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Mississippi editorial roundup

July 17, 2019

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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July 17

The Natchez Democrat on media coverage of Hurricane Barry:

... Hurricane Barry caused a lot of commotion. That commotion, however, was more about the forecasts and coverage of the storm than any commotion caused by the storm.

Forecasters had been focused on the storm as it churned in the Gulf and projected it would come ashore somewhere between the Mississippi and Texas coasts bringing with it torrential downpours of up to 2 feet as the slow-moving storm sat on the area.

Well, when Barry finally came ashore at Intracoastal, Louisiana, ... it did not unload as much rain as expected and storm crews for television networks struggled to tell the story.

First, national reports by The Washington Post that residents of New Orleans were fleeing and causing traffic jams made New Orleans residents angry as they said the reports were inaccurate. Then, a Saturday night report by a Weather Channel reporter live from Natchez Under the Hill claimed the storm had caused the Mississippi River to swell beyond its banks.

The shot focused on a portion of Silver Street that has been underwater for months due to historic flood levels of the Mississippi River.

As any resident of the Miss-Lou could tell you, those flood levels had nothing to do with the storm.

Some local residents saw the report as an attempt to deceive the public and still others claim the report hurt their businesses. While we sympathize with business owners and do not doubt that the overall media rush to cover Hurricane Barry led to a diminishment of business, we think they give too much credit to the Weather Channel reporter.

We also would like to believe the Weather Channel reporter simply mistakenly believed the flooding was a product of the storm as she is not from the area and more than likely just made a bad leap in her logic.

In the end, however, we’d rather have the storm of controversy caused by the inaccurate news report than actual storm damage.

We just hope that such reporting doesn’t make people doubt the news when a real detrimental storm is coming our way.

Online: https://www.natchezdemocrat.com

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July 17

The Daily Journal on a recent study ranking Mississippi almost last for mental health services:

Mental illness is a growing issue in our state and country, as indicated by a survey conducted by Mental Health America, which put Mississippi at No. 48, an overall ranking that indicates higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care.

Officials continue to discuss the need for mental hospitals versus community mental health facilities which assist patients to function independently in communities, as reported by staff writer Taylor Vance.

The subject is important because nearly one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness. In 2017, there were an estimated 46.6 million adults with mental issues, representing 18.9% of all adults.

The direct cost of treating and supporting mental illness is approximately $55 billion a year, according to the American Psychological Association. But there are indirect costs as well, including the cost of lost employment or decreased productivity, which have been estimated at $273 billion a year.

Statewide, the subject varies from whether more emphasis should be on hospitals or community centers, to budget cuts, to jailing those with mental illness.

If Mississippi looks for a method of Medicaid expansion as some gubernatorial candidates are advocating, an unpublicized benefit is that Medicaid covers many inpatient and outpatient mental health services, such as psychiatric treatment, counseling, and prescription medications, sometimes more comprehensively than private insurance.

For the system to work, all components — the community mental health, crisis management and housing — are needed. Due diligence is needed by elected officials to address the issues our state faces in dealing with mental illness. Working together, creative solutions are needed for this problem.

Through the people we elect, the programs we lobby for funding, and the day-to-day interactions we have with others, we’re all responsible for mental health care.

Online: https://www.dailyleader.com

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July 13

The Greenwood Commonwealth on a controversial development in the state’s governor race:

Mississippi politics may have a sketchy track record about producing good public policy, but at least you can say it always makes for entertaining theater.

The latest act in that long-running saga came this past week in the race for governor.

State Rep. Robert Foster got into a tussle with a Jackson news outlet over not allowing a female reporter to cover his campaign unless escorted by a male colleague. Larrison Campbell of Mississippi Today requested to follow the candidate and report about it, something the online news outlet had sent another reporter to do for his opponents in the Republican primary.

Foster’s campaign first said they couldn’t risk opposition groups taking pictures of Campbell near the candidate and use it to falsely insinuate an affair. Foster then said he and his wife agreed to the “Billy Graham rule” of not spending time alone with a member of the opposite sex. That’s generated attention from national news outlets to someone who previously had been little-known.

The thought up until now has been that Foster might draw enough votes in the Aug. 6 primary to force a runoff on Aug. 27 between Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. That’s because Foster is from the densely populated and heavily conservative Memphis suburbs in DeSoto County that carry much weight in Republican primaries. Foster has also campaigned hard, and many people at events we’ve been at have come away impressed with the message from the 36-year-old small business owner, which includes eliminating the state income tax and raising the sales and gas taxes. Yet he wasn’t seen as a legitimate contender on his own, and his campaign has been operating on a shoestring.

All the attention on Foster this past week could turn him into a legitimate spoiler, at least for Reeves’ hopes of winning on the first ballot.

This whole controversy, though, sounds as though it’s been intentionally stoked, and possibly orchestrated, by Foster to appeal to ultraconservatives.

It would be paranoid of him to think opposition groups would be so scheming as to take a picture of Foster with a female reporter in the background at a campaign event and use it to insinuate an affair. Frankly, he’s not been enough of a threat in that race to even merit consideration of such duplicity.

Furthermore, in the 21st century, it’s backward and an embarrassment to flatly prevent a woman from doing a job that you would gladly allow a man to do. Few, if any, reporters are going to try to seduce a candidate they’re covering. It should also be noted that Campbell is a lesbian married to another woman, according to an essay she wrote for Architectural Digest last year. Her interests in Foster would surely be purely professional.

Rather than backing away from the sexism, though, Foster has used it to appeal to support from the right.

“The liberal media is in an uproar over the fact that I choose not to be alone with another woman.

They can’t believe, that even in 2019, someone still values their relationship and their wife and upholds their Christian Faith,” a campaign email said.

He’s making himself out to be a martyr when he’s really only a victim of his own sexism. Yet the fact that the controversy has been a boost to his campaign says all you need to know about the sorry state of affairs in Mississippi and national politics. The last thing this state needs is another conservative demagogue who places blame for his own failings on alleged liberal media conspiracies.

Foster should apologize and move on rather than cynically trying to profit from his boorishness.

Online: https://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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