- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Jan. 21

The Index-Journal of Greenwood on improving school safety:

You know the expression: There are two sides to every story. More often than not, there are three sides. Somewhere between the two sides lies the true story.



Our hope is that somewhere in the middle exists the truth about how safe students are in Greenwood County School District 50 and about how the district prepares for - and is prepared for - worst-case scenarios. Somewhere in the middle, legitimate parents’ concerns should be balanced against the district’s responses to those concerns, as were aired this past week at the school board meeting. There is a tendency, especially among school boards and school administrators, to take a cavalier, we-know-best approach to day-to-day public school business.

That a number of weapons and potential weapons, namely BB guns and a .40-caliber handgun, have made their way into the district’s schools is a legitimate concern. That a number of fights have occurred, some purported to be among gang-like members even at the middle school level, is a legitimate concern.

It is reasonable that the district does not want to jeopardize its safety measures by revealing every element and detail of those plans, a point made by Gerald Witt, assistant superintendent for administration, during last week’s meeting. Witt did enumerate some of the measures in place, such as the number of cameras in schools and on buses. He shared the district’s investment in school resource officers, that school visitors cannot simply enter schools but must be “buzzed in.” He noted there are hand-held metal detectors and that ID badges are implemented across the district.

Certainly we don’t pretend to have the answers and the parents who showed up to and spoke at the board meeting last week don’t claim to have all the answers regarding how to better ensure across-the-board school safety. That, however, does not mean the concerns raised should be dismissed. Nor does it mean the school board should simply accept the administration’s responses to concerns at face value. Better and increased communication from the district with the public it works for is advisable and would go a long way toward bridging gaps of trust.

We hardly think school administrators, principals, teachers and board members themselves have no concerns for safety, or that they would not want to seek ways to improve upon any and all plans already in place. But we do think the matter should be taken seriously and that the board should make this an ongoing discussion.

Committees can be the best approach to killing forward progress, but they also can be engines that drive progress, if given the tools and power to be effective. Toward that end and in an effort to mitigate safety concerns, both real and perceived, the board would do well to establish a committee consisting of some of its members, parents, administrators, teachers, staff and, perhaps, even students. This committee could re-examine measures in place and seek out best practices conducted within other school districts, and not just within South Carolina.

By bringing to the table a sampling of all those affected by a problem or potential problem, the likelihood of creating viable and effective solutions is exponentially increased.

Would that not be a win for all?

Online: http://www.indexjournal.com

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Jan. 21

The Post and Courier of Charleston on earmarking federal money:

Long before Donald Trump burst on the political scene, Congress had its own version of “The Art of the Deal” as members shoveled federal pork to states and congressional districts via the earmark. It was a bad way to do business, being absent the good government qualities of oversight and accountability that politicians so cherish, at least on the stump.

But now some federal officeholders, including President Trump, want to bring back the earmark to advance projects that are being held up by a lack of congressional bipartisanship. No question, it would get federal funds flowing again, and in the worst way.

Earmarking federal money for specific projects without the requisite scrutiny was once an essential part of the horse trading by which politicians advanced their home state and in-district projects. Those projects helped them stay in Congress, where they usually became more adept at the process - slipping earmarks into spending bills - as time went by.

But more review by taxpayer groups, such as Citizens Against Government Waste and the Taxpayers for Common Sense, increased the public’s awareness of earmarks, such as Alaska’s infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” that received regular federal allocations by virtue of Republican Rep. Don Young’s chairmanship of the House Public Works Committee. The project was ultimately stopped, but not until $233 million in federal funding had been allocated.

The political value of earmarks withered under the spotlight, and the practice was finally banned in the House in 2009 at the recommendation of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Last week, however, President Trump gave earmarks a thumbs-up as a way to restore congressional bipartisanship and advance public works projects. After all, where’s the fun of being in Congress if you can’t bring home the bacon?

“We have to put better controls because it got a little bit out of hand,” Mr. Trump said last week. “But maybe that brings people together, because our system right now, the way it’s set up, will never bring people together.”

That the House has begun hearings on the possibility indicates a willingness to go back to the bad old days, when success was counted in part by how much a congressman could grab for his district.

First District Rep. Mark Sanford isn’t buying it. He outlined his opposition in comments Wednesday. “With the federal government $20 trillion in debt, it’s evident that Congress has no trouble finding ways to spend money. There is no need to open the floodgates to pet projects, which will incentivize more spending with less oversight. Indeed, with earmarks, everyone expects a slice of the pie.

“While an individual district may get funding for a special project, there are 434 other districts that are expecting and demanding the same. And projects that wouldn’t usually be funded by the federal government will get crammed into bills without the transparency and deliberation that usually accompanies the legislative process.”

Rep. Sanford declared that Congress’ focus “should be less on how to spend more, and more on how to spend responsibly. Reinstating earmarks certainly isn’t the way to accomplish that.”

Mr. Sanford has been opposed to earmarks since his first turn in the House in the 1990s. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., is another longstanding opponent.

“We gave up oversight of just about everything just to focus on feathering our own nest,” Mr. Flake said, in comments to The Washington Post. “It’s not worth it, it really isn’t.”

Advocates of the earmark process cite the great things that have been achieved by getting a quick federal fix adeptly provided by a knowledgeable congressman. But there have been more indefensible allocations obtained from the federal purse simply because some congressman was able to do so.

To hear Mr. Trump extoll the prospects of a return to the congressional trough is pretty rich. Isn’t he the candidate who promised to “drain the swamp”?

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/

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Jan. 21

The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on “fake news”:

During a year as president, Donald Trump has been vocal in criticism of the media. He has put the term “fake news” into the American lexicon.

While the president derides media, the irony is his reliance upon it. Trump used mass media masterfully to catapult himself to the presidency and has played on public mistrust and outright disdain for the press to deflect criticism and score political points.

The president is second-guessed by friend and foe for his use of Twitter, but he knows well that what he says and when he says it, every time, is going to make news. He openly baits for his own objectives, realizing today’s media with its blend of entertainment, commentary and news will give him miles and miles of publicity and roundly criticize him in the process.

With every critical word from media, the president openly reinforces his contention of anti-Trump bias. And while reporting on a president with a critical eye is a journalistic responsibility, it’s hard to argue with Trump that he does not get fair treatment in many instances.

In the president’s ideal world, he may prefer media feed the Trump ego and pronounce him the greatest. He knows that is not going to happen (and should not happen). Thus the president paints the media as the bad guy, knowing he has an audience in supporters - and potential backers.

Ever the showman, Trump further looks to capitalize on his negative portrayal of media with the promised “Fake News Awards.” He released the list - on Twitter of course - this past week.

The “awards” go to CNN, four; The New York Times, two; and ABC, The Washington Post, Time and Newsweek, one each.

Never mind the accuracy of reports that Trump does not like or the acknowledged errors from news organizations in some of the reporting cited by the president, Trump has an audience as big as the world. And while many may not believe the president in many instances, Americans definitely do not see the media providing an unbiased view.

Some points:

. A new study from Gallup and the Knight Foundation finds 66 percent of Americans say most news organizations blur opinion and fact, up from 42 percent in 1984.

. “Fake news” is deemed a threat to democracy by a majority of respondents in the study from Gallup and Knight.

. A Pew Research Center report finds nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults say fabricated news stories cause a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current affairs.

. Republicans and Democrats are about equally likely to say “fake news” leaves Americans confused about current events, according to Pew.

The unpopularity of media is not new but has reached a troubling level. As pointed out by The Associated Press citing numbers from the General Social Survey by NORC at the University of Chicago, the percentage of people expressing a great deal of confidence in media has fallen from a high of 28 percent in 1976 to 8 percent in 2016.

Media in part have themselves to blame. The aforementioned marriage of entertainment, commentary and news leaves the audience to wonder where one stops and another starts.

So what constitutes good journalism in 2018? Key characteristics are no different now than from days long before cable shows and the internet:

. Truth and accuracy - Determining truth may not always be possible but getting the facts right is.

. Fairness and impartiality - Objectivity is the mission. Tell as many sides of the story as possible.

. Independence - Journalists should not be tied to special interests or work with an agenda, and must avoid conflicts of interest.

. Humanity - Journalists are to be cognizant in their reporting of the harmful impact words and images can have.

. Accountability - Media must listen to concerns of readers, correct mistakes and express regret for errors.

Despite all the president’s portrayals and the media’s self-made problems, journalists as whole in 2018 remain committed to the profession and its ethics and ideals. We say that with confidence. Good journalism is still a part of the national fabric.

And the encouraging note in the world of presidential “fake news” awards is the Pew survey finds more than 8 in 10 Americans feel very or somewhat confident they can recognize news that is fabricated.

Online: http://thetandd.com

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