Breaking News in Editorials. (Media/Politics)

By Jones, Terry | St. Louis Journalism Review, May 2002 | Go to article overview

Breaking News in Editorials. (Media/Politics)


Jones, Terry, St. Louis Journalism Review


Editorializing about a local issue that hasn't been covered in its news pages yet is unusual, but it is becoming more common for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The latest example is an April 14 editorial expressing concern about "the abrupt removal of Yvonne Sparks-Strauther" as head of the Vashon/Jeff-Vander-Lou Initiative. Sparks-Strauther is a highly respected administrator who has held responsible positions in the public, non-profit, and private sectors for more than two decades. Immediately before assuming the Vashon/Jeff-Vander-Lou post, she was a Bank of America vice president.

In March, she was fired by the Initiative's board without explanation. According to the editorial, the Danforth Foundation's Bob Koff, the major funding source for the project, says he was "surprised if not startled." So apparently he did not precipitate the dismissal. The leading suspect, says the editorial, is ward politics in the person of Alderman Mike McMillan. "That kind of cronyism," trumpets the Post, "is unacceptable."

What is also unacceptable is having no news coverage about this matter.

The struggle to revitalize urban areas happens one neighborhood at a time. Few are more daunting in their challenges or more ambitious in their goals than the Vashon/Jeff-Vander-Lou Initiative. With upwards of $5 million in Danforth funding and $800,000 in City allocations, it includes building a new Vashon High School with a $35 million price tag and improving significantly the nine elementary schools that send students to Vashon.

Few areas are more important for the City of St. Louis than Jeff-Vander-Lou. At the heart of the historically black area, demarcated by the racially segregated boundaries drawn almost 90 years ago, it is critical to the overall turnaround for the Near North Side.

When the Initiative was first announced in November 1999, the Post gave it front page coverage. Since then, it has ignored the neighborhood, even when there was a major disruption in leadership. Public policy is more about implementation than design, more about putting ideas into practice than writing plans on paper. The story lies more with what is being done, not what has been proposed. Despite the fact that you can literally see the eastern part of the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood from the Post news room, the paper's reporters have failed to inform readers about how the plan is progressing--or regressing.

The press can be downright puritanical when it comes to public employee salaries and the Post's April 12 story, headlined "21 City Employees Cross the $100,000 Threshold--In St. Louis County, Only Nine Officials Make That Much" is no exception.

Although those of us in the public sector are accustomed to having our salaries a matter of record (you can find out how much the University of Missouri--St.

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