Alabama editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Gadsden Times on Voices for Alabama’s Children releasing its annual Kids Count Data Book:
It was report card time for Alabama last week — not on how well its children are being educated, but on their well-being.
Voices for Alabama’s Children released its annual Kids Count Data Book. The nonprofit group, which seeks to improve the health and well-being of the state’s kids, has issued the report for a quarter-century now.
Along with an assessment of the demographics of Alabama’s children, Kids Count examines data (this time from 2016) in more than 70 specific areas under four generalized indicators — health, education, safety and economic security — both overall and by county.
First the good: Mortality rates for children of all ages continue to decline. Fewer teenagers are having babies. Ninety-seven percent of children have health insurance, thanks to initiatives like ALL Kids. More children have access to Pre-K and the long-term rewards are evident, as fewer high schoolers are getting off the grade track and 90 percent are graduating on time.
Now the bad: Alabama’s child population is declining as its overall population increases. (Probably as an offshoot, there are fewer licensed child care facilities in the state). The child poverty rate continues to increase (encompassing 30 percent of those under age 5). The infant mortality rate remains too high (9.1 percent per 1,000 live births, compared to a national average of 5.6).
There also are educational issues; 60 percent of fourth-graders failed to meet the minimum proficiency standards in reading and 48 didn’t get there in math according to the now-abandoned ACT Aspire test. While the high school graduation figure is impressive — and there actually has been slight improvement in this area — only 71.5 percent of Alabama’s high school students, according to the report, were rated as college or career ready.
Each county is given an overall well-being ranking based on the number of low birth weight babies, births to teens, children in Pre-K, fourth-grade reading proficiency, teens not in school or working, children in poverty, Medicaid-paid births, child food insecurity and the unemployment rate.
Not surprisingly, the more economically vibrant counties lead the way (with Shelby on top) and poorer counties (most of them from the state’s Black Belt) are in the bottom third.
Rhonda Mann, deputy director of VOICES for Alabama’s children, said in a press release announcing this year’s Kids Count that the group is ready to address the issues and places where improvement is warranted in the 2019 legislative session.
Yes, it will be prodding the Legislature to spend money, as will umpteen other organizations with needs. We’re aware that just caused a bunch of folks whose governmental mantra is “cut” to tune out.
We support lean, economical, efficient government. Some needs just carry price tags.
We also understand that needs must be prioritized. We just think Alabama’s children — the state’s future, as we’ve often said — are pretty high priority.
The TimesDaily says the press is not the enemy of the people:
Journalism’s role in a free society has been questioned a lot this year in an ongoing political debate that characterizes the press as creators of “fake news.”
But here’s the truth: The press is not the enemy of the people. We are the people. The stories we publish aren’t “fake news.” They are your news. And we struggle night and day to get the facts right.
As the slogan for this year’s National Newspaper Week observance (Oct. 7-13) proclaims, “Journalism Matters, Now More Than Ever.”
Throughout history, the press has been heralded as the “watchdog of the public.” Newspapers have championed free and open government for the public. We’ve defended your right to know when governments attempted to stifle that freedom. We’ve exposed corruption in government agencies and public institutions that otherwise would have remained a secret.
These stories helped create better laws and practices, and changed the way we live for the better.
We are always by your side. We shop the same stores and attend the same churches. We attend local sporting events, and enjoy the music, art and history that defines our culture.
But in our work as journalists, our first loyalty is to you. Our work is guided by a set of principles that demand objectivity, independence, open-mindedness and the pursuit of the truth. We make mistakes, we know. There’s nothing we hate more than errors, but we acknowledge them, correct them and learn from them.
Our work is a labor of love because we love our country and believe we are playing a vital role in our democracy. Self-governance demands that our citizens need to be well-informed, and that’s what we’re here to do.
We go beyond the government-issued press release or briefing and ask tough questions so that our readers can better understand often complicated issues. We hold people in power accountable for their actions. Some think we’re rude to question and challenge. We think that’s our obligation.
People have been criticizing the press for generations. We are not perfect. But we’re striving every day to be a better version of ourselves than we were the day before.
The Decatur Daily on breast cancer awareness:
A breast cancer diagnosis doesn’t affect just the patient. It causes sorrow and fear for all the people who know the mother, grandmother, sister or wife confronting the disease.
The statistics on breast cancer are grim. An estimated 266,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year, and the illness will kill 41,000 women, according to the Susan G. Komen organization. There will be 670 deaths in Alabama from breast cancer in 2018, the American Cancer Society estimates.
Yet, there are positive signs. The Komen organization reports breast cancer mortality declined 39 percent in the United States from 1989-2015, and that makes efforts such as devoting October to breast cancer awareness important.
Coloring this month pink helps various organizations raise money for research and improved treatment that will help decrease mortality from the illness.
More importantly, having a breast cancer awareness month provides a chance to educate women about how they can lessen the likelihood they’ll get breast cancer but detect it early if they do.
There are some risk factors for breast cancer that are out of a woman’s control, including family history, her gender, age and ethnicity. Most breast cancer is found in women 55 and older, for instance. And women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men.
The American Cancer Society says there are steps a woman should take to reduce her chances of having breast cancer, including:
. Stay physically active. The ACS recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week, preferably spread out over several days.
. Limit use of alcohol. Women who drink should consume no more than one alcoholic drink a day, the ACS recommends.
. Stay at a healthy weight. The ACS recommends avoiding weight gain with a proper diet and exercise.
Recommendations for detecting breast cancer vary based on a woman’s risk factors and age, but finding the disease early and getting treatment clearly lead to better outcomes.
The American Cancer Society says women who get regular mammograms are more likely to have their breast cancer found early, less likely to need the most aggressive treatments and more likely to be cured.
The latest recommendations call for women at average risk of breast cancer to consider starting regular mammograms between the ages of 40-44 before getting them annually from 45-54. Women 55 and older may need them only every other year.
So as the weather cools and fall arrives this month, take the opportunity to learn more about breast cancer. Women can make lifestyle changes that make them less vulnerable to the disease. They also can make sure to talk to their medical providers about screening.
All of us can consider donating to an organization or project that helps fight breast cancer, whether it involves research, purchasing new equipment or making detection accessible to those with limited resources.
Think pink in October. Think prevention. Think early detection.