Tuesday, February 10, 2015

From her perch on high, Carol Stark swats away investigative reports

With all of her personal pets floundering, getting fired, being investigated, and making the Joplin Globe look like an impotent shell of its former self, Editor Carol Stark had two choices.

The first choice would have been to remember the first duty of being a newspaper- get the story and get it right.

The Globe has failed miserably when it came to letting the public know about Wallace-Bajjali Development Partners, filling in the public on Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff's out-of-control spending, and letting the readers know that Mark Rohr's bellicose farewell speech to the Joplin City Council, in which he condemned those who voted against him to hell and referred to a good-old-boy network, was nothing new- he had said the same thing everywhere else he had been- something the Joplin Globe had reported back in the days before Carol Stark became editor and the Globe became the mouthpiece for the city's elite, or at least those who picture themselves as the city's elite.

Carol Stark could have made a last effort to right the ship and begin exposing all of the corruption, greed, and naivety that has characterized much of the city and school district's decisions over the past three years.

The other option, apparently the one Stark has embraced, is to bury her head in the sand and have her reporters begin proving that those who are doing actual investigative work are completely wrong and everything is bright and sunny in Joplin.

KOAM's Jordan Aubey landed the scoop that the Joplin Redevelopment Corporation and Rohr had signed off on a $5 million loan from the Springfield-based Prime to Wallace-Bajjali and that Prime may be expecting the city to pay the money back.

KOAM is sticking with that story, as it should, because Aubey had it nailed down. Meanwhile, the Globe, citing Mayor Mike Seibert as its first source, said the city does not owe Prime a cent. Of course, this is the same Mike Seibert, who only a few months ago was telling an Amarillo television station that those who were complaining about none of the Wallace-Bajjali projects getting underway simply did not know anything about development projects.

The Globe article briefly quotes City Manager Sam Anselm, who has modified his story, both to KOAM and the Globe.

I have never known anything involving Wallace-Bajjali to be that simple, but since the Globe did not get the story first, it simply was not a story.

The Globe article also referred to KOAM's story, but did not mention KOAM. "a report done by another news source." That is petty, but predictable.

In today's Globe, two other stories the newspaper has been behind on were buried on an inside page. Anyone with news sense knows that the biggest story to come out of the closed door session the Joplin R-8 Board of Education had Monday was the preparation of the response to the state audit report.

Not according to the Joplin Globe School of Journalism. The top story was that the new football coach, Curtis Jasper, was hired. Of course, we already knew Jasper had accepted the job, so unless he backed away from it, the hiring was a formality and not much of a news story.

All of the page one portion of the board story was about Jasper's hiring. The audit had to wait for the page eight jump. Even then, it was relegated to three short paragraphs, including a C. J. Huff quote that did not make it clear whether Huff thought the audit report or the board's response to it was "insightful."

After that, the remainder of the article was devoted to a subject that was not even discussed in the board meeting- the settlement of former custodial supervisor George Morris' sexual harassment lawsuit against buildings program director Mike Johnson and the school district.

Huff told reporter Emily Younker that legal matters were discussed during the closed session, but not the Morris lawsuit, which the Turner Report has followed for the past couple of years (or since I could write about lawsuits against the school district).

This was the first time the Globe has even acknowledged that the lawsuit existed- and it was filed five years ago.

It has to be a difficult time for the Joplin Globe when investigative stories, whether they come from KOAM, the Turner Report, or other sources, are driving the news cycle.

Many of the stories that are finally coming to light have been there for years, waiting for the Globe to remember the public service aspect of its mission.

Until it does, you can expect to see more Globe articles and editorials explaining how our lying eyes are deceiving us, and as Professor Pangloss might have said if he were still around, "Joplin is the best of all possible worlds."

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