“I’m not understanding really, what the big controversy is.”—Biloxi School District Supt. Arthur McMillan.
ROLLING FORK — Well, let me educate a superintendent of education.
In 1960, a very nice, quintessentially Southern lady named Harper Lee published what I believe to be one of the finest novels ever written about anything, and the finest novel ever written about the early 20th Century South. After her editor nixed two other would be titles, they both settled upon “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
It is a masterpiece. I have read it more than 20 times.
It won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.
Two years later, it was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck.
It won the Academy Award for “Best Motion Picture.” I have seen it more times than I can count.
Last week some knuckleheads within the administration of the Biloxi School District pulled it from the 8th grade curriculum.
WAYNESBORO — Fall is approaching (I promise, at least some time soon), which means thoughts for most newspapers start turning to holiday promotions and trying to finish the year strong.
While still in the throes of football season, though, there are plenty of opportunities for members to benefit from MPA programs being scheduled for the rest of the year and into 2018.
Up next on the calendar is the ArkLaMiss Circulation Conference in Vicksburg. Scheduled for Nov. 9-10 this year at the Ameristar Resort and Casino, the program is always beneficial to members. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard attendees say that one nugget gleamed from the conference helped pay for the entire event on their end.
It was a long, rainy summer across much of the state.
But September brought with it cooler temperatures and lots of sunshine – both literally and metaphorically.
Just as we in Jackson started to enjoy one of the longest sustained periods of mild, sunny weather in months came news the State Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the Columbus City Council violated the Mississippi Open Meetings Act.
It was a unanimous 9-0 vote, no less. Talk about a win for sunshine laws.
Given the facts and the right information, people will do the right thing.
I have often said this in speaking to students about the importance of good journalism — reporting that examines and analyzes and helps people reach logical and helpful solutions to the problems we all face. Yes, we differ, we debate, we filter things through our political leanings, but if we look at the facts and we keep our eyes on common goals, we can find solutions.
That’s a pretty basic belief that underlies our democracy. We believe most people will support what is best for the common good. Don’t we?
Last month I shared the story of a community newspaper editor who showed an effective way to respond to concerns of readers, often not politely expressed, that his newspaper was liberally biased. Brian Hunt of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin is an experienced editor, but an intern at a Kentucky weekly newspaper took a very similar approach in a manner that was just as professional. Here’s an adapted version of our report on The Rural Blog:
Josh Qualls was having difficulty finding a source to help him explain how the House health-insurance bill might affect seniors on Medicaid in Lincoln County, Kentucky, where he recently completed a summer internship with The Interior Journal in Stanford. So he went to the Boone Newspapers weekly’s Facebook page.
“The very first response echoed some of the most disheartening, gut-wrenching rhetoric we’ve seen directed toward journalists in recent months. Its author offered a scathing indictment of the news media and accused us of being liberally biased,” Qualls wrote in his intern report to the Kentucky Press Association, relying on memory because the poster had deleted the post. “She talked about how much ‘Obamacare’ didn’t help her health-hindered family, so I saw a way to connect with her.”
There’s been an uptick in recent years of newspapers found in violation of the 75 percent advertising rule, which prohibits Periodicals from running more than 75 percent advertising percentage in more than half the issues in a 12-month period.
The exact wording of the rule is in DMM 707.6.1.3: “General publications primarily designed for advertising purposes do not qualify for Periodicals mailing privileges, including publications that: a. Contain more than 75 percent advertising in more than half of the issues published during any 12-month period.”
Requester publications cannot exceed 75 percent advertising in more than 25 percent of their issues.
In a recent article in Columbia Journalism Review, Liena Zagare and Ben Smith argue that local governments should move public notice and other civic advertising from newspapers to local-news websites like their own BKLYNER.
To buttress their case, they claim that a newspaper in their borough, the Brooklyn Eagle, recently had “three of its 12 pages entirely covered” by advertising designed to “make sure taxpayers see how their money is being spent, and to prevent officials from hiding corrupt deals.” But those three pages of advertising in the Eagle were placed by law firms, not public officials. And its purpose was to provide official notice of courtroom process, not public spending. That’s a pretty glaring mistake. Surely, CJR would want to correct the record, right?
We thought so too, but CJR disagrees.
However, we’re less interested in CJR’s editorial policy than in what the mistake illustrates about the authors’ understanding of public notice: It is sorely lacking. And people who write about subjects they know little about tend to spread misinformation, which is what Zagare and Smith have done.