Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Turner Report reaches milestone- Thanks for 10 million visits
The milestone comes just a few days after the blog's 27,000th post was published.
The Turner Report almost never came into existence. After working in newspapers for 22 years, I was teaching at Diamond Middle School when Christian Wall, an eighth grader, suggested I create a website.
I told him I would love to, but I did not have the technological capability, the money, or the time to do it.
Christian quickly set me straight. I did not need money, I did not need to know anything about computers and we could set up a website in a half hour. I was skeptical, but he was correct. Using a company called Homestead that I am not sure even exists any more, we set up a basic website for my writing class.
A few months later, sometime around the summer of 2000, using the same rudimentary technology, I created the original Turner Report, a news site that featured investigative reporting and commentary. While it had some good material on it, the website never attracted many visitors, probably no more than a few hundred in the seven or eight months I did it. Since it was a pain to maintain it and was not achieving any positive results, I eventually stopped updating it.
At that point, I thought that was it for my connection with journalism, though I was writing some Diamond school news and covering Diamond sports events for the Newton County News.
During my last year in the Diamond R-4 School District, two of my former students, Michelle Nickolaisen and Alicia Bradley, stopped by my classroom to talk with me. They told me about high school and how they wanted to keep writing, but were looking for something to write about. I suggested they should keep a journal of their high school experiences.
The next day, they stopped by my classroom and told me they were so excited about the idea, they had already started their journals, but they were doing them as blogs.
I had no idea what a blog was and I conducted an internal debate on whether I should admit that and I finally did.
They commandeered my computer and showed me their blogs and showed me that the internet had advanced to the point that web logs had been created that allowed people to publish their own thoughts or news or information for free.
I liked the price.
A few months later, as I was beginning my first year in the Joplin R-8 School District, I repeated a promise I always made to my students- if I was going to make them write every day (and I did), then I would write every day, too. Only this time I decided I would do it as a blog.
So in October 2003, the Turner Report was born. Initially, the only thing the blog had in common with the original Turner Report website was the name. My early offerings were a hodgepodge of everything from book and movie reviews to updates on what was going on at South Middle School. Gradually, I moved to the news and commentary format that I still use.
The readership was small, usually reaching only 35 to 50 readers a day and it did not increase much for years, though it developed a following among Missouri journalists and politicians.
The event that changed the direction of the Turner Report was the same event that changed the lives of everyone in Joplin- the May 22, 2011 tornado. After the tornado, I began collecting every bit of information I could find and publishing it, everything from City of Joplin news releases about the tornado to links to news reports, to the obituaries of all of those who lost their lives.
Readership increased and I began to see a new path for the blog. While most of my earlier investigative reporting had centered on state politics and court cases, I began paying more attention to what was going on in the City of Joplin and this area.
The first example that comes to mind was in April 2012 when the Turner Report revealed that the firm the City of Joplin was considering hiring as its master developer, Wallace Bajjali, had a history of bankruptcies and had been clamped down on by the SEC.
The first Wallace Bajjali report came before the Joplin City Council hired the firm. Sadly, the hiring took place anyway.
Unfortunately, the next major event that affected the blog was when the Joplin R-8 School District fired me in 2013. While I knew the school district was a mess while I was working there, it was not until I was fired and started going through records, documents, e-mails and talking to teachers and parents, many of whom I had never met before, that I realized how much of a mess it was.
After that, I reported on the financial problems of the district, C. J. Huff's speaking tour across the United States, the problems with the opening of Joplin High School, the infamous $100,000 bleachers, and then Huff's fall and his "retirement."
As I wrote about R-8 and Wallace Bajjali, the blog's readership grew, so when C. J. Huff and David Wallace departed the local scene (newswise, at least in Huff's case), some wondered what would happen to the Turner Report and I was one of those who wondered.
I did not need to worry. The news keeps going, it is just the stories that change.
Instead of writing about David Wallace, C. J. Huff and Mike Woolston, I was writing about the Jasper County judicial system, Dean Dankelson's campaign contributions, Ace Mohr's run-ins with the law and even the Rangeline Sonic lawsuit story that resulted in my September 11 trip to the Freeman emergency room.
So I no longer worry about where the material will come from, I keep looking for it and then writing about it.
The best part of the 14 years of the Turner Report has been building a community with the readers It is you that have kept me writing and made the experience so enjoyable. I will work to keep providing you with reasons to return.
Thanks for 10 million visits.