- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Log Cabin Democrat, Jan. 9, 2016

The database debate

This week brought about - again - the debate of whether or not the Log Cabin Democrat should feature “Booked” on faulknercountybooked.com and thecabin.net. “Booked” includes the automated intake records and mug shots of arrestees in the county pulled from the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Department server.

The question of whether databases like “Booked” are necessary or even moral is not a relevant one on behalf of a news agency.

The LCD regularly publishes databases of public record, including registered sex offenders, health inspections, marriages, divorces, etc. Arrest records are common in most markets as well.

News outlets have published state employee salary databases, concealed carry license holders and that big list of those who default on their taxes each year, among numerous other public databases available to anyone in the community.

We make no judgment on any of these people, some of whom have worked in this building. We are not asking the readers to make any judgment of these people. Examples, like “Booked,” all create controversy for someone, primarily because these databases do not provide copious amounts of context. Furthering transparency of hyper-local public information, and not controversy, is the intention of a news agency.

As community watch dogs, journalists regularly use these tools to discover if, say, an elected official has been arrested for some alleged illegality or if there is a capital murder suspect in custody. Our local law enforcement officials do not have newspaper reporters on speed dial for that sort of thing. Only upon that discovery can we start the real work of requesting reports and documents we need to fill in the appropriate blanks and begin following hearings and pretrials.

“Booked” and all databases we publish are public record. What we choose to report beyond that will be of interest to a larger audience, whereas, an individual user of a database may want to find out why a neighbor was hauled away in handcuffs at 2 a.m. We don’t know. We simply offer the information as it is publicly provided.

As for the moral question of it all, it is not for our newsgathering team to judge whether it is right or wrong if someone clicks through the “Booked” slideshow for sport. Simply because someone can utilize an available tool doesn’t mean they should, could or will. This is true for virtually anything, including the use of social media, the very place this debate began this time.

“Booked” as it performs on thecabin.net as a photo slideshow is outside of our news site paywall. If someone appearing in “Booked” provides appropriate paperwork to be removed from the listing, we accommodate that request immediately and without charge.

More information on how this works can be found under FAQs at faulknercountybooked.com.

“Booked” will remain a viable feature of thecabin.net, as will all of our regularly updated publicly accessible databases.


Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Jan. 11, 2016

Dale and Paul

We were reminded last week that not everyone can be Dale Bumpers.

Bumpers, the former Arkansas governor and U.S. senator, died on Jan. 1. In the days since, well-earned words of honor, respect and remembrance have been free-flowing. He will long be remembered for his wit, oratory and his historic defeat of Arkansas political giants Orval Faubus, Winthrop Rockefeller and J. William Fulbright.

Paul R. Noland died the other day, too. The retired UA professor of agriculture was no Dale Bumpers. But he did plant the seeds, figuratively, of a research program that became a 60-year collaboration between Panama and the University of Arkansas. He educated thousands here and there. And he served on the Fayetteville Board of Directors for 14 years, serving five as the city’s mayor. He was active in Boy Scouts, the Lions Club and his church.

Some might chuckle at the honor of having one’s name on a sewage treatment plant, but the one of the city’s eastside is formally known as the Paul R. Noland Wastewater Treatment Facility. And it’s no laughing matter. He worked hard to get it built, and imagine what kind of limitations Fayetteville would have faced without adequate facilities. He knew it’s not just about flushing toilets; it’s about capacity to grow as a community.

No, we can’t all be Dale Bumpers. And we don’t have to be. The life of Paul Noland — and of many others like him — demonstrates how saying yes to leadership, saying yes to public service where it’s needed, can make a lasting difference for generations to come.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Jan. 11, 2016

Some bravery (sorta)

What a fracas, what a row, what a brouhaha - without the ha-ha’s. And here we thought the big news coming from the Ted Cruz campaign for president last week was going to be his being born in Canada. But even The Donald’s wisecracks about another birther conspiracy can’t make the news in Iowa like folks talking corn.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas - believe it or not - appears to be ahead in Iowa as we get closer and closer to February and Iowa’s caucuses. And sometime about mid-week last week, stories started appearing about his opposition to ethanol.

A candidate for any office opposing ethanol while campaigning in Iowa? Has bravery made a comeback on the campaign trail? The stories wrote themselves:

Can an opponent of ethanol win Iowa? What would this do to the state’s ethanol lobby? Is its power now on the decline? Will candidates no longer have to pander to the corn farmers to win the country’s first primary contest? Could a Ted Cruz victory give future candidates permission to take brave stands in other states? The press was in hog heaven. Imagine that: a new angle in the Republican primary this time of year! And about policy at that!

As the stories made the rounds, the lobbyists for the ethanol industry in Iowa began their attacks. And the debate heated up.

And then … silence. Not exactly crickets, because you can’t hear crickets in Iowa this time of year, but the “news” of the Cruz/ethanol lobbyist fight went away quickly. Mainly because Ted Cruz wrote an op-ed for the Des Moines Register that said his opinion on the ethanol matter had been misinterpreted.

Ah, ha! A flip-flop! The press was back in business.

Except, not exactly. The facts kept getting in the way.

In his guest column, Ted Cruz said he’s a supporter of the marketplace. And Washington shouldn’t play favorites. He wrote that the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard, which allows for 10 percent of ethanol in some fuels and is a big hit in Iowa, should be repealed. Why? In part, he said, because the EPA, through regulations, imposes a Hard Wall against other ethanol blends such as those that use upwards of 25 or 30 percent ethanol in the gasoline.

In other words, he’s not opposed to ethanol, per se. He’s opposed to Washington making the decisions about ethanol. Let the market decide. And, hey, who knows, farmers in Iowa might get even more corn in the nation’s gas tanks if the people want it.

All of which made for disappointed reporters. But good, solid policy.

Some of us have a hard time believing that Ted Cruz has much of a chance to win the Republican nomination (although he has probably a better chance than a handful of others above and below him in the polls). That might have a lot to do with his unwillingness over the years to play well with others.

But when it comes to his policy on ethanol, we wish other candidates made as much sense. And could talk rationally about this topic, even in Iowa, even in January.

Let the market decide. It’s the best policy most of the time.

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