OLIVE BRANCH – This town used to be known only to me as the “last pit stop before Memphis.”
In the 70s, Olive Branch seemed little more than a couple of gas stations at an exit on U.S. 78 just before you reached the Tennessee line. It wasn’t until much later – until I actually lived in the city from 2004-2006 – that I learned of its charming downtown and tight-knit community.
Like much of suburbia, the city exploded in growth in the 80s and 90s as city dwellers moved outward. Likely sensing what was coming, Doug Jones opened the DeSoto County Tribune in Olive Branch in 1972 on the cusp of a period of rapid growth. Population in the small town exploded from 1,500 in 1970 to upward of 20,000 just 30 years later. It’s estimated 35,000 call Olive Branch home today.
WAYNESBORO – To say that 2018 has been interesting for newspapers would be a gross under statement.
Right out of the gate, we all came together to successfully battle a House bill that would have allowed public notices to move out of newspapers and on to some obscure government website. The way all of our members rallied around the efforts to defeat that bill proved that print is still very much alive and that we carry quite a bit of influence in our state.
Before we could sit back and enjoy that victory, though, another challenge came from the federal level — this time in the form of tariffs on Canadian produced newsprint.
As many of you know, a small mill in Washington State filed a complaint with the Trade Commission claiming that Canadian-owned mills were guilty of countervailing and anti-dumping issues, basically saying that those mills were offering American customers newsprint at below the cost to produce it.
Three years ago this column reported about a legal ruling by the European Union Court of Justice (“EUCJ”) issued in May of 2014 establishing the so-called “right to be forgotten” under European law. See “Law Bytes: The Right To Be Forgotten When Everybody Knows Your Name,” The Fourth Estate (March 2015). The decision arose from a private party’s request that a search engine operated by Google in Spain pull down a 1998 legal notice that his home was being foreclosed. Google refused to comply with the request. In his suit against Google, the requester admitted that the legal notice was once true but contended that by 2014 it was no longer accurate and should be taken off Google’s search engine in Spain. EUJC upheld the requestor’s claim for relief.
The EUCJ’s decision drew an immediate firestorm of hostile commentary from media outlets in the United States who routinely publish the contents of official records and legal notices in print and electronic format. These media companies were justifiably concerned that they might soon face similar requests from private citizens, followed by suits for defamation or invasion of privacy, if a media company refused to take down similar information that could arise in a variety of different contexts. How has the so-called right to be forgotten fared in our country since then?
Most reporters can likely relate to this scenario. Someone speaks up at a public meeting to unleash criticism about an individual or organization. Reporters have little difficulty presenting a balanced report – recording all sides of the story – if the accused is at the meeting.
But what happens if the individual is not present? And what if deadlines do not permit time to get the other side of the argument?
It’s the classic case of a “single source” story. These types of stories are no doubt the easiest to write, and they are the most likely to prompt calls of “foul play” from readers – for good reason.
This is probably a surprise to no one, but I’ve been a newspaper junkie since I was a kid. Even as a teen working at a my hometown paper, there was nothing I enjoyed quite like flipping through archived copies in the morgue.
My preference was to look through bound editions from the years after my birth (naturally) and read about and see pictures from important news stories that took place in our town.
As time marched on and I began to move to other communities and other newspapers, I’ve grown to enjoy looking through bound copies of papers for which I once worked. Rarely a visit to the Times Leader in West Point or The Star-Herald in Kosciusko would pass without me ending up with my nose in the archives.
United States Supreme Court Justice William Brennan traced the history of public debate about political affairs in our nation in 1964 in the landmark decision New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, concluding that public officials could recover for defamatory statements about their conduct in public office only if they could prove that the statements were false and that the speaker subjectively knew that they were false. In Sullivan, he famously wrote that in our country there is “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,” permitting “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” In the most recent presidential campaign and the first year of his term of office President Trump has vigorously exercised this principle in social media such as Twitter when responding to his critics.
A year ago, Donald J. Trump surprised most of the world and probably himself by winning the presidential election. He couldn’t have done it without rural America.
The numbers in the exit polls were clear. Trump won 62 percent of the rural vote, more than any modern president. And here’s the statistic that shows just how rural his victory was: If you divide up the vote by the rural continuum of the Department of Agriculture – which has nine steps, from most rural to most urban – the smaller a place’s population, the stronger its vote for Trump, with one very small exception inside the error margin.
Trump’s percentage continued a recent trend of Republicans winning more and more of the rural vote. The biggest gain was actually made when Mitt Romney ran, but rural turnout was down significantly in 2012, especially among Democrats, so that boosted Romney’s percentage. But there was a better rural turnout in 2016 – and that was a key to Trump’s victory in the big swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.