South Carolina editorial roundup
Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Spartanburg Herald-Journal on newsprint tariff:
It’s been a tough time for newspapers. The market has been changing, and papers have struggled to match their business models with the digital world. But newspapers are still an important way for people to get local news. You must agree, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this newspaper.
That conduit for local news is threatened by a new tariff on newsprint from Canada announced by the Commerce Department last week. The tariff was prompted by a complaint from one paper mill in Washington state.
If the tariff goes through, it will raise the cost of paper for all newspapers, enough to jeopardize continued operation for many.
We know there are some who would greet this as good news. It has become fashionable to hate the media, to deride any news that challenges our perspective as “fake news.”
Others will say that this should push papers to become all-digital operations and leave behind the legacy of “dead tree media.” The truth is that most papers are working as hard as they can to become successful digitally, but they are still dependent on their print product for most of their revenue. If this tariff makes that print product unprofitable, people will lose local news.
Your newspaper is still your best source of local news. No one else covers Spartanburg County like the Herald-Journal does. No one else covers your city council, your county council, your school board. No one else keeps an eye on your local tax dollars and keeps you informed about the decisions that are being made that affect your community.
If a tariff is allowed to put some papers out of business, citizens in those communities will lose a vital source of information.
Congressman Ralph Norman, R-S.C., recognizes this. He is part of a bipartisan group of 33 members of Congress who sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross asking him to reconsider the tariff.
“If these tariffs are put into place, over 600,000 jobs in an already declining industry would be put at risk or affected. Not only does this affect jobs, but also hurts all newspapers big and small. This especially threatens to put small newspapers out of business, essentially cutting off rural and small-town America from their local news,” Norman said in a statement released last month.
He went on to characterize the tariff as a handout from the government to the paper mill that requested the tariff.
We know it seems self-serving to editorialize against a tariff that would affect the newspaper business, but the fact is that this has become not just an issue for our business but for our community. We believe that newspapers like this one are necessary to the health of Spartanburg and similar areas around the nation. Federal officials should not take this vital source of local information away from communities through an unwise tariff.
The Post and Courier of Charleston on funding for higher education:
The state Commission on Higher Education last year barely escaped a sneaky legislative effort to undercut its authority, as Gov. Henry McMaster vetoed a budget proviso that would have stripped the CHE of its ability to vet major college building projects.
And CHE appeared to have avoided that ill-considered plan again last week, as the House of Representatives sustained the governor’s veto.
That vote, however, was taken at the recommendation of Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, who apparently wants to deal with the CHE more comprehensively in a stand-alone bill this session. Ominously, Mr. White, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, supported last year’s budget proviso.
Still, a stand-alone bill has the benefit of being a more forthright way for the CHE’s critics to address their objections to the agency’s insistence on higher standards of frugality and accountability. And for CHE advocates to openly counter those opponents.
There should be no question that the commission deserves broad support, legislative and otherwise, for its efforts to restrain skyrocketing college tuition and fees, as well as ill-considered building projects and program expansions. Unfortunately, there are plenty of old-guard legislators who think they ought to be running higher education, the same way they control other aspects of state government.
Indeed, it must be particularly galling to some longtime legislators to face a resurgent CHE. After all, the commission once served as a rubber stamp for college projects. But that’s no way to assure that the state’s 33 colleges and universities can remain financially viable for the long term. The CHE has attempted to impose a long overdue measure of fiscal restraint upon college trustees as needed. Naturally, that has rankled administrators and trustees who have been used to having their way, often with the assistance of hometown legislators and influential alumni.
The legislative Joint Bond Review Committee, for example, has been willing to help those boosters with end runs around the CHE, recently for athletic-related building projects.
That underscores the need for a stronger CHE. And the resurgent commission has been a responsible force for limiting the growth ambitions of public universities and their legislative advocates. For example, the CHE has adopted a fiscally sound policy that focuses first on overdue building repair and maintenance, rather than new projects.
Tim Hofferth, chairman of the CHE, recently called higher ed’s financial outlook “a billion dollar crisis for the state.”
The commission also wants to encourage state colleges to enroll fewer out-of-state students and more in-state students, recognizing that serving South Carolina residents is the first goal of public institutions of higher education. The CHE has been particularly critical of the University of South Carolina’s rising enrollment of out-of-state students. The latest freshman class is about 43 percent out-of-state.
In short, the commission and its staff have been willing to apply the brakes. Legislators who have the long-term interest of higher education in mind should recognize the importance of what the CHE does, and support its efforts to ensure the long-term health of public colleges and universities.
Sometimes that means saying no.
The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on equality and Martin Luther King Jr.:
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared with the world his dream of a colorblind society — one that focuses on his children’s character, not on their complexion. America has come closer to realizing King’s vision. But segregation and discrimination remain.
The personal-finance website WalletHub measured the gaps between blacks and whites across 23 indicators of equality and integration in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The data set ranges from median annual income to standardized-test scores to voter turnout.
The report examines the differences between only blacks and whites in light of the high-profile cases that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement and the holiday honoring King, who played a prominent role in the civil rights movement to end segregation and discrimination against blacks.
One ranking measures the current integration levels of whites and blacks. South Carolina ranks 34th.
Breaking that down, the state is 24th in employment and wealth, and 19th in social and civic engagement, but 44th in education and 47th in health.
In a separate ranking of states’ racial progress levels achieved over time, South Carolina is 21st: No. 9 in employment and wealth, No. 34 in education, No. 14 in social and civic engagement, and No. 36 in health.
For the record, the states that rank highest as most racially integrated are Hawaii, New Mexico, Kentucky, Arizona and Texas. The worst is District of Columbia, followed by Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont and South Dakota. Among South Carolina’s neighbors, Georgia is No. 11 and North Carolina is 18th.
In progress over time, Wyoming is best, followed by Texas, Georgia, New Mexico and Maryland. North Carolina ranks 14th. Maine is last.
So what should be taken away from the report on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and 50 years after his death in 1968?
The world is a very different place with measures of race relations and racism different than a half-century ago. As the narrative accompanying the WalletHub survey states: “It’s important to recognize the racial harmony we’ve achieved — in our workplaces, in our schools, in our voting booths.”
But as the rankings indicate and people should realize without a study, the colorblind society envisioned by King remains a goal. In viewpoint alone, there is a tremendous gap between blacks and whites.
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center cited by WalletHub, 92 percent of blacks say “whites benefit a great deal or a fair amount from advantages that blacks do not have.” By contrast, only 46 percent of whites agree with that statement.
Whether perception is reality is not as important as addressing issues and problems. The WalletHub study only reinforces what South Carolinians and our leaders know from other measures: The education and health of the state’s people are not what they should be. Political divisions aside, finding common ground to make improvement is a priority and must be treated by our leaders as such.