Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Joplin Globe misses the point with R-8 Board meeting coverage
The article was planted firmly in the upper right hand corner of page one, the place studies show is the destination the eye first settles on when it looks at a newspaper.
The placement was right, but continuing the practice the Globe has followed with its coverage the past few years of both the Joplin R-8 School District and the City of Joplin, the newspaper missed the story.
Certainly, the decision to proceed with the early childhood center was an important story, but to those who attended the meeting in person or followed Jet HD's coverage on YouTube, the district website, or the Turner Report, the big news that came out of Tuesday night's meeting was Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder's assessment of the district following his first week on the job.
Ridder described the system as "sick," said it would take more work to get it into shape than he had anticipated, and talked about a district that needed to take a focused approach and instead of heading in all different directions.
"Everybody's working hard, but not smart," Ridder said.
It was a firm indictment of the mess Ridder's predecessor C. J. Huff made of the district, both with his concentration on Bright Futures and gimmicks to increase the graduation rate and his inexplicable decision to surround himself with people who were not qualified to hold the positions they were holding.
Ridder said he would be talking with teachers, students, and taxpayers and coming to the board with a one-page, focused strategic plan.
This is what the Joplin Globe said about Ridder's statement:
Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder, in his first Joplin board meeting, said he has been studying the board and the school district since his arrival on July 20, and he will report back with his analysis and findings by October 1. He said that after the first of the year, perhaps by March, he will present a one-page strategic plan for the district that will be "really focused."
No mention of any of Ridder's on-the-money comments about the disarray that he has inherited.
And who can blame the Globe for not reporting on it? The area's newspaper of record has not been reporting on any of the problems in the school district for years, why should it start now?
It has to be embarrassing for Globe reporters to have to leave out important parts of the story because they do not fit in with the narrative the newspaper has been feeding its readers.
From everything I am hearing, R-8 teachers were ecstatic to hear Ridder say that he thinks the same things they have been thinking, but dared not say, for the past few years.
No, a functioning board, which finally got rid of the poison that had infected this district for the past seven years, is not the story the Globe has been pushing. A board that is discussing issues and making decisions in a professional manner without the prima donna antics of C. J. Huff, does not fit in with the Globe's warped version of reality.
It makes it hard to offer solid coverage, when the truth is at odds with the story the Globe has been selling this community ever since the tornado.
The newspaper faces a crisis sometime in the next few weeks when the Missouri State Auditor's office releases its report on the City of Joplin. How will the Globe be able to sell itself as a community watchdog when it had the story about Councilman Mike Woolston's property dealings in the tornado area and never printed a word?
I certainly would not want to be in the situation that faces Editor Carol Stark.
When the story of these times in Joplin is written, it will be a toss up on whether the biggest con artists were Wallace and Bajjali or the Joplin Globe.