In a number of posts over the past couple of months, I have written about the trips Seventh District Congressman Billy Long has taken to Las Vegas (at least five, four of them paid for from his campaign account and the fifth by a special interest group).
Of the two largest newspapers in the Seventh District, one, the Joplin Globe, has totally ignored the story. The other, the Springfield News-Leader, took the lazy way out, reporting on it, but making it seem like it was just another political argument, in this case with two bloggers, Jim Lee of BusPlunge and me, against Billy Long.
There was a time, not too long ago, when the News-Leader might have shown more backbone and pursued this story, which at the least shows a highly questionable use of campaign funds and most, shows an illegal use of those funds.
Those glory days have passed as Gannett, which owns the News-Leader, has shown a preference for fluff over substance. That preference was spelled out today in an article describing five reporters hired by the newspaper over the past three months.
The News-Leader touts the fact that new hire Thomas Gourley created a fake Twitter account for a university president that had more followers than the university president's real account. Certainly that inspires confidence in his ability to bring the Springfield area the news. Even better, the newspaper thought it was important to emphasize that he joggled (juggling while running) the Boston Marathon.
And while Gourley's biography emphasized more trivia than the those of the other four hires, none of them had me expecting that the News-Leader is embarking on a new path that will lead its readers to actually finding more news and reaching a better understanding of the issues that affect them in their everyday lives.
All of the hires are from the technology side of journalism. There is nothing wrong with that, considering that stories have to be told in different ways in this new digital age. The only problem is that the stories that are being emphasized, according to this account, include "Hey Mom," described as a section of the newspaper for busy moms, running a high school football chat, and serving as the "social voice" for the newspaper's Facebook and Twitter pages.
And so continues the third largest newspaper in the state's march to irrelevance.