William Woods Hosts Joplin Tornado Documentary

By Leigh Rice ’14

The most inspirational
stories to be told come about when hope and courage transpire in the most
tragic of situations. The epitome of inspirational stories comes from The Joplin
Globe newspaper staff who, only minutes after a EF-5 tornado struck their
community, worked together to meet deadline.

In honor of their
loyalty to their careers and their community, the William Woods University student
staff of The Talon newspaper and The Hoot magazine will host a documentary,
“Deadline in Disaster,” at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 in the William Woods University
Library Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
 
After the horror of the
EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011, journalists from all over the United States
gathered in the extirpated streets of Joplin to answer America’s questions
about what had just happened. One of these journalists was Beth Pike, working
for CBS News. Arriving a few hours after the tornado hit, Pike saw first-hand
the destruction of the tornado.
 
Also on site was Scott
Charton, a former Associated Press correspondent
and owner of Charton Communications and Consulting. He was so inspired by the
courageous acts of The Joplin Globe staff that he decided their story was worth
telling in a documentary.
 
The day after the
tornado struck the Joplin community, Charton and Pike found that The Globe
newspaper, against incredible odds, had been published as usual.
 
After the tornado hit,
staff of The Joplin Globe had climbed out of the ruins of their homes and
witnessed the debacle surrounding them. Even with their community crumbled,
staff members found their way to the newsroom late that evening—all except page
designer, Bruce Baillie, whose life had been taken by the storm.
 
Relying on their own
experiences and the stories they could gather from people they had spoken with
on the way to the newsroom, the staff pulled together and completed their articles
by midnight—only an hour after their normal deadline.  The Joplin Globe was in print by the next
morning.
 
“People were begging
for information. They needed to know what happened, which is what makes this
story so beautiful,” said Pike. “The Joplin Globe had family members fighting
for their lives; their homes were sitting in ruins; they had so much going on,
but they had a duty just like firefighters and nurses. People relied on the
media to know the needs of the people.”
 
Charton noted that
about one-third of the Globe’s
newsroom employees lost homes in the storm. One of them was Jeff Lehr, who
usually reports on courts and law enforcement.
 
“I was watching a network newscast as the correspondent on the scene turned
to Jeff to talk about how his professional family at the Globe was personally
affected. Jeff lost not only his home but his vehicle, and his cat was missing.
He was sopping wet and still shaken from riding out the tornado as debris
whirled around him, but Jeff set about surveying block after block of Joplin’s
devastation,” Charton said.
 
“Then he hitchhiked to the Globe’s downtown office several blocks away.
That’s where his editor, Carol Stark, told him to sit down and ‘just write,’
and Jeff turned in one of the best pieces of deadline first-person writing I’ve
ever seen.”
 
Charton added that such selfless actions are not unusual among journalists,
but their courage and dedication are usually unheralded.
 
“This film offers a big reassuring hug to hardworking newspaper people
everywhere. It shows their work matters, and they do that work diligently, even
in times of personal crisis, loss and sadness,” Charton said.
 
Globe staff not only
acted on their duties as journalists, but on their duties to their community.
Wally Kennedy spent at least three hours at the hospital before finding his way
to the newsroom. For three hours, he handed out blankets and water bottles, and
helped in any way he could. His house had not been damaged by the tornado, and his
first inclination was to help.
 
“The Globe staff worked
very hard for their community,” said Pike. “One of The Globe staff members,
Emily Younker, wrote an article called Faces in the Storm–she made it her job
to call each and every family who had lost someone. She wrote a short biography
about each member who died and included their picture, when possible, with
their biography, which was published in the first few weeks of the storm’s aftermath.”
 
Within days of the storm,
Pike and Charton made contact and began working on the documentary.
 
“We wanted to do this
documentary because it’s so important for people to see what the staff of The
Joplin Globe did for their community,” Pike said.

“I
hope students understand the value of newspapers, and why we need to keep
buying subscriptions. It is vital for communities to have a local newspaper, not
only in disasters, but as a way to ensure democracy and good health of our
community. After this disaster, the community truly rallied around its hometown
newspaper, and the newspaper rallied around its community. Newspaper
subscriptions went up after the storm. Its role is not just covering disasters,
but safeguarding the community.”

After Chip Cooper, a
Saturday Business columnist for the Columbia Daily Tribune, watched the
documentary, he said, “I was deeply touched by the wrenching stories of death
and survival, but, strangely, it was the courage, professionalism and integrity
of the Globe staff that brought tears to my eyes.”
 
Charton and Pike, along
with co-director Stephen Hudnell, will be on hand to lead discussion and answer
questi