Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chapter Two: What's wrong with the Joplin Globe?

There have been few times over the past several years that I have read a story in the Joplin Globe and thought, "I wish that had been my story."

But that was exactly what I was thinking when I read the series of stories veteran Globe reporter Susan Redden wrote on the corruption in former Jasper County Public Administrator Rita Hunter's office. It was a superb combination of interviews and digging through the records.

The Globe's problems do not stem from the quality of its reporters. It has a solid core of veterans who have done excellent work in the past and hopefully, will be given the opportunity to do more in the future.

That is why it was so disappointing to look at Monday's print edition and see the use that is being made of these veteran reporters.

I always like it when a newspaper tells me something I didn't know. I certainly did not need to look at page one of our newspaper of record and see "SCORCHING" blazing across the top underneath a photo of a teenager taking a drink of water. The story about the heat wave that has hit this area was written by Susan Redden.

To compound that misuse of talented personnel, an inside story on the heat was written by another of the Globe's best reporters, Debby Woodin.

Those two stories, both of which contained useful information, but should have been handed to more junior reporters, were among only five staff-written articles in Section A and only three of those, including the two weather stories, were about Joplin.

The other Joplin story, buried toward the back of the section, was another veteran reporter, Jeff Lehr's story on a tornado looter pleading guilty.

Staff writer Kevin McClintock offered a story, placed across the bottom of page one, about the Niagara Falls tightrope walker performing in Branson through Aug. 4. The other local story, written by Andra Bryan Stefanoni, was about the upcoming Pittsburg City Commission meeting.

McClintock is an excellent feature writer, but is the Globe so desperate to attract the Branson advertising money, that it is willing to devote valuable manpower to covering something that is not in its reading area?

Even if you accept the argument (and there is some truth to it) that some Globe readers go to Branson for entertainment and want to know what is going on there, how about simply taking the news releases from the Branson entertainment outlets, stamp "From staff reports" on them and print them. That process has certainly been used on many Joplin stories over the past few years.

The Joplin Globe is rapidly squandering the good will that has been headed its way ever since the May 22, 2011, tornado. The decision to close obituaries to online viewers unless they bought a subscription to either the print or E-editions hurt.

What has hurt more has been this turn toward fluff and news-lite during the Michael Beatty era. Since Beatty took the reins, we have seen the spectacle of a publisher telling someone being covered by his staff, Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck, how to manage the news.

We have seen a decided preference for soft news on page one and shorter, less detailed hard news stories often buried elsewhere in the paper.

And these things are happening at a time when Joplin needs a hard-hitting newspaper more than ever. Millions of dollars have come through this area since the tornado. Closer examinations of how that money is being collected and how it is being spent should be a staple of the Globe, not because it is looking for scandal, but because it has to be the watchdog of the people.

This is not the kind of enterprise reporting that can be done by television stations.

The situation in Joplin calls for a newspaper that is willing to offend someone every once in a while, even if that occasionally doesn't sit well with the Joplin high rollers that Beatty seems intent on pleasing.

Comments, anyone?


Anonymous said...

The story about the tightrope walker in Branson sadly is not the first published in the Globe recently that has nothing to do with Joplin or the Globe's coverage area. There was an article earlier this week about the steamboat Arabia museum in Kansas City. These stories are more than poor journalism, they are an insult to local readers because it's like the paper is saying there isn't anything worth doing or covering here at home. It's the same problem with editorials. Maybe 15 percent are editorials about issues in this area, the rest dwell on national and international topics, especially politics. Who knew the Globe had so many foreign policy experts on staff? What it comes down to is the editors and staff have grossly bloated egos because they did their jobs in a time of crisis during the tornado, like they should have, and they have been reeling in "feel good" awards ever since. If I want opinion on what's happening in the middle east or with national politics, I'm not going to the Globe for it. If I want news and opinion on what's happening in the Joplin, then I read the Globe. Or I used to.

Anonymous said...

How many subscriptions were sold in Branson? Free publicity for Branson where a lot of dollars are turned over and charge for reading local on-line Obits, Shame, Shame, Shame!!

Anonymous said...

What can be done about this. How can we change this situation besides not subscribing? They offer nothing to our community and then take away death records. They are a complete joke. Thank you for providing this website.

Anonymous said...

Of course, in years gone by The Star, too, did not charge for obituaries and such, but those days are behind us - at least for the time being. I'd like to see papers charge enough for the display ads and whatever classified ads they get to essentially cover the space normally devoted to obituaries, etc. All of these papers need to be doing as much as possible to get people's names, as many as possible, into the papers on a regular basis. Most people love the recognition and attention. Definitely limit the promotion of out of town attractions by the paper. Joplin needs those dollars spent at home! And keep the publisher's nose out of the news side. If MSSU needs to be investigated, then it needs to be investigated! Well, these are just a few observation from afar. Rick Nichols, Leavenworth, KS

Anonymous said...

I think it appropriate for a reasonable charge to be made for some items of publication. I am not sure but it seems that the cost was put on when firms started to look at "value added" which became a method of putting the cost of doing business on the customer. In some towns local event happening or published in the paper on the same day unless you pay for an ad. For example the Ladies meeting at church or Cub Scout event is of interest to the home town folks and usually not a large money making event with an a budget for a newspaper ad. Investigative reporting is needed in every community I beleive it helps keeps things on the straight and narrow. But also needed as mentioned in Rick Nichols post is name recognition of those everyday folks that want to find the names of their kids and grandkids doing good things.
Hal Weller

Anonymous said...

Tomorrow's Globe editorial will be about the healthcare law, I'm calling it. Carol Stark isn't just a foreign policy expert, but also a constitutional scholar.

Anonymous said...

Called it.