Jackson County Opinions...

 August 2, 2000


Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
August 2, 2000

Had E-Nough Of Computer Technology
I gave up when, during a re-booting of my computer Monday, the following message appeared: "You may want to correct your computer's date. The correct date is Jan. 2, 1904."
It had not been a good day, computerwise, anyway, and anytime the computers don't work on Monday makes for disaster.
My home computer was at the computer doctor's office already. It locked up during a futile attempt to upgrade Windows 95 to Windows 98. After paying $96 for the program and following its instructions, I got an error message from which there was no escape.
I thought I'd call Microsoft and get things straightened out.
Bill Gates wasn't in, but Jason politely took my name and assigned me a case number, then put me on hold. Seven minutes later, I hung up, re-called, gave my case number and was informed that I had not been forgotten. Rather, I had been put in the queue where, apparently, one 13-year-old technician was handling all Microsoft complaints nationwide. I was reinstalled in the queue, where I was subjected to easy listening music for 20 minutes (timed), before I slammed down the phone. It wasn't even a toll-free number.
I borrowed my son's laptop to dash off an ugly email praising the breakup of Microsoft and describing the shameful customer service in simple, four-letter words that even a Microsoft weenie could understand.
At work, things were not quite so desperate, but I had to reboot several times when, for no apparent reason, the computer just quit working. Such behavior I understand with our employees, but it is frustrating when the equipment adopts the characteristics of personnel.
Even the diagnostic program did not work, which is personally insulting. The man in the Norton Utilities icon looks a lot like me, except he's good looking and better dressed, and I've renamed the program "Dr. Mark's Computer Clinic" in my honor. The computer crashed when I attempted to effect treatment with Dr. Mark.
Then Commerce Micro calls to tell me that, sorry, all of the data on my home computer is lost. Before I could summon the appropriate lineup of curse words, I realized that I have no data on my hard drive. I'm too cheap to pay for dirty pictures, what little I write goes on a disk, so there was little to lose, other than the address book for my email, of which I have a copy, the "favorites" from the Internet and a bit of software downloaded from the Internet. Actually, Commerce Micro is very polite. They don't even laugh when they see me carrying in a CPU for its weekly treatment.
The work computer finally rebooted and, to my surprise, none of the files are dated 1904, which was a relief. For in that instant when I was told of the "correct date," I assumed that Y2K had finally manifested itself and all the horrible events predicted for Jan. 1 would finally take place.
I've learned not to take an operating computer for example. As I type this, I type each letter respectfully, as if it might be the last one. The events of the day have shown me that anything can happen, including the termination of service in the middle of a



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
August 2, 2000

Parents responsible for education
Who should be responsible for the education of your child? Traditionally, most of us would have said that our local schools shoulder that responsibility. After all, we pay a lot of local and state tax money to support those institutions. If our children fall short, shouldn't we hold our schools accountable?
Well, yes and no. Certainly, we should hold schools accountable for how they operate, the programs they offer and the general quality of instruction offered. Increasing accountability has been a key part of education reform efforts during recent years.
But the dynamics of public education are in the midst of a huge shift. A combination of federal rules, court rulings and overzealous educrats have muddled classrooms such that many students' needs go unmet.
We think the answer to many of these problems is for parents to become more interested and involved in their children's education. That's true no matter what the academic level of the child - all children, regardless of their unique academic abilities, have a need for parents to play a key role in their education.
In other words, don't just drop your kids off at the front door of the school each day and assume their academic needs will be met.
Now, that doesn't mean you have to home-school your child to make sure he or she achieves. While we applaud those parents who do choose the option of home-schooling, that is an impossible choice for many.
But there are things all parents can do to help their children achieve:
· Forge a relationship with your child's teacher and let him or her know that you're interested.
· Find out what's expected of your child academically during the year. Make sure the course content is appropriate and challenging for your child.
· Find ways to supplement public education efforts with private programs through local libraries and other institutions. If there isn't a program in an area you need, get together with other parents to start one.
· Read with and to your child. Reading is critical to academic success.
· If your child is struggling in an area, find a tutor to supplement public education efforts. Do the same thing if your child needs challenging in an area.
· Support teacher and administrative efforts to enforce discipline, both with your child and with other children.
· Don't have unrealistic expectations for non-academic programs. Schools aren't social service agencies. Treat schools as places to learn and use other community resources to address your child's social and medical needs.
· Get involved in parent programs at your school. Talk with other parents, compare experiences and attempt to discern both the strengths and weaknesses of your child's school.
· Focus on achievement, both at home and with school officials. Never let the process of education be confused with the goal of mastering knowledge. Let your child know that education is important in your home and enforce standards of behavior and conduct to support that.
· Reverse your view of the education process. Rather than viewing your efforts as supplementing public schools, view public schools as supplementing your efforts as a parent.
· Demand accountability of your child's school, but more importantly, demand accountability of yourself as a parent.
You are your child's teacher.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
August 2, 2000

Poll results don't drive editors
It's a given that polling results drive some campaigns today. Even at the local level, polls play an increasing role in how some candidates shape their messages. Politics is all about image, not reality.
But I must admit, I was somewhat surprised this week to discover that a political polling firm was asking people about me and this newspaper. "What do you think about Mike Buffington?" was one of the questions, as was "What do you think about The Jackson Herald?"
I'm a little puzzled that I rated a question in this poll, which was apparently being done by Republican interests, since two of the questions also asked about state House of Representatives candidate Scott Tolbert and state Senate candidate Mike Beatty, both local Republicans.
I'm not a candidate for anything. As a journalist, I am a sideline observer in the game of politics. I don't get to call the play, run the ball or tackle the other team. I'm just the guy who keeps the stats and tries to figure out which team got the most yards. If a politician trips over his own feet, I write it down. If he throws a touchdown pass, that gets inked as well.
Although the questions in this poll have a hint of Nixonesque motives, I am flattered that Republican campaign handlers thought enough of me to rate my own question.
But unlike politicians, my job doesn't depend on the level of my popularity. In fact, if my poll results are too favorable, I'm probably not doing my job right.
That just goes with the journalistic territory and is a fact accepted by everyone who stays around this business for a while. If you are a good newspaper editor, you're probably not going to be very popular. If you prod and probe and ask the right questions, it's likely that a lot of people won't like it. I've always told young journalists that if they want to be popular, find another career. If they stay in the newspaper business, they'll never be on the social "A" list.
Every week, for example, we have dozens of names of local citizens on our crime and court pages. I doubt that those folks like it very much that their legal problems show up in print. I've never met anyone who thanked me for running their DUI arrest, although I've had a few people threaten to whip-up on me.
Public officials also have a few choice words for newspaper editors. They often don't like our sitting in at their controversial meetings, or asking them uncomfortable questions. I can't say that I blame them for feeling that way - it is difficult to make important decisions while someone with a pencil (nowadays, a laptop) takes down your every word. One of the best comments I've ever heard was a local politician who once complained about a meeting we covered: "Yes, I know I said that, but d--, you didn't have to print it!"
What really seems to stir the ire of politicians, however, are the opinion pieces that appear on this page. I've never really understood that - after all, everyone has opinions. The only difference is that newspaper editors write theirs down. Instead of being embarrassed in private, we're willing to embarrass ourselves in public.
Now I know it would be easier to write fluff on these pages than to really say what I think. I could write about how cute my children are, or about springtime flowers, or about any one of a dozen other happy-face subjects.
But I'm not sure I could look myself in the mirror each morning if I ignored the important issues that face our community. I realize that I can't solve those problems, but perhaps I can write about them and maybe, just maybe, spark someone in a position of power to act accordingly.
The truth is, editors don't get any pleasure writing critically about political leaders. I don't enjoy writing critical comments about politicians that I know and grew up with, candidates like Tolbert and Beatty, both of whom I've known for longer than I can remember. (Or, for that matter, House candidate Pat Bell who, like Tolbert and Beatty, has on occasion been the subject of critical comments on these pages.)
And yet, that is part of my role as an editor. To focus only on the good and ignore the controversial would not serve the larger interest of our community.
So although I'm amused by these polling questions, I'm not sure why anyone really cares about my standing in their poll. I'm not running for state representative or the senate. I'm an editor, not a politician.
The only poll that really matters to me is the one done every week by those of you who buy a copy of this newspaper. Whether you agree with my opinions or not, if you come away stimulated to think about important community issues, then I've done my job.
That won't win me any points in the polls, but I've never expected it would.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
August 2, 2000

Fletcher Best Choice For Commission Chair
Voters on Tuesday will select the man who, in all likelihood, will serve as chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners for the next four years. This is an important election, considering that the county is changing its form of government and facing the most rapid growth in its history.
Three weeks ago, The News endorsed Harold Fletcher in the primary. The endorsement continues for next Tuesday as well, for the same reasons outlined three weeks ago. Fletcher brings more assets to the table. He has worked in industry and has built a successful private business. He was instrumental in keeping Jackson County government in the black when he served as county commissioner, living up to the commitment he made when running for office to be fiscally conservative. His lifestyle and demeanor are testimony to his personal stability, and he is active in church and community. He has served well in both elected and appointed positions and is well-regarded by the business community.
The new board of commissioners will face two major challenges ­ the change to a county manager form of government (including the selection of the interim and permanent county managers) and meeting the demands of growth. To meet those challenges, the chairman must be dependable, able to meet with ordinary Jackson County citizens and the movers and shakers of industry and state government alike. He should be mature, financially responsible, tough but fair-minded and dedicated to making decisions based on what is best for Jackson County as a whole.
Fletcher meets those criteria. He is not the best campaigner and is definitely not a slick politician. But Harold Fletcher is a the best choice voters will have Tuesday when they vote for the man who will lead Jackson County during its crucial transformation.


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