Missouri Press Foundation
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Like community newspapers do every spring in their towns all across the country, The Joplin Globe covered the graduation program for local high school seniors on May 22, 2011.
Moments after that Sunday afternoon ceremony ended, the lives of Joplin residents would be changed forever by a powerful EF-5 tornado.
It became The Globe’s duty to report on the storm and its impact on the community. That duty became a mission for the newspaper’s staff, a mission to tell the stories about all of the tragedies and miracles, the victims and the heroes, and how the world responded.
The story of how The Globe carried out that mission has been told in a documentary film that will premier on May 3. “Deadline in Disaster,’’ produced by the Missouri Press Foundation, will be shown at 7 p.m. in the Missouri Theatre, Ninth and Locust streets, in downtown Columbia.
Preceding the showing of the 59-minute film will be a reception and silent auction in the theater lobby to raise funds for a memorial in Joplin to the victims and survivors. After the film, members of The Globe staff will answer questions from the audience. That will be followed by a reception for all attending.
The Joplin tornado would claim 161 lives. Among those lost was Bruce Baillie, a page designer for the Globe. A third of the newspaper’s staff lost their homes.
In spite of that, The Globe’s presses rolled that night. A few reporters made it to the newsroom. Some who couldn’t get there called in reports, not knowing whether their friends, families and colleagues were alive. Nearly all of the paper’s carriers showed up to deliver that first post-tornado issue early the next morning.
The newspaper’s staff became acutely aware of their roles as information providers for the community. Residents came to depend on the Globe for what they needed to know to make it through each day and to find a way forward.
That’s a message the Globe’s editor, Carol Stark, hopes people will get from the film.
“I hope they’ll be able to see how real newspaper journalists work in a crisis,’’ Stark said. “This is our job, our lives. It’s important to realize that we need these folks.”
Accurate, detailed information was critical, and it became difficult to determine who had credibility as more and more people wanted to become part of the story, Stark said. Rumor and speculation would have made the situation worse.
“What would we have done if we hadn’t had real journalists out there?” she asked.
Joplin’s recovery continues, and the Globe reports on it.
“We’re covering it every day. That’s what people forget,” Stark said. “It becomes more urgent. We still have people who need to get into homes’’ as the one-year anniversary of the disaster approaches.
“I worry about the stories that I still don’t know about,” she said. “What do we need to get up and do tomorrow? That goes on in my mind.’’
The Missouri Press Foundation invites everyone to attend the premiere of “Deadline in Disaster’’ on May 3 in Columbia.
It welcomes any donations of items for the benefit auction that will be held in the theater lobby. Businesses that would like to help sponsor the premiere also are welcome.
Auction donors and sponsors are encouraged to contact Missouri Press by April 2 at 573-449-4167 so their contributions can be acknowledged in the printed program.
“Deadline in Disaster’’ was directed by Beth Pike and Stephen Hudnell, Emmy Award-winning journalists from Columbia. They were assisted by retired Associated Press correspondent Scott Charton, also of Columbia.
Orr Street Productions collaborated, and Sandra M. Levy Smith of SmithLee Productions composed the music for the film.
Funding for the project has come from several generous donors and the Missouri Press Association, Missouri Press Service and Missouri Press Foundation. Funding is needed for the film.
“All newspapers can take pride in the performance of the Globe as it delivers the very essence of service as a community newspaper,’’ said Doug Crews, executive director of the Missouri Press Association.
“This documentary lifts up the Globe’s staff as an example of dedicated, community newspaper journalists, doing their jobs despite their personal losses,” he said. “The Missouri Press Board of Directors embraced the Globe’s staff by commissioning this documentary film with the intention of showing the public just what a newspaper means to its community.
“We envision this film being viewed by audiences throughout the region and beyond. We will make it available to newspapers, to journalism schools, to civic groups and others,” Crews said. “We want to spread the word, near and far, about community newspapers and the important role they play in our society, reporting the news and serving as a local news authority.”
The Missouri Press Foundation is the educational and philanthropic affiliate of the Missouri Press Association, the newspaper trade organization in the state. Virtually all of the newspapers in Missouri are members of MPA, which is based in Columbia.
Tickets for the premiere showing of the documentary film “Deadline in Disaster” on Thursday, May 3, can be purchased from the Missouri Theatre box office, in advance by phone or at the door. They also will be available online.
The theater is at the corner of Ninth and Locust streets in downtown Columbia, phone 573-875-0600.
Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Tickets purchased online at motheatre.org are subject to a $2 processing fee.
The film will begin at 7 p.m. Before that, a reception and silent auction will be held from 6-7 p.m. in the lobby of the theater to raise funds for a memorial to the victims and survivors of the tornado.
After the film, members of the staff of The Joplin Globe will answer questions from the audience. That will be followed by an informal gathering of the producers and directors of the film, the Globe staff members and the audience in the theater.
The film also will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 24, at Central Christian Center (formerly the Fox Theater) at 410 Virginia Ave. in Joplin. A question-and-answer forum will follow the documentary with Globe staff, the film crew and producers.