Sunday, December 22, 2013
Joplin Globe: We know what is good for Joplin- you can't handle the truth
The newspaper made no effort to dig into the background of former Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck, opening the door to a five-year nightmare for those who were able to remain employed after Speck had done his damage.
It is not as if it was difficult to find the warning signs. In five minutes of research, I was able to dig up enough to know that the Board of Governors should have interviewed more than one candidate for the position.
The Globe finally got its act together for a brief time and tried to investigate the Speck Administration, then Publisher Michael Beatty and Editor Carol Stark not only pulled off the only reporter who was trying to investigate what was going on at the university, but they even offered Speck advice on how to control the media and offered him ideas of puff pieces they were willing to write for him.
That made the veteran reporters, the ones who know what journalistic ethics are, question just what was happening to their newspaper.
Instead of playing the traditional newspaper role, the Globe was trading its integrity for access and a seat at the table.
The situation with this area's newspaper of record has grown even worse since May 22, 2011.
Since that day, Carol Stark and company have played the role of cheerleader for Joplin city and school officials. Ms. Stark has done everything except put on a skimpy uniform and shake her pom-pons to make sure that neither she nor the Joplin Globe can be accused of standing in the way of what City Administrator Mark Rohr and Joplin R-8 leaders C. J. Huff and Angie Besendorfer see as essential for the success of the governmental bodies they represent.
If something has the imprint of the school district, the city of Joplin, Bright Futures, Rebuild Joplin, or anything of the sort, the newspaper function of shining light to reveal to the public what is happening is shut down, and we are left with the idea that we must put our complete trust in the administrators who have been hired to lead our city and school district and the public-minded citizens who have joined in to boost their efforts.
In the days immediately following the tornado, that instinct was understandable; when two and a half years have passed and the hero worship continues, the newspaper is forsaking its primary responsibility of informing its readers.
Millions of dollars have passed through this city and millions more will be spent before our recovery is complete.
Take the case of the master developer Rebuild Joplin recommended and then Joplin city officials chose to handle the tornado-damaged portion of the city. While the Sugar Land, Texas, firm of Wallace-Bajjali has many accomplishments on its resume, it also has an involvement in two bankruptcies, an SEC investigation, which resulted in $60,000 fines for both David Wallace and Costa Bajjali, and a lawsuit which accuses Wallace-Bajjali of running a pyramid scheme. It has also run into numerous delays with its Amarillo project. With the exception of one paragraph in which the Globe quoted Mark Rohr as having looked into the SEC matter and not having any problem with it, the Globe has simply left the story untouched, as if the truth would somehow be anti-progress, or maybe printing it would cause the Globe to lose its seat at the table.
The coverage of the Joplin R-8 School District has been reprehensible. Michael Beatty, Carol Stark, and company decided early on that C. J. Huff and Angie Besendorfer's version of school progress would be the only one that would be covered in the newspaper.
It seemed like it took forever for the Globe to realize that more than 200 teachers had left the Joplin School District, something that had never happened here before. Then it allowed, apparently without any skeptical follow-up questions, C. J. Huff to blame the mass exodus on spouses finding jobs in other cities.
When R-8 technical department employee Ronny Justin Myers admitted that he had pornographic photos of 10 Joplin High School students on his laptop and it became apparent that Huff had known about this since February and never warned the public, the students, teachers, or even the Board of Education, in nearly every other school district in the United States, this would have been a scandal of epic proportions- a convicted sex criminal had access to Joplin High School students' computers and that fact, and the accompanying invasion of privacy, were simply brushed off by the Globe brain trust, mentioned only in passing when quoting from a news release issued by the U. S. Attorney's office following Myers' sentencing.
There are numerous other examples I could provide about the Globe's coverage of the Joplin School District, but I will limit myself to one.
On the first day of filing for Board of Education offices, Board President Jeff Flowers, former Board President Randy Steele and two other candidates circumvented (violated would be a better word) the rules, used the board members' own keys, something that non--board members obviously would not have, to give themselves the advantage of waiting inside a warm building for the opening of the filing period so their names would go at the top of the ballot.
Five days passed and not one word has been written in the Joplin Globe about this ethical breach. What is the big deal? After all, this is the Joplin Globe's version of Joplin, where a chosen few can choose to ignore the rules, create their own, and read Globe editorials and columns that praise their creativity and criticize those who dare question their policies. Those people, after all, including the ones who did not violate the rules and wait in a warm building for the filing period to begin, are the ones Michael Beatty and Carol Stark see as standing in the way of Joplin's progress.
To reward those who, wittingly or unwittingly, circumvented the rules, the Globe offered considerable space on today's opinion page for one of the candidates who waited inside to introduce himself and tell why he is running for the Board of Education.
It did not hurt, at least from the Globe upper hierarchy's way of thinking, that the candidate's beliefs could just as easily have been written by C. J. Huff or by whomever it is that write's C. J. Huff's words.
I hope the board will offer all other candidates the same amount of space, also in the more heavily read Sunday edition, to introduce themselves
I have sympathy for the hard-working veteran reporters at the Globe who have seen a paper that during the Edgar Simpson days was a tough-talking tiger searching for the truth into the Michael Beatty/Carol Stark version, a toothless tabby that is reluctant to print the truth until their friends in school and city administration have signed off on it.
I have more sympathy for the people of Joplin.