Saturday, November 10, 2012

The trouble with the Joplin Globe

The work that the staff at the Joplin Globe has done since the May 22, 2011, tornado has been remarkable and it has been honored via various local, regional, and national awards.

There was even a time when the Globe was mentioned as a possible Pulitzer Prize contender for its tornado coverage.

Now that nearly a year and a half has passed since the event that changed this city forever, it is possible to take a more realistic look at the Joplin Globe. While the tornado gave the staff an opportunity to show its resilience in the wake of a tragedy that killed one of its own and caused others to lose their homes, it has also exposed  glaring weaknesses in the newspaper.

I have written about some of these in the past.

-The Globe provided sparse coverage of the manner in which Bruce Speck became president of Missouri Southern State University. Let us not forget that Speck was the only candidate interviewed for the position and, at this writing, the Globe has never mentioned the problems, including accusations of racial bias, that hounded Speck at his previous employer, Austin Peay University. This lack of coverage was compounded when a Globe reporter began actively pursuing stories about the problems at the university and was shut down by Publisher Michael Beatty, who not only had the reporter moved to a different beat, but sent an e-mail to Speck outlining positive stories the newspaper wanted to run about the university, and advised Speck on how to handle those pesky media people. There is nothing wrong with covering positive stories about Missouri Southern State University; it should be done- in conjunction with the uncomfortable stories that are bound to come up from time to time.

-The Globe’s obituaries policy, which pretty much relegates people to second class  status unless they have money. The downward spiral the Globe (and many other newspapers) has been on for the past two decades started with this decision to start milking money from grieving families. The same thing has happened to other items of record that have always attracted readers to newspapers- weddings, engagements, anniversaries, etc. They are only included if you have the money to pay for them, thus eliminating the type of news items that used to keep loyal subscribers even in tough economic times. When the Globe and its out-of-state owners decided that news wasn’t news any more, it eliminated the reason many people took the newspaper.

-A disdain for Joplin news- I will never forget former Globe Publisher Dan Chiodo’s reasoning for starting the free Joplin News Herald a few years back- there wasn’t enough room in the newspaper for Joplin news. Of course, the News Herald was just a way for the Globe to blunt GateHouse Media’s ill-conceived Joplin Daily startup. After the Daily bit the dust, it suddenly wasn’t necessary to provide a vehicle for Joplin news any more. That’s the way things work when you don’t have competition.

-It’s always regional. The Globe apparently doesn’t allow many stories about something good or bad going on in Joplin without making sure that the same story is being covered for Webb City, Carl Junction, Neosho, and whatever other communities it can add. Sometimes, more space is devoted to these other communities. The Globe often forgets that while it is the area’s paper of record, it is also the Joplin Globe. Apparently, that forgetfulness is not an accident since the newspaper’s flag features a large “Globe” and a small “Joplin”  (which is probably just there to keep anyone from complaining).

-Back to Missouri Southern for a moment- Newspapers should always be the chief  defenders of the First Amendment, but the Globe did not back the students at The Chart during their First Amendment clashes with Bruce Speck. It also offered no coverage of the dismissal of advisor T. R. Hanrahan, definitely a First Amendment story if I have ever seen one. The Globe stood silent. Not one editorial backing the Chart, not one news story digging into the dismissal of Hanrahan.

In the months since the tornado, I have written only a small amount of criticism of the Joplin Globe, realizing that the newspaper, like the rest of Joplin, has been going through the recovery process. I probably should have been writing more because the Globe’s problems are continuing to multiply.


The Globe has done an excellent job with feature stories about the tornado and veteran reporter Wally Kennedy has provided solid coverage of what is happening with the city’s businesses.

Where is the digging into how money is being spent in the city since the tornado? The Globe did a good series several months ago, allowing officials to explain where the money is being spent, but why has the newspaper not been exploring 990 forms to see how foundations and charitable organizations are distributing money. What percentage is going to those in need and how much is going toward salaries and expenses. I am not saying there is any scandal, but even a reassuring story on how the money is being spent serves the public good.

Joplin taxpayers also need more in-depth coverage of how money is being spent by the city and school.

One glaring weakness of the Joplin Globe was exposed in the days and months after the tornado. The newspaper has no one with the writing skill that would have enabled the newspaper to become the one indispensable voice in covering the tornado, instead of one of many.

No offense intended, but Mike Pound is not Mike Royko, never has been, never will be. While he has a devoted readership, I am sure, the newspaper needed someone with the ability to speak to the heart of the city and to be the mirror of the city to the world. Mike Pound does not have that ability. If you are going to devote a section of your newspaper to a columnist on a daily basis, that columnist has to be a must read.  The post-tornado time was the first opportunity we had to see if Mike Pound could rise to the occasion. It did not happen.

The small blurb at the end of Pound’s daily columns spells out the biggest problem he has. “Do you have an idea for Mike Pound’s column?” It is becoming more and more obvious that he doesn’t.

And there was no one else who could take up the slack. That is not Editor Carol Stark’s strong point; Beatty is a company hack, and if any of the other reporters has the ability to become the voice of the community, they have never been given the opportunity and most likely never will be.


The Globe recently published a special section detailing achievements in area schools. I was amazed to see that half of the section was devoted to Thomas Jefferson, College Heights, and the Joplin Area Catholic Schools. Even the half that was set aside for the Joplin public schools featured a page about Thomas Jefferson. That was most likely a kiss-up for the big advertisers who send their children to Thomas Jefferson, but the Joplin public schools have greater enrollment by far than the other schools combined. Again, your highest potential readership is among the parents of children attending public schools. I don’t say that because I work for Joplin Schools, I say it because it is a matter of simple arithmetic. It is a continuation of that same policy that has hurt the Globe since it started charging for weddings, obituaries, engagements, and anniversaries. If you have money, you are more worthy of coverage.

The Globe also has made a habit, as many newspapers do, of putting its newest and most inexperienced reporters on the education beat, a practice that is shortsighted since education stories affect more readers than almost anything else a newspaper covers. Many of those reporters have done well, but often their lack of experience and lack of knowledge of who the players are and where they can find information that might not be available though the traditional sources is telling.


Nothing spelled out more clearly the Globe’s inability to feel the pulse of the community than its ill-fated attempt to add local bloggers. Judging from how they were used, the idea behind the bloggers was to draw readers to the Globe’s website and to give the newspaper some local flavor on its opinion pages. Instead of looking for the best writers, the Globe apparently sought people who fit some preconceived notion of what the editors thought the political discussion in the community was. Only they never wrote about the community; it was always either the Fox News Channel talking points, or in the case of one lone blogger, the anti-Fox News Channel talking points. Why should people go to the Joplin Globe for warmed over repeats of the same things they have heard on Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity the day before?

Come to think of it, they didn’t. Most of the comments on those blogs were made by the bloggers themselves as they argued or agreed with each other. The Globe would have been better off just finding good writers and telling them to write about what interested them. Having an opinion does not make you a good columnist or blogger, especially if it is the same opinion already expressed by someone who does it better.

That is just a partial list of the problems I see with the Joplin Globe.

A couple of weeks ago, I said I would reveal my blueprint for how a competitor could challenge the Joplin Globe. I will provide that tomorrow. (That blueprint has now been provided at this link.)

I await your comments.


Turner knows best!!!??? . said...

Turner has all sorts of notions as to how he would run the Joplin Globe based upon his own vast knowledge of how to run a newspaper based upon Turner's getting fired . . . for cause.

Turner's main complaint involves how Bruce Speck runs MSSU. The fact of the matter is that Bruce Speck runs this regional college the way the Board of Governors tells him how to run it in an age of declining tax revenues. Speck takes the heat from the ignorant and is duly rewarded with a renewal of his contract. Whether or not Speck is politically correct enough to suit Turner doesn't seem to mean too awfully much from Speck's bosses.

That some reporters don't measure up to Turner's standards means . . . well, again nothing much. Turner got fired for cause and these reporters still have their jobs. Maybe they know how to please the management of the Globe as well as the readers of the Globe.

I really don't have too much concern over what the Globe publishes because I don't pay anything to read the Globe. I'm sure that if I did read the Globe that I would find it as silly and as hypocritically bogus as Randy Turner, but then again, maybe not.

You see, in an Internet age, you no longer have to pay out good money in order to be lied to. That's why I no longer bother to read newspapers or magazines, one of which recently announced that they were no longer printing their beliefs on dead trees. Instead, I turn my attention to MSNBC sometimes and then over to Fox News on others. That way I can gauge for myself a position in the middle of these liars with their own agendas.

However, I'm waiting with baited breath to hear how Turner thinks he can run the local 'news railroad' better and am hoping that Turner will get out of public education and back into a profession in which we can reject him all over again.

Anonymous said...

The previous writer states that his news sources are MSNBC and Fox News, not PBS or any other credible source, but still reads and comments on The Turner Report even though he apparently has access to personnel files to determine the author was "dismissed with cause" and hypocritically still enjoys reading the blog. The Joplin Globe is not a steward of the community, as the editor apologized to me when I asked her to do her job and report on the city overstepping its bounds relating to properties damaged by the tornado. The Glob paints Southern and the City of Joplin in glowing comments, and has no reporters that will tell what is actually happening lest they be terminated "for cause", and don't get me started on Mike Pound, although I'm sure he is a fine fellow, reporter he is not. If you want to know what the majority of Southern alumni and students think on Bruce Speck and the Bored of Governors, just read the Southern Watch blog. When Randy is proven right on the Master Developer in Joplin and the shadowy development entities being formed, I hope you are man enough to apologize!

This is How the Globe Treats Me said...

I have been a Joplin Globe subscriber for over 40 years. Every time it rains, such as today, my paper is completely soaked because the carrier never ties up the open end of the bag. I just simply sigh and lay out the sections on the floor so that they can dry. Tonight, I should be able to read my paper although some of the sections may be so brittle that they will crack when I turn the pages.

Man enough to not apologise said...

As mentioned before, I don't much read the Joplin Globe. I make no excuses for it whatsoever. Only a point that Turner is no better a source for news if you value a [non-existent] 'objectivity.'

Insofar as Turner's manifest limitations as an editor and reporter, Turner's blog makes these failings quite clear. If you were able to read and think, Anonymous 513am, as opposed to uncritically worship Turner, then you would know as much.

I freely admit that I read a number of liars and idiots, including Turner, to come to my own determination of roughly wherein lies the truth. If 'anonymous 513 am wishes to worship at the clay feet of Turner, then so be it. I make no apology to someone with delusions of adequacy proposing to run the media asylum on the basis of being involuntary discharged from it with the approval of most, i.e. Turner.

I'll grant that the local news isn't critical enough of how the local 'good ol' boys' network has played favorites in the aftermath of the tornado. However, honest poor people shouldn't live in Joplin and should move on to other places. The tornado hit a number of houses which no longer were much valued and living in Joplin isn't what anyone with dollars or sense should aspire to doing, in my opinion.

There ought to be some place wherein 'liberal' idiots could live -- like Camden New Jersey or East St. Louis, or Compton Mexifornia -- wherein they could be mugged by reality, among other denizens and get all their news from an [in]credible source as PBS and scream to classical muzak after NPR tells them that the future is so bright that they gotta wear shades.

And to "How the Globe Treats Me" I could relate if I read the dead-tree edition but I don't. You have a computer because you know how to complain in a web-log. Have you ever thought of reading the local lie-paper online? I take it that you didn't read about why most readers no longer read liepapers. Have you ever thought of applying that standard to those who can't even provide proper service for their mendacious product?

Rick Nichols said...

In response to This is How the Globe Treats Me, I'm sorry to hear that your paper arrived wet but unless your carrier has lots of time in which to get his/her route done, he/she probably isn't going to be tying off the paper. I helped my friend with his KC Star routes earlier today and we were dealing with the same rain problem. He commented along the way that another carrier had tossed subscribers' papers onto the pavement as opposed to the grass, making it more likely that the paper would get wet because the water around it has nowhere to drain to. Excellent observation. It's all I can do to keep up with him just combining the four sections and stuffing them inside the bag, let alone tying it off. Another issue is the size of the bag. The bags he's using, which he has to buy (i.e., The Star doesn't provide them free of charge), aren't really long enough to be tied off. Hope this helps, although it's of little consolation when the paper arrives wet or even damp.

Anonymous said...

Randy seems to have a secret admirer. I mean who else would take their time to slam him at every opportunity hoping to incite a response? Nothing more than a troll full of ad hominem insults with nothing constructive to offer to the discussion except his ignorance. Wow. What a man. And anonymous at that. I don't post anonymously because I love tossing insults, but because it might impact my employment. You see, I work for MSSU and as most employees are, I'm constantly in fear for my job.

Randy is right about Speck. The faculty voted no confidence 140-44. Overwhelming. The Board of Governors didn't care because they are just as incompetent. Dwight used to steer them (in the course of destroying MSSU), but no longer. Members have no clue as to higher education administration. And they do direct Speck like the puppet he is because he has no vision for the institution and neither do they. Speck is the personification of the Peter Principle. Someone please tell me about his specific accomplishments. I'm dying to know. What initiative(s) did he take? What goal did he set that wasn't set first by a consultant for $$$? What results has he achieved? Please, someone tell me something that Speck has done to make MSSU a better place. What? Please let us know. I'd love to change my opinion of the man. MSSU needs strong, visionary leadership. It doesn't have it now--from the Board of Governors and certainly not from the President. Of course that's my opinion. I could be wrong. Please prove me wrong. Please.