- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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April 10

The Greenwood Commonwealth on job growth in the South:

An insightful story from the Reuters news service makes the very valid point that the Rust Belt of the Midwest faces job competition from more than one place.

President Donald Trump got elected on the strength of his ability to convince Rust Belt voters that he could bring back manufacturing jobs that have gone overseas. But the Reuters story, along with some revealing charts, makes it obvious that the Rust Belt also faces competition for these jobs from Southern states.

Using several measuring sticks, Reuters concludes that the South and the Rust Belt have traded places over the last few decades. The South clearly is trending upward; the Rust Belt is struggling.

The nine Southern states in the Reuters’ comparison stretch from the Carolinas to Texas but exclude Florida. The nine Rust Belt states run from West Virginia to Minnesota, and include the key Trump victory states of Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Perhaps the most surprising statistic is each region’s share of gross domestic product. Southern GDP, as a percentage of the national economy, has increased from 19 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 2015. Over the same period, the Rust Belt’s share has fallen from 21 percent to 19.

Both regions have lost about 28 percent of their manufacturing jobs since 2000. But the South leads the country in the growth of all private jobs from 2000-2015 - up 12 percent. The country as a whole has increased its number of jobs by 8 percent over that period. But jobs in the Rust Belt have declined by 1 percent.

The statistic that applies most directly to people is income. In 1960, Southern per capita income was 74 percent of the national average. In 2015 it was 88 percent. In the Rust Belt, 1960 per capita income was 101 percent of the national average, but in 2015 it had fallen to 94 percent.

This evolution involves more than the automobile industry, and more than the idea that labor costs in Southern states are lower because workers are less receptive to unions.

Economists say that the South’s skilled workforce continues to grow as college graduates move to the region. Many are coming from places such as the Rust Belt.

State taxes tend to be lower down South, and there is still plenty of low-cost land available for large industrial projects.

The Reuters story focuses on states such as North Carolina and Alabama. North Carolina is doing a good job of attracting skilled, educated workers. Alabama has done well with automakers and its port at Mobile, where the goal is to triple the number of containers that move through each year.

All this leads to the obvious question: Why isn’t Mississippi sharing in more of the South’s good fortune? The big-picture answer is that we still have a ways to go to catch up with our neighbors on workforce skills. Our smaller and less-educated population is also a factor.

Even so, Mississippi should be patient and persistent. We are in the right part of the country. It’s a matter of time before good things happen.

Online: https://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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April 11

The Picayune Item on a passenger rail along the Gulf Coast:

Train travel may not be the first choice for many these days, but discussions about reopening the passenger rail along the Gulf Coast will continue this year in a series of meetings.

Interest in the possibility of reviving the line was sparked last year and several cities on the route received federal grants to add some life back into the forgotten stations.

The line, which has been closed since Hurricane Katrina, would run from New Orleans to Florida, stopping in many major Mississippi cities on the way.

While Picayune wouldn’t be on that route, it wouldn’t be too far to catch a train down to Slidell and onto the Coast, or vice versa.

Trains often get a bad reputation as being one of the slowest forms of travel, but improving our country’s infrastructure could lead to faster railcars.

It’s also a way to reduce congestion on the country’s busy and deteriorating highway system.

Traveling by train is a fantastic way to see the country while stopping at cities both big and small to get a unique taste of other places. With airline prices rising, the ease of taking a passenger train may grow to be a more appealing travel option.

That is until driverless cars become more accessible to the average American.

But just as importantly, improving Picayune’s connection to the Gulf Coast line could provide a large bump in economic development for Pearl River County.

Our railroad lines are already being used to haul loads to and from New Orleans, but enabling access to Mobile and the resources coming through that port city could increase our local economy. Tourism might even see a boost if the added passenger rail works out.

Among other cities, a meeting is scheduled for Thursday in Gulfport with the Southern Rail Commission, which has been seeking political support for the project.

Online: https://www.picayuneitem.com/

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April 12

The Commercial Dispatch of Columbus on journalism and Pulitzer Prize winners:

Each year, when the Pulitzer prizes for journalism are announced, the usual suspects emerge - The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe and a few other newspapers with the talent, time and resources to pursue stories relentlessly. The stories that earn these media giants Pulitzers are most often familiar topics, dealing with issues of national, even international, importance.

But each year, as you scroll through the list of winners, other more obscure journalists and newspapers are found among the Pulitzer Prize winners since the first awards were presented 100 years ago.

This year’s Pulitzer for editorial writing provides no better example of this. The award went to Art Cullen, who along with his brother, started the Storm Lake (Iowa) Times in 1990. With a circulation of just 3,000, the twice-weekly Times is likely among the smallest newspapers to ever win such a prestigious award.

Cullen was plucked from obscurity out of an impressive list of editorial writers throughout the country. He won for editorials that confronted the state’s most powerful agricultural interests, which include the Koch Brothers, Cargill and Monsanto, and their secret funding of the government defense of a big environmental lawsuit. In a state as reliant on agriculture as Iowa, where big corporate agribusiness companies wield enormous power and influence, Cullen’s editorials - grounded in news reporting by his 24-year-old son, Tom — were not always well received and, no doubt, the small newspaper suffered the consequences of its unpopular stand.

But in demanding transparency from local government, Cullen served his community honorably and fulfilled the highest calling of his profession. If media does not hold our elected officials accountable, there is often no one who will.

While the issue Cullen tackled may not resonate far beyond Iowa, his example is a reminder to journalists everywhere. Good journalism is not the exclusive domain on big newspapers. Every day, throughout the country, journalists are working to serve the public interest by keeping them informed, calling attention to issues and holding elected officials accountable.

In an age when unpopular reporting is often dismissed as “fake news,” Cullen’s Pulitzer is an inspiration to thousands of unsung, largely unnoticed, journalists across the country who work diligently each day to serve their communities, even in the face of criticism.

It is important work and most of it never receives the sort of recognition it deserves.

Sometimes, though, it is.

Art Cullen is simply the latest example.

Online: https://www.cdispatch.com/


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