Editorial roundup: Views from around Georgia

Valdosta Daily Times: Keeping an eye on government

Newspapers have always been crucial for democracy.

Newspapers have a long, and important, legacy as the Fourth Estate.

Newspapers provide an independent check on government.

A world, a nation, a state or a community without a newspaper that keeps its eye on government is less free, less democratic, less informed, with a government that is less representative and a people that are likely overtaxed.

We shared a guest column written by our colleague, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer Jeff Gerritt, editor of The Herald in Sharon and the New Castle News, both in Pennsylvania. His column is about a local mayor in a small town in Pennsylvania who wants to kick a reporter out of city council meetings because she doesn’t like the coverage in the newspaper. Of course, that won’t happen. That can’t happen, at least not legally.

People in power are not always going to like reporting, especially when they are being held accountable.

Do you think Richard Nixon liked the reporting on Watergate? Do you think the Johnson administration liked the reporting around the Pentagon Papers? Do you think the Boston Archdiocese liked the reporting uncovering molestation by John Geoghan and the coverup by Cardinal Bernard Law and the Archdiocese?

Whether it is covering controversies in a local election, the firing and hiring of high school football coaches, rezoning of a rural community or open records and meetings violations by government agencies, the local newspaper provides important, valuable information while serving as a public watchdog.

In addition, there are tons of stories in the newspaper about positive things happening in our schools, great work being done by nonprofit agencies, coverage of plays, concerts, festivals and community events, sports coverage and also the good public service provided by local government.

The newspaper does all these things and more. While those in power may not like accountability reporting or agree with editorials, imagine what a community, or more specifically a government, would look like without a newspaper keeping an eye on it?

As Gerritt writes in the guest column, the Pennsylvania mayor needs to just do a better job of doing her job and let the newspaper do its job.

Brunswick News: State must improve its mental health services

Georgia is seriously short on the delivery of mental health services, but that is only the first page of this woefully long, disheartening saga. Counting the District of Columbia, the state ranks at the very bottom of the nation, 51st, in what’s available to those desperately in need of assistance with mental health issues.

Even that fails to tell the whole story. Think for a moment of all the men, women and children with mental illness who are suffering needlessly because the state is unable to help them. As has been reported in the past, many of them end up in jail, prison or a juvenile detention facility. Police, district attorneys and judges say people burdened with a mental illness make up better than 50% of jail and prison populations across the state.

What a sad commentary on our government. What a sad commentary on us.

Then there are the families of these forgotten individuals. Imagine the anguish and heartache they endure when a confined space behind iron bars, a space designed to punish wrongdoers, is all they have to offer a loved one who is out of control due to mental illness.

Last but not least are the communities. They also are victims. Most lack the proper resources to deal with people with mental problems. Their only recourse is to throw those whose actions violate society’s rules in jail, and often again, again and again.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and state Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, have pledged their full support toward improving the delivery of mental health care. Unfortunately for them and even more unfortunately for all the victims of this issue, there apparently are those in the General Assembly who are not quite as committed. They let slip through their fingers a chance to begin making a big difference during the last session of the legislature when they failed to act on any of the recommendations advanced by a bipartisan study committee focused exclusively on improving mental health care.

Nevertheless, the two continue to offer a glimmer of hope. Speaker Ralston vows to seek more funding for mental health programs, and Rep. Hogan, who has dedicated his life to helping those with mental health issues, will continue to crusade for a bill he introduced last year that could help a lot of people.

Godspeed to the both of them.

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