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franklin county times

Striking a blow for freedom

By Staff
The flow of news did not stop last week as publishers, editors and various other interests gathered in Tunica for the 135th annual convention of the Mississippi Press Association. And that's as it should be news doesn't wait for any of us.
In newspaperdom, this gathering is marked by a recommitment to the noble ideals of journalism, functional words on publishing operations, counsel on major issues confronting the industry with a little fun thrown in. It's always enlightening to renew acquaintances with others in this profession who toil away in other Mississippi cities.
Tunica miracle'
Speakers touted the "Tunica miracle," describing how one of the poorest counties in the U.S. has gained new economic strength and international notoriety through gaming. Gaming (some people still prefer to call it "gambling") has provided jobs and economic opportunity for many workers, who a few short years ago were unskilled, undereducated and essentially hopeless.
Say what you will about the morality of gaming, but in Tunica this one single industry has lifted an entire region of the state to new heights of prosperity. New construction commercial and residential marks the horizon. New roads lead visitors into the area. The volume of traffic is high and growing.
Casinos offer on-the-job training and the types of advancement opportunities many workers elsewhere only dream about. Employees are making money, buying homes and cars and, presumably, paying more taxes.
Tunica is in a period of explosive growth while many other cities in Mississippi lie stagnant.
Would Meridian want to build its future on a foundation of gaming? One candidate (unsuccessful) for mayor made such a suggestion and it was immediately pooh-poohed out of the public debate.
Won't happen here, goes the conventional wisdom.
We're building our future on retail, hoping and working toward attracting a new round of manufacturing jobs in the next couple of years.
Near to the heart of every newspaper editor is another major issue reading. Reading not only helps ensure the survival of a cherished institution the press but also opens up a whole new world to young people who could benefit from expanded horizons.
Through the work of the Barksdale Reading Institute at Ole Miss, funded by the phenomenal financial success and generosity of former Netscape chairman and native Mississippian Jim Barksdale more Mississippi school children will learn proper reading skills.
Claiborne Barksdale, CEO of the Barksdale Reading Institute and brother of its founder, reported to the assembled editors and publishers that the program is making headway. The job is just so enormous that it will likely be years before the real goals are achieved.
But Jim Barksdale is a classic example of a native Mississippian making good and coming back home to share his wealth. Generations of Mississippi kids will benefit from the intensity his program is giving to reading.
Beyond that, sessions focused on laws governing news coverage and threats that seem to come from every quarter on basic freedoms of speech and of the press. There's a reason these freedoms were adopted as part of the Constitution and if we don't recognize the reason, we're worse off than we know.
Newspapers are often the last line of defense against the secrecy in which far too many governmental agencies like to operate. As citizens, we deserve to be full participants in the decision-making process.
Some public officials get a little testy when a reporter asks tough questions and some politicians are very adept at avoiding a direct response particularly when they see it as unfavorable to them. Still, we deserve and must demand the truth.
Newly energized from a few days with my Mississippi colleagues, I'm resolved to working harder at the basic business of the newspaper business getting real news in the paper.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail him at bbynum@themeridianstar.com.

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