While the Journal occasionally offered some insight into the Joplin business community, it was better known for its stunts like honoring Joplin businesswomen or influential Joplin area people under age 40- any excuse to sell advertising, hold a banquet and sell blocks of tickets to companies that naturally wanted to support their employees who had been nominated.
I debated for a long while whether I should write something about the newspaper closing. I wrote about the Joplin Daily, which lasted only one year, far less time than JRBJ. I wrote about the demise of the other Joplin weekly business newspaper whose name I don't recall.
Finally, I decided not to do it.
My reasoning- the newspaper passed without leaving a footprint. You can make the argument, and it is a legitimate one, that the loss of any newspaper is a loss to all of us because it is one less news source in a time when we so desperately need news sources.
I never was sure we needed the Joplin Regional Business Journal. After all, what was the Business Journal but a newspaper dedicated to providing fealty to the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and we already had one of those.
The Joplin Globe.
If any official with the Joplin Globe has helped turn the newspaper into a house organ for the Chamber and the entrenched powers in the city it has been Publisher Michael Beatty, whose impending departure was announced on page one of the Monday Globe.
Unlike the Joplin Regional Business Journal, Beatty has left a footprint on the community, In the eight years since he arrived from Baltimore, Beatty has overseen a newspaper that has consistently missed the biggest stories to hit the Joplin community or twisted them beyond recognition.
Instead of being a watchdog for the readers and communities, Michael Beatty's Globe planted itself firmly in the corner of whoever was in power at the time.
Beatty's Globe featured an editorial page that weighed in on important issues when they affected other communities, but ignored those same issues when they touched home.
Following are a few examples of how the Joplin Globe has chosen to serve its readership in the eight years since Michael Beatty arrived.
The Joplin Tornado
At a time when Joplin needed an aggressive watchdog more than ever, the Globe was missing in action.
Information that the Salvation Army had spent little of the thousands it had received following the tornado in the community in the first years after the tornado was reported first in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch- after it had been taken to the Globe, which chose not to look into it.
It was a Kansas City Star investigation that revealed just how susceptible to high winds the Home Depot building was. The Globe was told of us this first.
The Globe served its readership well with its reporting on the effect of the tornado on citizens and on the bulletin board journalism aspect, but when it came to keeping an eye on how our government is operating, it felt woefully short and did not make much of an effort.
Along the same lines, the Globe turned a blind eye as former Chamber President Rob O'Brian, former City Manager Mark Rohr and other city leaders, elected and unelected decided we needed a master developer (we didn't), allowed the developer they wanted to write the requirements for the job and then overlooked a background full of bankruptcies and fraud accusations.
For months, the only mention of Wallace Bajjali's troubled background in the Globe was an assertion by Rohr at a City Council meeting that there was nothing to worry about and that the kind of problems Wallace Bajjali had were the kind that all developers ran into.
A cursory check of David Wallace's background would have saved the city money and valuable time, but since this was someone Rohr, O'Brian, Mike Woolston, Mike Seibert and the CART team wanted, that check was apparently never made, and if it was, it was conveniently placed on a back shelf.
It wasn't the Kansas City Star or the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that reported on this one. The Turner Report documented some of Wallace Bajjali's bankruptcies, fraud accusations and stiff SEC fine for misleading investors in April 2012, even before the City Council voted to hire the Texas con artists.
State audits and the Loraine Report
Thousands of Joplin residents signed petitions for state audits of the city and school district, Immediately after the results of those audits were issued, the Globe covered the audits, offered even more space to criticism of those audits and never hit hard on the significant problems that were uncovered.
The same approach was taken with the Loraine Report, submitted to the Joplin City Council by Osage Beach attorney Thomas Loraine. The investigation was originally called for by Councilman Mike Woolston to address allegations that Councilman Bill Scearce was involved in wrongdoing. At the suggestion of Councilman Ben Rosenberg, the investigator was also asked to look into Woolston's dealings with Wallace Bajjali and land that was being bought and then flipped.
The Lorraine report cleared Scearce, which was not the result the Globe had hoped for. The Lorraine interviews provided a roadmap for the state auditors who uncovered much suspicious and apparently illegal activity.
Unfortunately for Joplin taxpayers, the Globe had no interest in following up on that story or on the mysterious assertions by current judge and former Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson that he had never received information from State Auditor Nicole Galloway, which seems odd since no one else has ever complained about the state auditor not delivering information she says she has delivered.
Embarrassing information only printed once
The early report of Mark Rohr's statement that Wallace Bajjali's problems were nothing to worry about, the one-shot revelation that Dankelson never received any materials from the state auditor and the first mention- totally from City Council meeting coverage- that Woolston was involved in questionable activities with Wallace Bajjali and developer Charles Kuehn are all examples of a Joplin Globe trademark.
When something is a bit uncomfortable for city leaders, the Globe will often mention it only once, so it can say the subject was addressed, and then forgets about it.
A master developer with a history of fraud accusations and bankruptcies, allegations that taxpayer money was being spent to benefit developers in a land-flipping scheme and a failure by the prosecuting attorney and law enforcement to act on a state auditor's recommendations should have been the series of multiple articles and sternly-worded editorials about the public's right to know.
It would be easy to dismiss this criticism by saying it is simply the Globe's way of doing business, except that it is not.
The Globe combined multiple articles and hard-hitting editorials in its coverage of former Jasper County Public Administrator Rita Hunter.
Of course, Rita Hunter is not connected to any of the newspaper's sacred cows.
Embarrassing information never printed
It took about two years for the Globe to reveal that Joplin Police officers responded to a 911 call at Mark Rohr's house in which his daughter claimed Rohr was beating her pregnant mother.
The Globe's editor Carol Stark, a friend of Rohr's, knew about the report, which ended up with officers determining there had been no assault after the daughter recanted her report.
That could not have been an easy decision to make, but when other things are taken into consideration, the choice on whether to report on the police call begin to lean in favor of the public's right to know.
First, Mark Rohr as city manager was the police officers' boss. In similar situations, an outside law enforcement agency (Highway Patrol, for instance) is almost always called in to investigate if only to remove any accusation of prejudice.
Later, Thomas Lorraine encouraged the City Council to listen to the 911 call when it was making its deliberations on Rohr's future. Lorraine, a former investigator for the U. S. Attorney's office, clearly thought something was amiss.
No friend to the First Amendment
The Joplin Globe under Michael Beatty's stewardship professed to be a proud defender of the First Amendment, but only when it benefited the Globe and its friends.
When the City of Joplin initially refused to make several pages of the Lorraine Report available to the public, the Globe was willing to spend money to file a legal action that it eventually won. Then it squandered most of the space covering those previously redacted pages to mounting defense of Rohr and Woolston, while spending a small amount of space detailing the allegations that were made against them.
The Globe also won full access to the depositions of the people Lorraine interviewed, but made almost no use of them. While it was laudable that the newspaper placed those documents online where they could be accessed, it also meant that only a few hundred people, or a few thousand at most, would ever look at the depositions, which included a considerable amount of damning evidence of potential wrongdoing.
Why fight for the First Amendment and the public's right to know if you do not intend to get the information to the people?
The Globe's editorial board has done the perfunctory duty of all newspaper editorial boards, fighting for freedom of student press, unless of course it happens at Missouri Southern State University.
In recent months, the Globe praised, and rightfully so, the Pittsburg High School Booster Redux for its investigation that led to the resignation of a newly hired, but unqualified, principal. Earlier, the Globe fought for student journalists at the University of Missouri.
When student journalists at MSSU fought to offer investigative and critical coverage of University President Bruce Speck and Speck retaliated, the Globe never offered a ringing endorsement of the young reporters.
When Speck eliminated access to the anonymous Southern Watch website, the Globe remained silent.
And when Speck fired Chart adviser T. R. Hanrahan, the Globe never wrote a word.
In fact, Michael Beatty encouraged Speck in his war against the First Amendment, something we would not know if not for the student journalists, who obtained an e-mail in which Beatty offered advice to Speck on how to manage the news.
The e-mail was sent to Speck in 2010, shortly after Beatty arrived and set the stage for the rest of Beatty's eight-year tenure at the Globe.
This was how the Turner Report revealed this e-mail in May 2010:
The e-mail, which was released through a freedom of information request by the one newspaper that has actually been pursuing the truth behind the controversies at the university, The Chart, also indicates that the get-tough approach of Globe reporter Greg Grisolano to the MSSU story may be the reason why other reporters are now covering the university. It was Grisolano's Freedom of Information requests that Beatty stopped, in an apparent effort to curry favor with Speck, MSSU Board of Governors member Dwight Douglas, and most likely, the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce leadership, which has steadfastly stood behind Speck, Douglas, and the doomed effort to bring a medical school to Joplin. (Note: I was wrong about that one)
Beatty's love letter to Speck included the following passage:
"We wanted to do an arboretum story for Arbor Day, a story on the mansions (sic) renovation, a story on the Science Fair, of course, the Prairie Issue, and lastly on how you saved money for the university on the hiring of the two new VP's."
Beatty opens the e-mail by giving Speck the good news that the critical investigation into his presidency is apparently a thing of the past:
"You will hear that we are withdrawing our requests for your schedule, Rod's schedule, and your expenses."
After that opening, Beatty asks for the meeting with him, Carol Stark, and Speck. It looks as if access is the most important thing as far as Beatty is concerned:
"As I thought more about the issue of a spokesperson, I will share with you what I experienced in Baltimore. I was used to the spokesperson to be more of a facilitator of the organization on how the message should be controlled. Examples would be call to Rod (Surber) about a story, he knows how you want the story played out so he picks the spokesperson. This gives him/you appropriate individual time to develop the message. The process is really about controlling the message when working with the press and keeping transparency to the taxpayers.""I think we can find a middle ground so that all will be satisfied with the process."
Eight years have passed since Michael Beatty wrote that e-mail and it is clear that his management style, coupled with weak editorial leadership, have created today's Joplin Globe.
I wish him good luck in his new job and I hope he gets there in a hurry.