Sunday, June 30, 2013

A fresh start for the Joplin Globe on MSSU coverage?

The two words at the top of the Joplin Globe's page one package on the upcoming changes at Missouri Southern State University- "Fresh Start"- may have a double meaning.

The departure of Bruce Speck as MSSU president offers the Globe an opportunity to recover from one of the darkest periods in its long history.

It was during that time that the newspaper's publisher Michael Beatty said farewell to any type of investigative reporting when he pulled Greg Grisolano off the MSSU beat at a time when Grisolano had been breaking one story after another about the problems the newly-arrived Speck was having.

Beatty not only yanked the troublesome reporter (troublesome to Speck and then MSSU Board of Governors Chairman Dwight Douglas) off the beat, but in an e-mail to the university president, explained how Speck could control media coverage.

Not only that, but the Globe also steered away from what has been a proud tradition of newspapers- supporting the First Amendment. When copies of the campus newspaper, the Chart, were pulled from a job fair because they had coverage that a university official thought was negative, the Globe was silent.

When Chart advisor T. R. Hanrahan lost his job because of the stellar work of his younger reporters, the Globe said nary a word.

The Globe needs a fresh start when it comes to coverage of Missouri Southern State University.
Whether today's articles by Emily Younker represent that fresh start remains to be seen. Ms. Younker started her coverage of one hand tied behind her back. Unlike many reporters who have covered a beat only for a short while, she cannot go through the back files to get caught up on what has happened (unless she goes back through the back files of the Chart, Southern Watch,and the Turner Report). That makes it difficult for any reporter to provide perspective.

That being said, Ms.Younker took an admirable shot at it, using quotes from officials like MSSU's head of the International Program, Chad Stebbins, to fill in the kind of material that normally would have been in a newspaper's archives.

Ms. Younker's accompanying story on Interim President Alan Marble's upcoming first day filled in a lot of the holes and answered questions that readers have been curious about as to how Marble ended up being an assistant to Speck in the first place. It was a solid piece of reporting.

The Globe's education reporter had three bylined stories on page one, including one on the Joplin R-8 School District's decision to install Wi-Fi on some of its activity buses. Of course, that should lead to a follow-up story about the reason why this is needed- the administration's insistence that nearly all high school assignments 1:1 capability. With no textbooks and all assignments needing the laptops, how long will it be before Joplin decides it needs to put Wi-Fi in all buses, if nothing else, just to become the first school around to do so?

The cost of technology will eat up so much of the budget, administration officials might have to consider passing up conferences like the one about a dozen R-8 employees are attending this weekend in Washington, D. C.

No, that won't happen.

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