon was dropped.

In exchange for Saimon's plea, the Newton County prosecuting attorney's office took the death penalty off the table.

Saimon took a gun into the First Congregational Church of Neosho Aug. 12, 2007, and murdered church leaders, including Pastor Kernal Rehobson, and injured others.

All previous Turner Report posts on the shooting can be found at this link.

Muschany case goes to the jury

The fate of former Rep. Scott Muschany, R-Frontenac, is now in the hands of the jury, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Tony Messenger's latest Twitter comment.

I asked in an earlier post how it was so easy for Muschany's mock jury to find him not guilty (five minutes of deliberation). Apparently, I am not the only one to pose the question. The following item was posted today on the Riverfront Times website, one of those which had no problems with making a big deal out of the mock jury story:

Former state legislator Scott Muschany (R-Frontenac) may have won the mock trial his attorneys put on last week. But it appears that he's losing the real trial this week on charges of deviate sexual assault and exposing himself to a minor. Yesterday a 14-year-old girl testified that she awoke in her bedroom to find a naked Muschany putting her hand on his penis. Muschany called no witnesses. Closing arguments are today.

Church shooter pleading guilty

If all went according to plan, church shooter Eiken Elam Saimon, 55, Neosho, is changing his plea and pleading guilty at this very moment to three counts of first degree murder and four counts of first degree assault.

In exchange for the plea, Saimon will be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. The plea will prevent him from facing the death penalty.

The Joplin Globe had the scoop on the plea arrangment online Thursday.

Saimon entered the First Congregational Church of Neosho Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007, and killed leaders of a Micronesian church, which was holding services in the building, including Pastor Kernal Rehobson.

More information to come.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Closing arguments set for Friday morning in Muschany case

Former Rep. Scott Muschany, R-Frontenac, did not take the stand in his own defense Friday and no wonder.

Those attending the trial had already learned that Muschany was fooling around on his wife and that he was naked in a 14-year-old girl's bedroom...and no one even questioned those facts. It's a she said/his lawyer said deal when it comes to whether the girl actually woke up with a certain part of Muschany's anatomy in her hand. Muschany, as his constitutional right, won't be telling the story and who can blame him?

I wouldn't want to go on the stand and have to explain the adultery and nudity around a teenage girl, even if her accusations are not true.

But there is one question that remains to be answered in those case as we wait a few more hours for closing statements to be made and for the jury to decide on Muschany's fate.

Why in the world did the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Riverfront Times feel it necessary to run a story about a mock jury finding Muschany not guilty? Perhaps the real jury will echo that sentiment.

As for punishment if he is found guilty, I am with a politician who said adults who sexually assault children should receive the death penalty.

That politician's name was Scott Muschany.

Natural Disaster has Facebook site

Our group, Natural Disaster, finally has a Facebook site.

The site has plenty of videos and photos. Feel free to check it out and become a friend of Natural Disaster.

Rep. Davis' report offers another move toward vouchers, defense of four-day school week

(The following capital report was sent out today by Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon.)

If we want better outcomes, we need to look at new ideas. HB 242, a bill that has passed the House and is now on the list of bills in the Senate, gives school districts the option to establish a four-day school week. The number of required hours in a school year remains the same, but the bill allows the schools to have more freedom on how they parcel it up.

Educational excellence in Missouri is a top priority, yet excellence can come in many forms. This bill allows school districts to shave at least 20 percent off overhead costs from transportation and heating and reduces the need for substitute teachers. That leaves more funds available for education essentials and allows schools to be more prudent and wise in directing their funds.

A four-day school week could also mean improved attendance rates for both students and teachers. Freeing up one extra weekday allows more time for sporting events, for doctor appointments, and for parents to spend with their children. In addition, the attractiveness of a four-day work week could make staff recruitment easier.

We need to be creative when considering what will benefit the students most. A four-day school week allocates more time to focus on the quality of education. Students who are struggling may be able to use the free weekday for remedial programs, and the teachers willing to help could be paid extra. The extra day could also be used by teachers for professional development and ongoing education.

Currently, 17 states have adopted the four-day-week option and are experiencing a positive effect on attendance and an increase in test scores. A Webster County School District in Kentucky saved more than $150,000 and ranked much higher on state-wide standardized tests: from 111th in 2003 to 53rd in 2007.

Most of the opposition in the debate on this bill sounded like we were discussing a state-run orphanage. Some legislators were concerned that the school children would not get anything to eat if they were not at school. This kind of reasoning bothers me because it presumes that our public schools are little more than glorified day care centers. The purpose of public education must always be education. The parents are the ones who are supposed to be feeding the children. Additionally, I have never heard of a child starving to death because he didn’t attend public school over the three-month recess.

In general, people are fearful of any change. However, part of why I had an easy time supporting this bill is because of the fine example of the Francis Howell School District. Because it worked well to allow Francis Howell to determine its own school-year calendar (even if it meant going year round with a cycle break), I have faith in the school board to make anything work. We give them a gift when we allow them to be self-directed for the benefit of the children of the district. (I have not heard any stories of children starving during cycle break either.)

The success in other states of school districts with four-day school weeks is encouraging. If the final bill passes, I trust our local school boards’ judgment on deciding whether this option would be a good fit for their schools. Ultimately, the school boards are charged with seeing to it that our children are offered the best education possible. If the four-day week doesn’t work out well, the board will have to answer to the parents. The state does not know better than the local school boards. How much less does Congress know about our schools from the remote vantage point of Washington, D.C.?

The second educational bill designed to promote better education options is one that I sponsored, HB 47. I presented this bill before a house committee last week. HB 47 allows parents who choose alternatives to public education for their children to receive a credit off their real estate taxes paid to their local school district. This bill is a quadruple win for everyone:

1. The state wins by being spared between $2,300 and $5,000 average per pupil.
2. The local school district is spared $4,000- $6,000 average per pupil.
3. The family is credited with a small amount that can be less than or equal to the liability owed in local taxation to the school district by providing proof of expenses.
4. Best of all, the student wins because he receives the kind of education best suited for his individual circumstances for that school year.

Prosecution rests in Muschany case

The prosecution has rested in the sex trial of former Rep. Scott Muschany, R-Frontenac.

Prosecution witnesses included the alleged victim, friends of hers, and the investigating detective, who said Muschany had told him he thought there might be a burglar in the house (therefore causing him to go into the girl's room naked).

Cynthia Davis: No kids ever starved during the summer months

Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, makes no bones about her support of the legislation to allow Missouri public school districts to set up four-day weeks.

Some of those who had problems with the bill pointed out that the children would not have access to school lunches or breakfasts on the day when school is not in session.

That argument did not faze Mrs. Davis in the slightest. She wrote in her weekly report:

Most of the opposition in the debate on this bill sounded like we were discussing a state-run orphanage. Some legislators were concerned that the school children would not get anything to eat if they were not at school. This kind of reasoning bothers me because it presumes that our public schools are little more than glorified day care centers. The purpose of public education must always be education. The parents are the ones who are supposed to be feeding the children. Additionally, I have never heard of a child starving to death because he didn’t attend public school over the three-month recess.

Perhaps not, but for many of these kids, school meals are the only decent meals they get during the day. This simply makes it three days a week rather than two that these kids have problems.

Perhaps Mrs. Davis should be thinking about ways to make sure these kids have decent meals during the summer months instead of treating the subject in such a cavalier fashion.

Alleged Muschany victim: I was scared, I was shocked

Not everyone seems ready for the new media.

Former Springfield News-Leader Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger, who is covering the Scott Muschany sex trial for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has been Twittering from the trial, which began this morning, but that has apparently drawn the ire of some of his readers.

Don't count me among them. The timely nature of the coverage, and the importance of the trial of an elected official (at least he was at that time), more than make up for the squeamishness of some who have been offended by Twitter reporting from a sexual assault trial.

Onto the trial- During her testimony, the teenager who was allegedly victimized by former Rep. Scott Muschany, R-Frontenac, related the events of May 18, 2008, to the jury.

"I was shocked. I couldn't believe it happened," the girl said, referring to waking up to find herself holding Muschany (you can see the last post for more detail) with Muschany's hand on top of hers.

The girl said she ran and went to a neighbor's house.

Testimony: Alleged victim testifies she woke to find her hand had been placed on naked Muschany

It could be a long day for Scott Muschany.

When his own lawyer, Robert Haar, says the former state representative was naked in the 14-year-old girl's room "but he didn't touch her," and that's his defense, things are not looking good for the Frontenac Republican.

According to Tony Messenger's account in the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

“It was a normal evening,” Gandhi told the jury. The victim was asleep in her mom’s house after having been at a friend’s house watching movies. “The next time she opened her eyes, … the light from the hallway was shining in the bedroom on her face … her hand was outside of the covers … she didn’t know what was going on. Her hand was moving. She looked over, and she saw, clearly, her hand, on a man’s penis. She felt it in her hand. She could clearly see a tall man, a fair-skinned man, squatting down over the bed, using his hand, to move her hand, up and down on his penis. … She was petrified.”

Testimony is continuing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Anesthesiologists contribute $7,000 to Nixon

The oversized contributions, dormant for a month, have started again for Gov. Jay Nixon's campaign committee.

A 48-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission indicates Nixon received $7,000 from the Missouri Society of Anesthesiologists Monday.

Text offered for CNHI CEO's furlough letter to Joplin Globe employees

Much media coverage has been given to Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (CNHI) CEO Donna Barrett's spirited defense of newspapers and their role in American society. In an op-ed, that ran in the Cape Cod Times Monday Ms. Barrett wrote:

Creating a more attractive experience for newspaper and Web site audiences enhances advertising revenues. Conversely, cutting back too much on content while raising prices to readers and advertisers accelerates audience declines, which in turn undermine advertising revenues. It's pretty much impossible for any business, including newspapers, to increase market share and profitability by decreasing the quality of its product and driving away customers.

Ironically, Ms. Barrett's op-ed column was published in the Cape Cod Times five days after she sent a memo ordering all CNHI employees to take unpaid furloughs during the second quarter. That should enhance the quality of CNHI newspapers, a group that includes the Joplin Globe. Nowhere does it mention that one of the companies that has been systematically decreasing the value of its news product, through newsroom cuts, has been CNHI. The Turner Report has obtained a copy of Ms. Barrett's memo, which is printed below:

To: All CNHI Employees

From: Donna Barrett
Much media coverage has been given to Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (CNHI) CEO

Subject: Second Quarter Work Schedule Reduction and Pay Reduction

Date: March 11, 2009


The recession continues to negatively impact businesses across the country, including those we rely on for advertising revenue. Until we see meaningful recovery in the economy, we must reduce expenses while maintaining our ability to serve our customers and our readers. We believe we have found a solution that should help us avoid future staff reductions. We have chosen to implement reduced work schedules for hourly employees and reduced work schedules and pay reductions for salaried employees in the second quarter.

The decision was not made lightly. Of all the remaining options available, this will have the least impact on our ability to conduct business while delivering a level of cost savings that protects the company. Most notably, it lessens the likelihood of additional staff reductions, helping us to keep our team intact. We firmly believe this represents the most responsible course as we manage through a difficult time. Our plan is the following:

- A reduced work schedule will be implemented for hourly employees during the second quarter. Employees will take off five days without pay between April 1, 2009 and June 30, 2009. It is expected that no work will be done during this time. This applies to full and part-time employees. Part-time employees’ work schedules will be reduced on a prorated basis. These days off must be taken during the second quarter, and must be taken before any regular vacation or personal days. Regular vacation, personal and sick days may not be substituted for these unpaid days off.

- A reduced work schedule will also be implemented for salaried employees during the second quarter with a corresponding reduction in pay. The pay reduction will occur over the six pay periods in the second quarter. In turn, salaried employees will then take five days off from work between April 1, 2009 and June 30, 2009. Under this plan, the days off will not reduce the employees’ existing allotment of regular vacation, personal and sick days, but must be taken before any regular vacation or personal days.

Salaried employees may not perform any work during the five days they take off under this plan. This applies to all salaried employees, including myself.

- We are asking our unions to voluntarily agree to similar arrangements for the employees they represent. If our unions agree, this will help us avoid future layoffs.

- In order to ensure staffing needs are met, the off-days described above must be planned and approved in advance. Please submit the attached request to your manager by March 20.

I am optimistic that with the changes we’ve made, we will weather the current storm. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated team. Thank you for your many contributions."

While many newspapers, including I am sure, those in CNHI have run Ms. Barrett's op-ed and written effusively about her efforts to promote the industry, there has been little or nothing, written that I can find, except for this blog and a couple of others, and two CNHI newspapers, about the company's furloughs.

Again, what level of trust can CNHI communities, including Joplin, have in their newspapers when those papers are willing to publicize everyone's bad news but their own?


Globe removes references to Nick Myers

The Joplin Globe has removed all references to Joplin CPA Nick Myers from its online story about the four applicants for the Joplin license fee office.

The earlier version of the Globe story said Myers did not apply for the office, but as I noted in an earlier post, one of the four listed applicants, Jehu LLC, lists Myers as its registered agent on the Missouri secretary of state's website.

Rather than mess up again, the Globe simply left Myers out of the story altogether.

Attorney representing LePage files entry of appearance in Lindstedt lawsuit

The wait is still on to see when President Barack Obama will respond to white supremacist Martin Lindstedt's omnibus lawsuit, but attorney Douglas G. Leyshock entered an appearance on behalf of Judge John LePage today.

Information on the case is sketchy since the federal courts for some reason have restricted the public's access to the files. The message "You do not have permission to view this document," appears.

Court records indicate President Obama was served Feb. 6 with the lawsuit in which Lindstedt indicates he would not mind seeing the president assassinated.

Despite the efforts of the government to restrict access, Lindstedt has posted the lawsuit, which consists mostly of incomprehensible ramblings, on a website. In the complaint, Lindstedt, serving as his own lawyer, writes, "The main reason that Plaintiffs are filing this lawsuit is simply that it goes against Plaintiff's religious beliefs to allow any non-white, especially a n-----, to be in any position of authority over any White man, no matter how degraded." (Note: Lindstedt's lawsuit uses the actual n word. I don't intend to do the same.)

Lindstedt refers to himself in the lawsuit as pastor of The Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations of Missouri. The church is also listed as a plaintiff. Other defendants in the action include Sen. John McCain, the State of Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt (the suit was filed in November), Missouri Department of Mental Health/Fulton State Hospital, Attorney General (now governor) Jay Nixon, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, Missouri Supreme Court, Missouri Democratic Party, Missouri Republican Party, Missouri Libertarian Party, "Traitor" Glenn Miller, Newton County Republican Party, Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland, Judge John LePage, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jakob Skouby, and Newton County Clerk Kay Baum.

The lawsuit includes this sentence:

"We could, like other White Nationalist organizations, simply hope and pray for an assassin and enjoy the inevitable race riots which we seek."

Lindstedt has previously filed frivolous lawsuits against everyone from Missouri Southern State University, the city of Granby, Matt Blunt, well, you name it, he's sued it. He has also been an unsuccessful candidate for every political position from East Newton R-6 Board of Education to governor.

Newton County authorities recently dropped a long-standing statutory sodomy charge against Lindstedt, but indicated the charge may be refiled.

State to challenge constitutionality of federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act

The state of Missouri plans to defend against a privacy lawsuit in federal court by questioning the constitutionality of the law.

As reported in earlier Turner Report posts, Emily Roberts, Jefferson City; and Sarah Smith, El Dorado Springs, are suing the Missouri Department of Revenue claiming the department illegally gave personal driver's license information to third parties for commercial purposes.

In an earlier filing in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the attorney general's office indicated it would challenge the constitutionality of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). Today, Acting U. S. Attorney Matt Whitworth asked the court to give him time to respond to the challenge.

In January, Judge Nannette Laughrey denied a motion by defendants to dismiss the lawsuit, which is scheduled to go to trial in October.

In her opinion, Judge Laughrey wrote, "Congress could have included an additional exception in section 2721 (b) to allow business entities to obtain highly restried personal information for the purpose of reselling or redirecting it to others with permissible use. It did not do so."

The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ms. Roberts, Ms. Smith, and others whose privacy may have been violated. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are The Source for Public Data LP, doing business as, Dallas, Texas;, Dallas, Texas; Omar Davis, director, Missouri Department of Revenue; and numerous Department of Revenue employees. Source for Public Data and Shadowsoft have filed countersuits against the plaintiffs.

The initial lawsuit says Public Data and Shadowsoft bought the personal information from the DOR and sold it over the internet:

Prior to February 20, 2008, co-defendant Shadowsoft acquired a large database of
information from Mo. DOR on the pretense that the information would be used only for the legitimate business purpose of verifying the accuracy of information of individuals doing business with Shadowsoft.

The information database acquired by Shadowsoft from Mo. DOR contained “highly restricted personal information”, including social security numbers, belonging to hundreds of thousands of licensed drivers in the State of Missouri.

Upon information and belief, co-defendant Shadowsoft transferred the database in totum to co-defendant PublicData.

PublicData then made the highly restricted personal information belonging to those individuals, unlawfully acquired from Mo. DOR, available for search and sale on its website, In many instances, the information acquired by
Shadowsoft from Mo. DOR and subsequently sold by PublicData on, included social security numbers.

The plaintiffs are asking for damages, costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees.

AIG chief insults America with testimony before House Committee

The horror story of AIG continued today with CEO Edward Liddy telling the House Financial Subservices Committee that $165 million in bonuses, including some to people who were no longer with AIG, was absolutely necessary to retain valued employees. He also refused Rep. Barney Frank's request to turn over the names of those who received the bonuses, claiming he had fears for their safety.

And in the biggest revelation, Liddy said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had known about the impending bonus payments for months.

Apparently, there is a double standard when it comes to bailouts in the United States. When it is time to bail out the auto companies, workers are forced to make one concession after another in order for the companies to receive the money. When it come to the big financial companies, not only are there no concessions, but taxpayers have to foot the bill for a bunch of failed employees to receive million-dollar bonuses.

I suppose it is no wonder Liddy fears for their safety. If any of them had a shred of decency, there would be nothing for taxpayers to worry about. Unfortunately, decency is in short supply these days.

Despite Globe story, Myers has submitted bid for Joplin license fee office contract

Contrary to what was posted earlier today on the Joplin Globe website, it appears that current Jopiln License Office operator Nick Myers has submitted a bid to retain the office, or at least a firm connected with the Joplin CPA has.

According to the Globe article:

Myers, who is active in state Republican politics and chariman of the Newton County Republican Central Committee, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. Proposals for the office were submitted by Alternative Opportunities, Glenn D. Wilson, Applus Technolgies, Inc., and Jehu, L.L.C., according to the Department of Revenue web site.

According to the Missouri secretary of state's website, Jehu LLC was incorporated in 2005. Its registered agent is Nick Myers, Joplin.

Myers is the treasurer for Speaker of the House Ron Richard's campaign committee, and has served or serves in that capacity for other Republican candidates.

Gov. Jay Nixon has said politics will not play a role in the awarding of fee office contracts.

Cameras allowed in courtroom for Neosho church killer's guilty plea

Judge Tim Perigo ruled earlier this week that cameras will be permitted in the courtroom Friday when Eiken Elam Saimon, 55, Neosho, is expected to plead guilty.

Saimon is charged with three counts of first degree murder, four counts of assault, and single counts of felonious restraint and armed criminal action in connection with the Aug. 12, 2007, shootings during a Micronesian congregation's services at the First Congregational Church of Neosho.

The murder victims were three church leaders, including pastor Kernal Rehobson.

Previous Turner Report posts on the murders can be found at this link.

Dubow, Gannett execs in great position if they ever lose their jobs

The Tucson Citizen received a last minute reprieve from Gannett Tuesday as the company continues to negotiate with two potential buyers, according to published reports.

But while Citizen employees are wondering where their next paychecks will come from, Gannett CEO Craig Dubow and other top company executives could lose their jobs tomorrow and they would be set for life.

While Citizen employees and other Gannett employees who have been cut loose during the past several months find themselves thrust into a work world that no longer seems to value their services, a proxy statement filed Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicates Dubow would receive a severance package worth nearly $30 million if he is fired following a change of control in the company and more than $6 million if he leaves on his own.

The proxy statement shows that Dubow and his four top lieutenants would receive a combined total of nearly $60 million if ownership changed and the new owners decided to clean house, with $29,943,423 of that amount going to Dubow.

The Gannett CEO is also sitting pretty if he decides to leave the company on his own. The proxy statement says he would receive a total of $7,538,624 in benefits, including $6,439,524 for his pension and $1,099,100 in restricted stock units.

And even though that kind of money would leave him able to buy nearly anything his heart might desire, Gannett has sweetened the deal even more. In addition to the $7 million plus, in the event of his voluntary departure, Dubow would receive the following:

-$25,000 to $50,000 per year of life insurance coverage
-Reimbursement of full cost of Medicare supplement for Plan B to the rest of his life
-legal and financial counseling
-use of company aircraft for three years (but only when it is available and does have to reimburse Gannett for the cost)
-ownership of existing home office equipment
-computer assistants for three years
-use of an office, secretarial assistants, and access to company facilities at no charge for three years
-membership to a country club

But give Gannett credit; the company knows where to draw the line. All of these fringe benefits will be canceled immediately if Dubow helps one of the company's competitors.

So please, let us not hear any more self-serving nonsense about how much Dubow is sacrificing when he willingly goes along with his furlough plan and gives up a week's worth of his annual $1 million salary. The man is set for life, something he apparently does not take into consideration when he cuts jobs right and left and tries to convince the remaining employees they should be grateful that all he and his fellow top executives are allowing to keep their jobs if they give up a week's salary.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Local stations to drop analog transmissions early

As of April 16, only one Springfield station and two Joplin stations will continue transmitting analog signals.

Stations had until Tuesday to tell the Federal Communications Commission what they intend to do. The only stations that will continue in analog until the final deadline of June 12 are KODE and KFJX in Joplin and KYTV in Springfield.

Two stations, KOAM in the Joplin/Pittsburg market and KSPR in Springfield have already gone all-digital.

On March 31, according to the FCC, public television stations KOZK in Springfield and KOZJ in Joplin will make the switch. Following on April 16 will be KOLR and KSFX in Springfield and KSNF in Joplin.

Gannett execs receive nearly $2 million in bonuses

The Tucson Citizen will print its last edition soon, and all Gannett employees are being forced to take a one-week unpaid furlough sometime during this quarter, but that is not preventing the company from awarding its five top executives, including CEO Craig Dubow, nearly $2 million in bonuses.

The company spent several paragraphs in a proxy statement filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission explaining why the officials should receive the bonuses, and why Dubow should receive a $1 million annual salary.

Some of the excuses offered included:

Mr. Dubow’s minimum annual base salary under his employment contract is $1.2 million. The Committee honored Mr. Dubow’s request to voluntarily reduce his annual base salary to $1 million beginning November 1, 2008 and continuing through 2009. Mr. Dubow has not received a salary increase since January 2006. Ms. Martore’s salary is the minimum amount payable under her employment contract and she has not received a salary increase since April 2006. The Committee also accepted Mr. Dubow’s proposal that Company and divisional officers, including all NEOs, would not receive base salary increases in 2009. The Committee agreed with management that these salary actions were appropriate in light of the challenges facing the Company’s businesses, including recessions in the U.S. and the U.K. and their impact on advertising demand, the decline generally in equity values and specifically the Company’s stock price.

And this one, which blames the economy and not the executives for the company's financial problems:

All NEOs participate in our annual Executive Incentive Compensation Program (EICP), which offers incentive opportunity linked to attainment of the Company’s annual financial and qualitative performance goals and each executive’s individual performance goals set at the beginning of the year. The Committee does not rely on any one particular objective, formula or financial metric in determining appropriate short-term incentives, but rather on what we consider to be value-added quantitative and qualitative goals in furtherance of our compensation principles. No NEO is guaranteed an award and, if performance is unsatisfactory, no bonus is paid under the EICP.

The financial performance measures considered by the Committee include total revenues, operating income, net income, net income from continuing operations, earnings per share, return on equity, operating cash flow, net income as a percent of sales, dividends per share, dividend payout ratio, weighted average cost of capital, debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, stock price and market value, although no one measure is given greater weight than the others. The Committee selected these financial measures because it considers them to be broad enough to capture the most significant financial aspects of an organization as large as ours yet also focused enough to represent the financial measures that we believe drive our financial success. The Committee also evaluated the Company’s progress toward the goals of its strategic plan, as well as the achievement of qualitative goals including leadership in defending the First Amendment, promoting an ethical Company work environment and diverse workforce, and maintaining its reputation as a good corporate citizen of the local, national and international communities in which it does business. Individual performance goals include, where appropriate, revenue and operating income goals for the respective divisions and functions over which each NEO has operational or overall responsibility, new products and programs in support of the Company’s strategic plan, leadership and diversity initiatives, First Amendment activities, and other significant qualitative objectives. The Committee also considered bonus guidelines for our NEOs developed by senior management. These guideline amounts are generally divided by salary grade level and take into account, for each salary grade, the nature and responsibility of the positions at that grade, internal equity between salary grades, the guideline amounts for the preceding year, and the funds available for bonuses.

Our Company’s stock price performance in 2008 deeply disappointed all of our shareholders, the Board and management included. Each Company director saw his or her investment in Company stock fall dramatically in 2008. Each member of Company management, including each NEO, was personally and significantly impacted by the decline in our stock price. As a result of a combination of the Committee’s executive compensation policies—paying a substantial portion of NEO compensation in the form of Company stock, paying 25% of NEO bonuses in past years in the form of Company stock, and through stock ownership guidelines requiring each NEO to retain Company stock notwithstanding the decline in stock price—each NEO has a large percentage of his or her personal net worth tied to our Company’s stock price. None of the stock options our NEOs received during the last eight years currently have any value. The RSUs our NEOs received since 2005 have experienced a decline in value the Committee did not and could not anticipate when those awards were made. Each of us on the Board and in management understands, profoundly, the disappointment in our stock price performance experienced by our shareholders.

The Board recognizes, however, that much of the downward pressure on the Company’s stock price reflected the recessionary conditions in 2008 across the U.S., in the U.K., and around the globe as well as secular forces affecting our industry. President Obama and others have described current economic conditions as the worst since the Great Depression. The Dow Jones Industrial stock index declined 33.8% in 2008; the S&P 500 stock index declined 38.5%. Moreover, these recessionary pressures disproportionately impacted our Company in 2008. Our key advertising categories—automotive, employment and real estate—from which the Company derives much of its revenue and profit, declined earlier, faster and deeper than other sectors of the economy. Notwithstanding the geographical diversity of our operations, the Company’s footprint, particularly in Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada and in specific markets such as Ft. Myers, Brevard, Phoenix, Detroit and Honolulu, overlaps to a great extent with the areas of our country most impacted by the recession. The U.K. economy fell precipitously in the second half of 2008, while the value of the British Pound declined in terms of U.S. dollars. At the same time, the competition of alternative advertising outlets, particularly the continuing migration of traditional advertising dollars from print and broadcast media to the Internet, combined with the recessionary economy to put unprecedented pressure on the Company’s businesses in 2008. Based on current forecasts, 2009 is shaping up to be as difficult, if not more so, than 2008.

After all of that buildup, accomplishments were listed to justify the bonuses:

The Committee considered the following accomplishments by the Company and its management team in 2008 in reaching its NEO bonus decisions:

Financial performance:

Earnings per share (diluted): $3.61 (excluding restructuring costs of $.34 per share and asset impairment and other charges of $32.38 per share)

Operating cash flow: $1.6 billion (representing operating loss reduced by restructuring costs of $119 million and depreciation, intangible asset amortization, asset impairment and other charges included in operations)

Operating margin: 19.7% (determined by dividing operating loss reduced by restructuring costs of $119 million and asset impairment and other charges included in operations, by total revenues)

These financial results were among the best in our industry despite a very difficult economy.

The impairment charges taken in 2008 did not affect the Company’s cash position or its ability to conduct its business.

The Company successfully weathered our country’s credit crisis—we successfully funded $1.9 billion from our revolving credit facilities to pay off our outstanding commercial paper after liquidity in the commercial paper market ceased to exist; renegotiated our revolving credit facilities to provide additional financial flexibility going forward; and reduced debt to $3.8 billion while making key acquisitions and investments.

The Company achieved substantial expense reductions, including significant headcount reductions, the pension freeze, centralization and consolidation efforts.

The Company balanced its cost structure while re-positioning for growth once the economy turns around.


The Company experienced many successes on the digital front:

We hired Chris Saridakis as our Chief Digital Officer;

Through our Digital Ventures group, led by Jack Williams, we increased our ownership and assumed control of CareerBuilder and ShopLocal, allowing us to fully consolidate their results into the Company’s financial statements;

ShopLocal is now profitable after pairing it with PointRoll;

We acquired, invested and/or expanded our digital businesses including Moms Like Me; Mogulus; Metromix; Ripple6; and quadrantOne.

In our new Digital segment, pro forma revenues were $689 million in 2008. When added with revenues from Web sites associated with our Publishing and Broadcast operations, our pro forma online revenues surpassed $1 billion.


Employee performance throughout the Company generally has been excellent, notwithstanding the tremendous pressure exerted by the recessionary economy.

The bonus pool reduction is tiered to minimize impact on lower paid management employees.

The Committee wants to reward and send a positive message to key employees who are driving our transformation.

Mr. Dubow voluntarily reduced his annual base salary by 17% beginning November 1, 2008 and continuing through 2009. Mr. Dubow and Ms. Martore have not accepted salary increases since 2006. Our other NEOs have voluntarily frozen their salaries in 2009. The Committee carefully considered whether it also would be appropriate not to grant any NEO bonuses for 2008. The Committee determined, however, in light of the factors described above, that granting no bonuses for 2008 would not be appropriate given all our NEOs and other management accomplished in 2008. Instead, the Committee granted NEO bonuses for 2008 approximately 50% lower than those it approved for 2007, with actual awards varying from that guideline percentage based on its assessment of individual performance (and adjusted for a promotion in the case of Mr. Dickey and as new hires in the case of Mr. Lougee and Mr. Saridakis). The Committee also approved a 2008 bonus pool approximately 10-20% lower than the 2007 bonus pool for other management at the Company’s corporate headquarters and its operating units, with actual bonuses again varying by individual performance.

The top bonus goes to Dubow, who will receive $875,000. The other four officials will receive $300,000, $270,000, $245,000, and $260,000, respectively.

During the past few years, Gannett has not only shut down the Tucson Citizens, but it has also gutted its other newspapers, including the Springfield News-Leader. That, of course, calls for $2 million in bonuses. Is it any wonder our economy is in bad shape when it is these kind of people that companies consider indispensable?


Ruling allows moment of silence in Texas schools

The media has almost completely ignored a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Monday that upheld a Texas law that mandates a one minute period of silence at the beginning of each school day. Apparently, anything that smacks of faith in schools is a joke to many of those who make decisions about what news we read in our newspapers or see on network television programs.

I addressed the court ruling in my Newton County News column this week. It is reprinted below:

You can pray in school.

That is an absolute certainty. Every student, teacher, and anyone else who is involved in the day-to-day activities at any public school can take solace in their faith. What our courts have ruled cannot be done is for a teacher or principal to lead students in prayer or to have an administrator or a board of education require that a prayer be said.

Our national media has almost completely overlooked an appellate court ruling Monday that clarifies another gray area in that wall.

Opponents of prayer in school have done their best to remove any semblance of religion. They have fought against the use of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. They have gone to the mats to stop students from offering their own prayers as part of graduation services. They have even fought the offering of prayer at football games, as if in some way these uses of prayer threatened the very existence of the United States of America.

On Monday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals backed a Texas law that provides for “one minute of silence” following the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. During that time, the law says:

Each student may, as the student chooses, reflect, pray, or meditate., or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student. Each teacher or other school employee in charge of students during that period shall ensure that each of those studentsremains silent and does not act in a manner that is likely tointerfere with or distract another student.

Though the court’s decision notes it is obvious, that Sen. Jeff Wentworth, who wrote this law, wanted to provide a pathway for students to pray (a pathway which they already had), it clearly offers students alternatives as long as they stay quiet. And since when is there anything wrong with that?

The court opinion acknowledged Wentworth’s motive of bringing prayer to the school, but noted:

“Some legislators may have religious motives, but that alone does not invalidate an act with an otherwise secular legislative purpose.”

The opinion also features this thought:

“Long ago, the Supreme Court found that the ‘daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, or even the observance of a moment of reverent silence at the opening of class, may . . . serve the solely secular purposes of the devotional activities without jeopardizing either the religious liberties of any members of
the community or the proper degree of separation between the spheres of religion and government.’ “

The couple who challenged the Texas law, David and Shannon Croft, claimed their children’s constitutional rights were being violated by the law. The word “pray” in the law was cited in their efforts to have the law stricken, as their lawyer claimed its intent was to indoctrinate students in Protestant Christianity. The three-judge panel did not buy that argument, as its opinion clearly states:

There is nothing in the record to suggest that the primary effect of the 2003 Amendments is to advance Protestant Christianity. The statute is facially neutral between religious and non-religious activities that students can choose to engage in during the moment of silence. Nor does the word “pray” by itself connote an endorsement of Protestant Christianity.

As another example of the ills of today’s society, David and Shannon Croft did not make a single effort to contact their legislators or school officials about the law. They hired a lawyer and went directly to court.

Hopefully, our nation is getting beyond the point where we allow a small handful of people like the Crofts to set the rules for everyone else. While no one should ever coerce students into prayer, the idea of any school without a trace of religion should frighten all of us.

Public defender appears for accused Lamar Catholic Church arsonist

Public defender Joseph Zuzul filed an entry of appearance Monday in Barton County Circuit Court to represent John Franklin Manco, who is accused of burning St. Mary's Catholic Church in Lamar Feb. 8.

Manco faces felony charges of burglary and arson.

His arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 24, before Judge Charles Curless.

Hardin deposition set in libel suit against Roe

Lawyers for St. Charles County Councilman Joe Brazil will take a deposition from William "Buddy" Hardin, a St. Charles Republican operative, as Brazil and his lawyer continue gathering evidence in their libel suit against blogger Jeff Roe, the former chief of staff for Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves and the architect of numerous political campaigns.

Hardin admitted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it was he who provided Roe with information about a fatality accident in Brazil's past just prior to the 2006 Republican primary in which Brazil was running against Roe's favored candidate Scott Rupp for state senate. Rupp won the election easily.

Hardin told the Post-Dispatch that Brazil's lawsuit was "a joke."

The lawsuit was first revealed by The Turner Report and the O'Fallon Watchdog on March 30, 2007.

Roe's first attack, in the August 1, 2006, Source, read like this:

Then Senator Jon Dolan was phoned many times by Brazil’s constituents as they complained about a “drunk and rowdy crowd” at the New Melle Festival. Imagine the shock when Dolan came to find out that Brazil was the ringleader of the drunken ruffians. But Party Boy Brazil’s escapades don’t stop there. During one of his golf events, Brazil allowed women in attendance to discard their clothing and go topless.

Is this what Missouri needs in one of its Senators? The Source thinks not. Perhaps Joe Brazil should examine his own past before he attempts to disguise himself as a Republican. Brazil has no business even thinking about running a campaign against incumbent Scott Rupp. Rupp is what Missouri needs in the State Senate. He is a responsible, strong, family man who Brazil could learn a lot from.

The second attack, three days later, was the one which caused Brazil to tell First Capital News "He (Roe) told lies, misrepresented facts and brought up an incident that happened when I was 18 years old and then lied about it,"

In his Aug. 4 post, Roe wrote:

According to, in 1982, Brazil was attempting to pull off a senior class prank at McCluer North High School in Florissant, Missouri. Brazil plan was to deposit thousands of pounds of sand into the school’s faculty parking lot. Brazil even owned a dump truck that could be used to aid in the prank.

After quite a few beers, Brazil and his buddies loaded up the dump truck with sand and drove to the school. One of Brazil’s friends, Norval Pierce sat on top of the bed of the truck while Brazil dumped the sand. Brazil drove slowly while dumping attempting to adequately spread the sand in the parking lot. As Brazil was driving the truck jumped forward, throwing Pierce through the frame of the truck. Not realizing what had happened, Brazil continued to drive while drunk and dumping sand. Brazil proceeded to crush Pierce under the truck.

So now we have another instance of Brazil’s irresponsibility and not owning up to his mistakes. What else do we need to know Joe?

Nowhere did Roe mention that the official police reports called it an accident and did not lay any of the blame on Brazil.

The posts remained on The Source until January 2008, when The Turner Report noted:

All of Roe's archives, with the exception of the past three months, have been removed from the website. Fired Up Missouri notes that both Roe's blog, and the GOP blog, The Pulse, written by John Hancock, either changed (in the case of the Pulse) or removed (in the case of The Source) potentially libelous materials concerning Scott Eckersley, Gov. Matt Blunt's attorney, who was fired during the recent controversy over destruction of e-mail messages.
But the attacks on Roe are among the wealth of other material that no longer is accessible to the public, at least at this time.

No date has been set for a trial.

Empire District Electric CEO received $928,271 in 2008

Empire District Electric Company CEO William Gipson made $928,271 in 2008, according to a proxy statement filed earlier this month with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Gipson's base salary was $315,000, according to the statement. He also received $191,433 in stock awards, $209,627 in "non-equity incentive plan compensation," $289,244 in "change in pension value and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings," and $9,391 in "all other compensation."

Gipson's pay package has increased more than $150,000 in the past two years.

His pay could skyrocket if Empire ever has a change of ownership and the new owners give him the boot. According to the proxy statement, that scenario would give Gipson a severance package worth $2,921,470. That amount would include $1,316,317 in severance pay, a bonus of $209,627, dividend equivalents worth $179,200, $129,653 in performance-based restricted stock, $35,936 for continued benefits, $673,445 for excise tax and related gross-up, and $377,472 for "enhanced retirement benefits."

Top Springfield bloggers honored

Life of Jason captured five Blogaronis as the top blogs in the Springfield area were honored Monday night.

Jason Wert's blog won in the categories of best special event coverage, best news blog, best local coverage blog, blog of the year, and blog post of the year.

Other blogs winning awards included Desdinova Super Villain of the Ozarks, Go Magazine, Ozark Photos, Simple Thoughts of a Complex Mind, KSPR Weather Blog, OzarksSports.Net, KY3 Political Notebook, Michelle Sherwood, and Crime Scene.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Muschany lawyer asks for judge to decide sentence if client is found guilty

With only three days to go before his client stands trial on sex charges, James Deutsch, attorney for former Rep. Scott Muschany, R-Frontenac, filed a motion asking the judge to sentence Muschany if Muschany is found guilty.

Muschany is charged with felony deviate sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl, as well as a misdemeanor charge of sexual misconduct, alluding to an incident in which he allegedly exposed himself to the same girl, who was the daughter of a state employee. The crimes allegedly took place May 18, the last day of the 2008 legislative session.

Missouri Democratic Committee rakes in $20,000 in oversized contributions

The Missouri State Democratic Committee received two $10,000 contributions today.

Documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission indicate the committee picked up $10,000 contributions from Long Term Care Leadership PAC, Jefferson City; and Charter Communications, St. Louis.

Former Newton County prosecutor no longer a lobbyist

Former Newton County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Watson is no longer in the lobbying business.

Watson, who has been representing St. John's, filed papers with the Missouri Ethics Commission March 5 indicating he is no longer a lobbyist.

Steve Hunter forms committee for statewide office

As of Feb. 9, Grassroots for Hunter is open for business once more.

Former 127th District State Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, filed documentation with the Missouri Ethics Commission that day, indicating he intends to seek "statewide office" in August 2010. That does not necessarily mean Hunter, who served four terms in the House, is actually going to run for anything, but it does allow him to raise funds. The treasurer for the committee is Hunter's wife, Rita, the former Jasper County public administrator.

Steve Hunter is now a registered lobbyist.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Other CNHI newspapers write about furloughs, but not Joplin Globe

Every time I write about the Joplin Globe's failure to write about firings or furloughs ordered by its corporate bosses at Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (CNHI), I hear from those who say the Globe is not allowed to do so because of company policy.

Unless I have missed it, the Globe has still not addressed the company-wide furloughs ordered by CNHI executives. But other CNHI newspapers have leveled with their readers.

In an editorial, the Plattsburgh Press Republican wrote:

As for this paper, you've read recently that we've had to impose a few unpaid days off on our own staff. Each employee will take five days off without pay during the next quarter. That has far less to do with our own profit and loss than our parent company's. We're owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. of Birmingham, Ala. CNHI is doing well through the recession, but, with almost 100 daily papers, reaching into every corner of the nation, it has disparate properties with disparate economic conditions.

All CNHI papers are being asked to share the cautions required for some. Thus, though the Press-Republican is stable as it stands on the northern edge of New York state, it must contribute some of its bounty to the family. We do it happily for the group, particularly since it staves off the prospect of layoffs, which would be painful for all of us.

It's important for everyone to know the status of their local newspaper, as one of a community's benchmarks and leaders.

Apparently, it's only important for Plattsburgh readers to know about their papers, not Joplin readers.

The Richmond Register in Kentucky was also straightforward about the situation, headlining its article "CNHI employees to take unpaid furloughs."

“The recession continues to negatively impact businesses across the country, including those we rely on for advertising revenue,” said Donna Barrett, CEO of CNHI, in a company-wide memo. “Until we see meaningful recovery in the economy, we must reduce expenses while maintaining our ability to serve our customers and readers. We believe we have found a solution that should help us avoid future staff reductions.”

Employees at the Richmond Register, and all CNHI organizations, will be required to take off five days without pay between April 1 and June 30.

If the Joplin Globe is going to maintain credibility as a source for the all-important news that affects our local economy, it cannot do so by focusing on everyone else's problems and sugarcoating its own.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Another Natural Disaster video

It has been a while since I have posted a Natural Disaster video, so here is our show opener from our Nov. 15 performance at a benefit at South Middle School in Joplin, with Richard Taylor playing lead guitar, Tracy Minear on bass, Tony Marsh on drums, and with me allegedly doing vocals.

Our next show is scheduled for April 25 at the East Newton High School Reunion:

Checking out my new home

I am still having trouble getting used to the idea that in less than three months I will no longer be a South Middle School teacher.

That title has been a huge part of my identity for the past six years, and it is a title I carry with pride. But that will all come to an end June 1 when the 2008-2009 school year comes to a close. On that day, I will turn in my key, and make sure my belongings are all boxed and ready to be moved to East Middle School.

After parent-teacher conferences Friday, the SMS staff toured East Middle School, the first time we had been there since the lion's share of the construction was completed.

There is no other way to say it- We were stunned. We knew things were going to be far bigger and better than in our little school, but we had no idea how much better.

When Lara Stamper, our sixth grade science and drama teacher saw her science room for the first time, the tears began to flow. If she hadn't already seen the science room, the same thing would have happened when she saw her drama classroom a few moments later. "My science room was a little overwhelming," she said.

We began our tour in the office, then we looked at an ISS room that is not located in what we lovingly call "the dungeon." The thoroughly modern lockers that line the hallways will be a vast improvement over the haphazard collection we have now. It will be a welcome change to have lockers that work.

The classrooms are far bigger and have room for all of our books, though they will be in cabinets and not on shelves. (Believe me, I am not complaining.)

For the first time, our students will have a gymnasium and it is gargantuan, compared to the combination gym/stage we have now. There is enough room to hold two physical education classes, and we will actually be able to have volleyball and basketball games here.

The auditorium is state of the art with speakers galore. No longer we will have to suffer all summer with the muddy audio when the end-of-school talent show is aired repeatedly on Jet 14.

My favorite part of the tour was watching my fellow staff members react to each new revelation. Lara had exactly the right word; it was overwhelming. Joyce Wall pretty much said it for everyone:

"I never believed in my life that I would be working in a brand-new school like this."

(The video shows construction taking place in the auditorium as the tour continues.)