What do you do when more than 900 pages of documents drop in your lap?
Break out several shovels and dig.
On Wednesday, the Missourian and other news organizations received the results of Sunshine Law requests concerning inspections, work orders, recommendations and other reports at University Village, where Columbia fire Lt. Bruce Britt fell to his death two weeks ago.
Joe Guszkowski was one of several Missourian reporters assigned to unearth meaning from the mound of pixel-ized paper. Public safety editor Katherine Reed tracked and organized the work.
It was (and remains) a daunting task. But at the top of the pile is the structural engineering report done after the collapse of the walkway at Building 707.
The findings were hardly surprising: The concrete had deteriorated so much over time that it couldn’t support its own weight. What raised my eyebrows more: Three other buildings’ walkways are in such a bad way that “unless remedial action is taken, a catastrophic collapse could be imminent.”
At 9:30 Wednesday night, Missourian reporters were sent out to confirm that those buildings are still occupied by renters. Wood beams have been installed to shore up critical deficits in the concrete.
Digging a little more into the documents produced a second article Thursday, with more on the way as I write. The picture emerging isn’t good for the university. Six years ago, a report called for University Village to be demolished by 2011. Work orders and emails show the walkways needed and received other short-term fixes. There were mold problems in the apartments. Buildings lacked sprinkler systems and a central fire alarm system, according to a Columbia Daily Tribune report.
Documents won’t and can’t explain everything. Work orders, for examples, show that repairs were done, but they don’t necessarily describe specifically what work or where. Still, Guszkowski and others keep digging.
Say goodbye to daily Doonesbury
Print readers: The daily Doonesbury strip is going away. Expect fresh Sunday Doonesbury comic strips to continue.
Why? Because Garry Trudeau isn’t inking any more dailies for the foreseeable future.
Last year, Trudeau took a summer hiatus that extended well into fall. This year, he’s not promising when or whether the strip will be back. It seems that Trudeau is a victim of his own video success.
In a notice last month from the syndicate Universal Uclick, Trudeau wrote: “To my delight, Amazon Studios has recently decided to move forward with another season of 'Alpha House.' It's a wonderful opportunity, but as I discovered last year, the demands of producing the show are considerable, and my efforts to return to the daily strip while we were still in production had to be abandoned.”
Alpha House is a comedy series starring John Goodman, Clark Johnson and Matt Malloy. The blurb on the IMDb website describes the show this way: “Four Republican senators share the same D.C. house rental, and face re-election battles, looming indictments and parties — all with a sense of humor.” I haven’t seen it, but the description certainly sounds like the mixture of comedy and politics we’ve come to expect from Trudeau.
IMDb gives the series a rating of 7.6 out of 10. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 72 percent approval rating. Good enough, as Trudeau points out, for a Season Two. Where does that leave us with future daily Doonesbury strip? “There's no way of knowing how many seasons of 'Alpha House' lie ahead," Trudeau wrote. "I could be back drawing 'Doonesbury' full-time in the fall. In the meantime, I'm grateful for the forbearance and past support of our longtime newspaper clients, and hope that I'll still be welcome in their pages when I return." (Here's a Q-and-A in the Washington Post if you want to know more.)
The syndicate has offered “Doonesbury Classics.” Unlike the repeats last year, these don’t even try to be topical or timely. Strips this week were from 1970.
Last summer, we tried out the forgettable strip “Prickly City” as a replacement on the editorial page. Don’t worry: It’s not coming back. Instead, a second editorial cartoon will run.
Sports section, writers win awards
The Missourian is one of the best sports sections of its size in the country, according to the Associated Press Sports Editors.
Judges for the organization’s annual contest named your sports section a top five in daily and Sunday categories among papers under 15,000 circulation; it received an honorable mention in the Sunday under 30,000 circulation category.
Individual awards went to:
- Andrew Wagaman for his piece about the concussion debate in youth football;
- Roxana Pop and Meredith Turk for a multimedia profile of Miss Teen Rodeo Queen Missouri for 2013;
- Timmy Huynh and Katie Alaimo for their multimedia story on the Calvary Baptist Church Upward Basketball League; and
- Brendan Meyer for his beat reporting of the 2012-13 Missouri basketball team.
Not bad for the biggest little newspaper in the country.