Mark Maassen on newspapers in Missouri

Mark Maassen, executive director of the Missouri Press Association and President of Newspaper Association Managers, Inc., discusses the status of newspapers in Missouri with Radio Active Magazine regular Spencer Graves. There are currently 207 newspapers in Missouri with at least one in each of Missouri’s 114 counties. At one time there were more than 300. Other states have news deserts and ghost newspapers. Missouri does not.

Mark takes offense at talk about fake news, at least regarding newspapers in Missouri. Newspapers in the Missouri Press Association work hard to report honestly and fairly. Mark insists that newspapers in Missouri make valuable contributions to our democracy.

But politicians are not above attacking the press to try to deflect attention from their own problems. For example, in 2021, Josh Renaud, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, found a security flaw in a Missouri state government webpage that exposed social security numbers of over 500,000 teachers in Missouri. He notified Missouri government officials, saying he would wait for them to correct the problem before he reported it. Missouri governor Mike Parsons threatened to prosecute Renaud for hacking. Maassen and others insisted that Renaud and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch were doing what they should be doing and should not be threatened with prosecution for it. (Spencer asked, “Would Governor Parsons prefer that security bugs like that be left unfixed?”)

Mark praised the Missouri Independent, which is an online only news organization covering government, politics and policy. Their stories are often republished in local newspapers around the state. They won several awards in the Missouri Press Association annual contest for 2023, including “the Gold Cup for class 2 dailies“, which was the first time an online-only publication had won that event’s top honor.

Mark is particularly concerned about efforts to limit the reach of Missouri’s Sunshine law and abolish the requirement to publish in local newspapers public auctions of real estate being sold for nonpayment of taxes. Mark said there are organizations that specialize in buying such property at auction and have lobbied for years to do away with the requirement that those auctions be published in local newspapers, claiming that online publication should be enough. Mark disagrees.

Newspaper Association Managers is an association of people with positions comparable to his in other states in the US and provinces in Canada. They meet two or three times each year to discuss common problems and share solutions.

Copyright 2023, Mark Maassen and Spencer Graves, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 international license.

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