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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

August 7, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

The Pine Bluff Commercial. Aug. 3, 2018.

Forgive us for being absent from this space for so long. We’ve been extremely busy with other tasks, but we understand the importance of this space and vow to keep it filled with informed opinion on a more regular basis.

That said, let’s dig into an issue that we feel is hindering our city: Blight.

It seems that around most every corner there is an old house or business that’s run down. We aren’t talking about abandoned properties, either. These properties are inhabited with either residents or stores.

With the Urban Renewal Agency trying to rid the city of blight — mostly abandoned properties in the city’s core — we need to do something to encourage home and business owners to spruce up their spaces as well. We understand that money is very tight these days, but a few gallons of paint can be managed by almost any business owner.

In addition, we have a proposal. A few years ago we were made aware of a program in Magnolia that gathered groups of volunteers once a month to target an area of the city for cosmetic improvements. They painted buildings, planted flowers, trees, etc.

Why can’t we do that here?

We can think of at least two or three businesses along Blake Street that just look awful. They appear as if they were painted by spray cans and their overall look is far from professional. These kinds of things send the wrong message about our city to the rest of the world.

Perhaps with a little coaxing or with help from volunteers, these business owners would allow more aesthetically pleasing layers of paint to be applied to their buildings.

According to a recent article in the Houston Chronicle by business expert Felicia Green, “Potential customers form their first impressions of your business by viewing the building’s exterior. Repairing hanging gutters, delaminated trim or sagging awnings demonstrates that you take pride in your business premises’ appearance.

“If your building has begun to show its age, hire a painting contractor to apply a fresh coat of paint. Contract for power washing or other cosmetic services on a stone or brick building. If you don’t own the building, negotiate your improvements with your landlord.”

Additionally, Green writes that professional signage appearance is important for local businesses.

“While nicely maintained exterior signage announces your business’s presence, it also implies that you care how your business premises appear to customers,” she wrote. “Signs with chipped paint, missing letters or burned-out bulbs create less-than-positive impressions.”

Back to those businesses we mentioned on Blake Street, some of the signs are deplorable and look downright trashy.

So here’s the deal, Pine Bluff. Let’s try to encourage everyone to put their best foot forward and represent our city well. And, if they are not able to do so financially, let’s all try to help them out one paintbrush at a time. We believe the benefits will help our city blossom.

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Texarkana Gazette. Aug. 7, 2018.

President Donald Trump was serious when he promised to put pressure on Iran over nuclear weapons development.

And this week he showed just how serious.

Back in May, the president withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 deal that lifted some economic sanctions from Iran in exchange for certain nuclear concessions. He gave banks and other businesses 90 days to wind up any dealings with Iran that would put them in conflict with renewed sanctions.

Now the reckoning has begun. Initial sanctions taking effect Monday include measures to keep Iran from obtaining U.S. dollars, keeping overseas bank accounts and conducting business in precious metals, as well as other barriers to trade.

And that’s just the beginning. There is more to come — specifically targeting Iran’s biggest moneymaker, oil.

The president hopes to pressure Iran into accepting more stringent conditions on their nuclear energy program than were required by President Barack Obama in the 2015 agreement. Iran has already seen significant economic impact. Their currency has lost half its value since April. And several major companies like Peugeot, Airbus and Boeing have pulled out of deals with the country.

But critics maintain President Trump’s “bully” position won’t work.

We’ll have to wait and see. But one thing’s for sure: The U.S. can hold out a lot longer than Iran on this. Their economy is already hurting and things will only get worse.

In our view, President Trump’s tough stand is just what’s needed in dealing with a country that has a history of making promises while stalling for more time to develop its nuclear weapons.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Aug. 7, 2018.

The government has its hands on much of life as it is. It issues money, regulates stock markets, guarantees property rights, enforces the rule of law and try opening a business, any business, without the proper papers. But we should think long and hard about letting it get a foothold in your sports section and crossword puzzles.

Did you hear that New Jersey’s Legislature and Gov. Phil Murphy approved $5 million in funding to subsidize the press? Welcome to state-sponsored media, New Jersey.

Here’s how the system is supposed to work: New Jersey, a state with plenty of financial problems, ponies up $5 million to create the Civic Information Consortium, which consists of five state universities. The Wall Street Journal sums up the rest:

“The consortium will use the money for grants supposedly to improve news coverage in communities deemed underserved. The consortium will in turn be overseen by a 13-member board: two appointed by the Governor, two by the legislature, one by each university, and the other four drawn from community groups, media outlets and the technology industry.”

This is a classic big-government approach to a problem. There’s an issue, so we’ll throw money at it.

Local journalism is facing a dilemma these days. Business models have been changing for newspapers and other local media. Journalists who once covered important issues like the city council, quorum court, school board, etc., are becoming more rare. When those areas go uncovered, those in charge of the public’s money might be emboldened with the spotlight powered down. It’s not a new song.

What’s the solution to this problem? We don’t exactly know. We’re certainly doing our best to continue being Arkansas’ Paper for you, Gentle Reader. Blogs and news websites are popping up around the nation, attempting to fill in the gaps. They’re quickly learning it’s getting harder to make money.

And should we expect CNN or Fox News to send a reporter to cover a city council meeting in Harrison or Hot Springs? Unlikely, unless there’s a massive protest about an outrageous circumstance. But there’s only so many of those stories to go around. Outrage, though potent, is a limited resource.

So while the news industry figures out how to adapt to new technology and business models in 2018, there are plenty of experiments to try to save our industry. There are grants from nonprofits to fund reporters, a shift to digital news subscriptions and more. But do we really want the government subsidizing even more journalists? We already have NPR and PBS.

Reporters who might receive these grants wouldn’t exactly have North Korea’s overseers, but we should all wonder: How likely will these reporters be to dig into a big legislative scandal involving their funders, the government? Do you uncover a scandal if it could mean losing funding for your job? That’s the position some of these new reporters might find themselves in.

And that’s the problem with letting the government get involved in something like the free press. We have a First Amendment to keep government out of our industry, but what happens when the government funds it? We fear nothing good.

We do note that the outfit that first came up with this idea in Jersey is called the Free Press Action Fund, and its leaders have been extensively quoted. But can a truly free press be funded this way? Our considered editorial opinion: Let’s not. Believe it or not, journalists are human, too, mostly . . . And . . . .

The hands that feed you oft times aren’t bitten. Some watchdog that would be.

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