The Reporter covers Miller, Morgan and Camden County in Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks and is published once per week on Wednesdays.

 

(Updated January 5, 2022)

Guest Editorial - It is tough out there

(Published January 5, 2022)  

Every so often, an internet writeup gets passed about how much tougher it was growing up in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s than it is today. They’re generally nostalgic, funny, and a putdown of todays teens. It is true that life was harder then, but in fact each succeeding generation has had it easier than the last.

No way the Baby Boom generation would have willingly traded places with the childhoods of our parents. They started life in the Great Depression and then had to fight World War II. Of course their parents had World War I and a life expectancy of about 55. It goes on and on progressively worse, back through time. So yeah, now is a pretty good time to be growing up, and many things are the easiest they have ever been.

But before we write off the teenagers of today as coddled snowflakes with zero stress, it would be good to note that they face challenges unforseen by earlier generations. They may not rank with smallpox or Hitler, but all adults who didn’t have to deal with these things as a teen should be thankful.

Back in the day, Boomers had the ability to do dumb stuff in front of a limited audience. If you did something stupid, you paid a price, but it was generally a local event with a short shelf life. Given some time, stupid comments or actions would be religated to the forgotten past.

Today, doing dumb stuff, the default activity of many teens throughout time, can be enormously costly. The internet never forgets. Never, ever, ever. It can destroy your teen years and your adult life.
A kid so careless as to post a video of themselves quoting lyrics from a popular rap song can, years later, find themselves losing a scholarship or a job and be shamed by millions.
“Acceptable behavior” changes rapidly, so today’s teen almost needs to be able to see the future to know what is safe to engage in now.
A teen’s world has expanded, not always for the better. For Boomers, most of our influences were local, both good and bad. Kids may have wanted to be cool like James Dean or beautiful like Farrah Fawcett, but mostly we wanted to emulate or rebel against those we lived amongst.

Today, teens are influenced by people actually called influencers. These folks set trends and push actions way beyond the geographic reach possible just a few years ago. Whether it’s ridiculously lavish lifestyles or outrageous anti-social behavior, they can have an outsized influence, often with horrible results.

Just before Christmas break, school districts were dealing with knuckleheads pushing the TikTok challenge, “National Shoot Up Your School Day.” Coming on the heels of similar challenges to slap a teacher or vandalize the school bathroom many, districts shut down that day.

Being rebellious is part of growing up, but wearing slacks instead of a dress got 1960s girls sent home for the day. If you knock a teacher upside the head you get a tour of the juvenile court system.
One of greatest advancements of modern life, the smartphone, has also done more than any other modern implement to mess up what we old fogeys would consider normal.

Kids don’t have to find a pay phone or head to the library to look up a fact like we did, but those few ounces of plastic and circuitry amount to a tyrant in a teen’s pocket. That is, if it ever stays in the pocket.
Teens can essentially never disconnect. Before the magic of cell phones, when you went home for the day, you left your friends and your enemies behind until the next day.

Talking to another teen meant using the shared family phone, which in most houses was right there where everybody else could listen.

Now, unless parents are confiscating the phone at night, teens can never really escape being connected. Which means the fun, the drama, and the squabbles never stop.

Mom and dad may be getting a good night’s sleep, but if your kid has a friend agonizing over a breakup at 3 a.m., the entire friend group is awake seeing them through it.

Boomers went home to family time, study time, and rest. Today, it takes an iron will to block out the distraction. Those who do can feel like they pay a price. Responses to everything today are expected to be instantaneous. Ignoring your friends for a few hours creates its own drama.

Much of what makes it harder to be a teen today turns out to be too much of a good thing. That includes endless options for entertainment which can wipe out the need for other human interaction.
While, it may be true that it was tougher to be a kid 50 years ago, I doubt many would chose to swap our childhood for today’s. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Man, that’s rough

(Published December 15, 2021)  

Mark Twain said it best, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

We were treated to an example of that last week with the headline, “The media treats Biden as badly as — or worse than — Trump. Here’s proof.” You can be forgiven if your immediate reaction was, “That Babylon Bee sure does turn out hilarious satire.”

But, no, the column, written by Dana Milbank, appeared in the Washington Post (Democracy Dies in Darkness, you know).

In a nutshell, Mr. Milbank was deducing that his colleagues in the press are being entirely too rough on President Joe Biden.
Suspicions aren’t facts, so Mr. Milbank hired a company to use artificial intelligence to churn out the data.

They asked the computer to review over 200,000 articles from 65 various websites and search for specific adjectives and their place in the story. They called it a “sentiment analysis.”

The AI, (try imagining HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey just for fun), did a comparison of the first 11 months of the years 2020 and 2021 to see how the press treated Presidents Trump and Biden.
Son-of-a-gun, it was shocking. As Mr. Milbank wrote, “My colleagues in the media are serving as accessories to the murder of democracy.”
Those big meanies!

The study concluded that Mr. Biden enjoyed a very brief three month period of slightly positive coverage. After that the lashing he received in the press was just as bad as that given to the horrible, orange, nazi-loving, autocratic, white supremacist monster who previously occupied the Oval Office.

Mr. Milbank summed it up like this: “In 2020, Trump presided over a worst-in-world pandemic response that caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths; held a superspreader event at the White House and got covid-19 himself; praised QAnon adherents; embraced violent white supremacists; waged a racist campaign against Black Lives Matter demonstrators; attempted to discredit mail-in voting; and refused to accept his defeat in a free and fair election, leading eventually to the violence of Jan. 6 and causing tens of millions to accept the ‘big lie,’ the worst of more than 30,000 he told in office.”
As for Mr. Biden, he admitted there had been a wee problem with inflation, the Delta variant, and pesky old Afghanistan. But, hey, everything else was super awesome, so what’s with coverage any less than enthusiastic?

Before you get all grumpy and say that the AI was whackadoodle, have a little sympathy. It’s not easy being a computer, even a super sophisticated one, because they have to operate within the limits of their programing. It’s a human that gives the AI those instructions. That’s where we get into the meat of Mr. Twain’s quote.
Say a study of illness in two communities showed Town A has 50 people with cholera. Town B has 100 people with pink eye. If you only concluded twice as many people are sick in Town B as in Town A, it would be stupid, but still true on the surface.

Does any rational person believe the media was easier on Donald Trump in 2020 than they were on Joe Biden this year? Come on man!
If you had to narrow down how the press defined Mr. Trump, the best shorthand description I’ve seen would be “Orange Hitler”.
It comes down to differentiating negativity. If a guy says his wife’s cooking is “not the greatest” and another says his wife’s is “rejected by starving dogs”, both are giving negative comments. A human can easily see one review is much worse.

Mr. Milbank may not see any criticism of Donald Trump as overly negative or even enough. He may also conclude even the mildest criticism of Mr. Biden is unwarranted. He wonders in the article, why “Biden would be treated more harshly than a president who actively subverted democracy.”
That conclusion is delusional, no matter how many robots you have digging to support your position.

For Mr. Milbank, the problem is that journalists are too scared to promote what he thinks is right. “Too many journalists are caught in a mindless neutrality between democracy and its saboteurs, between fact and fiction. It’s time to take a stand.”

That is just plain wrong. The press is already largely activist, more is not needed. Plus, blind neutrality is not required nor practiced in journalism. It would result in stories giving equal standing to both a convicted murderer and his prosecutor. Or even to Vladimir Putin and Mr. Biden. What journalism should strive for is fairness. Present the facts as they exist and let the public decide.
As for Mr. Milbank’s “science,” it brings to mind the punch line to an old joke: “Are you going to believe what I tell your or your lying eyes.” - Frank Mercer

Editorial - No news is good news?

(Published November 17, 2021)  

There’s an old saying that “no news is good news” but that’s not true. Especially when you know things are happening but they are being kept quiet, for whatever reason.

For instance, we hear people talking about various things that happen in the Climax Springs area – arrests and so on but when they ask us about it, we know nothing. The reason is no press releases and that turns into major time being spent trying to find out something. And we don’t mean several minutes.

We are currently researching something for a possible future story but it will literally be days before we know if it is anything special, though we believe it is, and we will have to pay money to get the documents just to find this out. A press release would have been faster.

But press releases these days are few and far between – and not just from Camden County. Miller and Morgan can be added to that.

Though all three sheriff’s departments have a website with a section for press releases they are rarely used. The Morgan County page only has the weekly roundup. Miller County will occasionally put a drug arrest on their website.

In Camden County, the last release was the annual Shop with a Cop, which is a good cause and we hope they get a lot of donations to help the children but what about drug arrests? We know they exist but nothing is said about it.

There was a release recently on the officer that was injured apprehending someone and we ran that last week but that’s the first one in a long time and that didn’t appear on their website press release page but on their Facebook page.

That seems to be the avenue for all press releases these days so we regularly check all the entities pages since their websites aren’t used for the releases anymore. They could email it to us, since we are a legitimate newspaper and have been serving the lake area now for 30 years, but that also rarely happens.

Taxpayers in each of the three counties need to be kept informed that the sheriff’s departments are working hard and doing the best job they can to make the lake area safer – which we believe they are -  but a release on some arrest or something would be nice for taxpayers to read about.

The same goes for the county commissioners. What are they doing? Can they tell us? Fat chance of that happening.

Camden County does put some of the minutes of their meetings on the county website – some of them – but they are not put on in a timely manner. As this is being written, the last minutes on the county web page are November 3.

We understand that people get busy and time flies and sometimes they don’t think about it but it would be nice to know what is happening in the three counties and press releases can help inform taxpayers that their elected officials are doing something.

Certain offices are up for election next year and you can bet there will be press releases then, but sending them out on a regular basis would be nice. – Dale Johnson

All content is Copyright 2022 by Reporter Publishing, L.L.C. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited without written permission.