Before I came to Carroll County last June, I interviewed for an editor's position with a newspaper in a neighboring county. One of the questions the publisher of that newspaper asked me was: "When I look at your newspaper, I don't see the same kind of paper that I see when I look at ours. Why is that?"
It was a good question, and a fair one. My previous position was in Pine Bluff, a city that has been a state of decline for decades. The city is riddled with racial tension and often outright, open animosity. The population continues to shrink; the city's once-thriving downtown is literally crumbling; drugs, guns and poverty are everywhere; and each year there are close to 20 murders in a town of less than 50,000 people.
The newspaper was often criticized for its coverage of crime, although the fact was that we tried to put crime-related stories in the back of the paper, with the exception of murders. As I often said to readers there who complained about Page 1 coverage of homicides, when we reach the point that a murder in our town is Page 3 news, then we really have a problem.
Back to my conversation with the publisher.
What I said in response to his question was: "A good newspaper is a reflection of the community it serves. In a community that has all those problems, the paper will reflect that. In a community that is more vibrant and doesn't have those issues, the paper will reflect that, too."
I didn't get the job, for which I will be eternally grateful. Had I gotten that one, I wouldn't have applied for this one.
At any rate, my hope is that our newspaper reflects the many positive things that are going on in Carroll County. One area that I have emphasized with the help of our wonderful editorial staff is coverage of education and school-related issues.
As I said to reporter Samantha Jones in her first week here, people want to read about things that are important to them. And nothing is more important to most people than their children.
Samantha has done a wonderful job of covering education. She has gotten to know our local school administrators, classroom teachers and even students. I believe we're a better newspaper because of those efforts, and I hope you agree.
Of course, our goal also is to be balanced and give readers the information they need to know. Sometimes that means sharing information that doesn't necessarily come as great news, but it's our job and our responsibility to keep our readers informed.
The lead story in today's newspaper discusses letter grades assigned to every school in the state by the Arkansas Department of Education. Some of our local schools received high marks, while others did not.
That doesn't mean those are bad schools, or that they are led by bad administrators or bad teachers. On the contrary, I firmly believe that we in Carroll County are blessed with outstanding educators who are devoted to seeing our students succeed.
The grades assigned by the ADE simply serve as a measuring stick, and an indicator of where our schools can improve. I believe they will.
My hope is that residents of Carroll County will continue to support our local schools and our local students. If we can all do that, the results will be a reflection of our community.
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Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com.