Sunday, March 27, 2016

Joplin Globe continues milking money from grieving families

A couple of weeks ago, a source told me the Joplin Globe had sent a new rate card to area funeral homes.

Nothing unusual about that. Ever since the Globe started charging for obituaries a couple of decades ago, the price that is charged for them has continued to increase.

But there was something different about this increase, the source told me. For the first time, the Globe was going to charge for death notices.

There was a time, as some older readers will recall, that the death of a neighbor was considered to be news. Surveys showed that obituaries ranked at or near the top of the most well-read sections in newspapers.

When the Globe began charging for obituaries, it was the first step in a process that has seen the newspaper begin a steep decline in circulation. Some experts have said newspapers' power began to diminish with the advent of chain ownership; others talk about how technology has knocked newspapers for a loop. You can make a good argument for both of those explanations.

Perhaps those looking for a starting point for print journalism's downward spiral should examine what has happened to coverage of the deaths of citizens in the community.. When the Globe and other newspapers started charging for obituaries, they created a divide in their readership. At one time, it was said that the only time some people's names were ever in the newspaper was when they died.

That changed when greed entered the picture. Now the only people who were featured were those whose families had the money to buy their way into print or those whose families were able to spend money they could ill afford to pay one last tribute to a loved one.

The Globe denied that it was cutting the poor out of its pages by running one paragraph death notices, which included the person's name, address, age, and funeral service information.

In Thursday's Globe, for example, above the obituaries, the Globe noted, "The following are paid memoriums provided by family, friends, and loved ones."

Above the death notices, the following was written: "The following are free death notices provided by the Joplin Globe."

These words had been included every day in the Globe for quite some time.

As of Friday, there are no longer any mentions of obituaries being paid or death notices being free.

And while I haven't checked today's newspaper, the Saturday obituaries also included no such mention.

The Globe has apparently taken the next step by punishing grieving families- if you don't pay up, we are not going to mention your loved one at all.

This should surprise no one. The editorial bent of the Globe has swerved so far in the direction of a small group of people that consider themselves to be the elite of our community that it has shirked its duty in its examination of public figures such as David Wallace, Mark Rohr, Mike Woolston, and C. J. Huff.

The Globe's Sacred Cows

David Wallace, as you remember, was treated with deference as long as he was the golden boy for CART and the Joplin Progress Committee types. Since the Texas con artist skipped town, he suddenly became evil incarnate and the subject of frequent Globe articles- but the newspaper has never done any examination of the process that brought Wallace Bajjali to Joplin. Of course, such an examination would not only damage the reputations of the Globe's friends, but it would also reveal the culpability of the newspaper itself.

The Globe has not only stood firmly behind the CART and Joplin Progress Committee types, but it has attacked anyone who dares say anything negative about them. The Globe roundly criticized the Loraine Report, despite the fact that it was a completely professional job done by someone who was experienced in such investigations having worked in the U. S. Attorney's office.

Not even state auditors escaped the Globe's wrath. The Globe took every step possible to discredit the auditors' findings, especially when they began criticizing CART and its role in bringing Wallace Bajjali to town.

The Globe protected its sacred cows by taking the easy way out. The newspaper printed the auditors' findings, but gave equal weight to the responses from those who were mentioned, tilting heavily in the direction of the aggrieved members of the city's unelected elite.

The inclusion of those responses was not the problem with the Globe's coverage. It was the lazy approach the Globe takes to coverage of many stories. There is an audit. Say what's in the audit, give the people who are mentioned the opportunity to respond, then print the story, offering both sides.

Whatever happened to a newspaper actually digging in and finding out what the truth is? There is no evidence that the Globe attempted any such investigative reporting. It is rare that the Globe conducts any form of investigative reporting.

The death of the Joplin Globe?

And that brings us back to obituaries and death notices. In a July 2012 blog I wrote for Daily Kos, I addressed this issue. I ended the blog with this passage:

I am sure it will not be long before someone sets up a website where obituaries can be found and when that happens another reason to read newspapers will have vanished forever- the same fate as classified ads and eventually legal notices when people come to the realization that the only reason those are still in newspapers is to prop up their bottom line- the taxpayers would probably be served just as well in this day and age by having legal notices posted on internet sites.

Writing these words does not come easily to me. I have loved newspapers since I was six years old and my dad, a truck driver, brought me copies of the Kansas City Star and Tulsa World to read. We always had subscriptions to the Joplin Globe, Neosho Daily News and the Newton County News. I spent 22 years as a newspaper reporter and editor and loved every minute of it. The rapid decline of newspapers breaks my heart, but once they started being just another stock market commodity instead of a public service, they sealed their own fate.

When, and if, the newspaper industry dies, a victim of its own greed and incompetence, I am sure there will be some venue where its obituary will be written- and no one will have to pay to see it.

Inside Joplin Obituaries

Sixteen months after I wrote those words, I launched that website I wrote about- Inside Joplin Obituaries, which has printed more than 3,000 obituaries of people connected to Jasper, Newton, Barton, and McDonald counties and has included many complete obituaries of people whose deaths were only recorded in one-paragraph notices in the Globe.

It started with a small readership, but has grown until it now routinely receives more than 2,000 visitors daily and far more on certain days.

While I regularly receive obituaries from funeral homes throughout the four-state area, if you have a loved one whose obituary you want to see included on the website, contact me at

I will never charge for obituaries. They are news, plain and simple. It is a shame that the Joplin Globe has forgotten that.

Keep the news and commentary of the Turner Report, the records and community coverage of Inside Joplin, and the complete obituaries in Inside Joplin Obituaries to continue to serve the Joplin area by subscribing to the Turner Report/Inside Joplin  or by contributing any amount. You may use the PayPal buttons below, or if you would prefer not to use PayPal or a credit card, you may send your contribution to 2306 E. 8th, Apt. G, Joplin, MO 64801.

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Anonymous said...

Having just purchased a pre paid funeral at a local mortuary, I made it very clear that I didn't want the obituary to be in the Globe or any other area newspaper that charged. Instead I requested the Inside Joplin Obituaries website. Thank you Randy.

Anonymous said...

This is shows how desperate they are to create revenue. They have lost advertisers and they have not changed with the times or I should say adapt to the times. They changed by making people pay for this and its a shame. I predict the death of the Globe within a few years.

Anonymous said...

Canceled the Globe years ago. I would never consider taking it back unless there were major changes to the way it is run and operated. It's barely fit to be used for liner in pet cages!