I just returned from judging entries in the Arkansas Press Association’s version of the Better Newspaper Contest editorial side. Much of the judging was done in the Hunsberger conference room at the Clarion Ledger in downtown Jackson today. The folks at our state’s largest daily were good hosts to the dozen of us representing the Mississippi Press Association as judges.
We were told to choose packets in a wide variety of editorial and photographical categories. So, I selected a handful that were in the weekly division contest, with each category averaging around 11 entries.
Reading through the entries covering each category showed me that communities in our two states are almost parallel, sharing many of the same issues that are dealt with in daily life-schools, taxes, politicians, crime, war and so on.
In one instance, a writer could have been covering one of our own events in Copiah County as he compared and contrasted two school districts located in an Arkansas county as the following illustrates.
In one case, the district was poorly managed, with almost no oversight from the city board that appointed the district’s trustees. The district had poor student test scores, low teacher morale, financial troubles and was reeling from years of in-fighting among board members, parents, teachers and administrators. Board meetings turned into melees, shouting was dominant and no problems were solved in a civil manner. Lawsuits in the district were rampant. Buildings were crumbling.
In the other case, the district was a well-oiled machine. Student performance was exemplary. Teachers and parents and administrators had open lines of communication and solved problems effectively. A long-range plan included building a new school in each zone every 10 years or so until all zones were complete. Financial woes were non-existent, etc., etc.
So, Copiah County is not alone in the world in things we face everyday. I enjoyed not only being a judge, but also being introduced to what others in our industry saw and wrote about many similar issues as ours.
Joe B. Coates