EDITORIAL: Time to vote smart

SCHOOL DISTRICT ELECTION reminders are a spring ritual for this newspaper and others. After a while you get the sense that one paper’s stories on budgets or candidates could easily be swapped with those of a different paper, with no one being the wiser.

Editorial writers I’ve known wouldn’t do something like that for fear readers might prefer the other paper’s writer. And this year it wouldn’t work because everything is so different. Or is it?

Let’s start with voting. You’re planning to go to the polls for your school district election, right? Wrong! By executive order of the governor, everyone who votes in the June 9 school budget referendum in all of the 732 public school districts around the state has to vote by absentee ballot. If you live in Columbia County you should already have received an absentee ballot and a postage-paid return envelope from the school district where you live. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Who will feed the hungry?

IT’S ANYBODY’S GUESS what images will endure as icons of this pandemic. If, for a moment, you can bear to focus on which photographs already stand out, surely medical caregivers at work rank among the most wrenching. But other photos, though they seldom convey the emotion of mortal struggles, also lodge in our memories.

Think of the metaphors: empty streets, onlookers socially distancing as they cheer first responders, the faces of isolation, truck trailers pressed into service as morgues, people refusing/ignoring/forgetting to wear masks. Now add to the list the lines of cars.

Some are lined up so the occupants can be tested for the coronavirus. Others await whatever food is offered. The lines for virus tests were the first to grab headlines because they accompanied stories on the testing scandals. And then came the longer lines that stretched for miles, with drivers inching sedans, SUVs or pickups toward free food distribution sites. The first reports came from the South and a few cities in the Midwest. Then New Jersey. They were distant enough to encourage a false sense of security here. But this week the line formed at the entrance to the Columbia County Fairgrounds in the Village of Chatham. Read more…

EDITORIAL: We’ll be right back

A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO we had only enough money to keep our columbiapaper.com website going a few more weeks and the print edition was on ice with little hope of revival. Then we asked for help and you gave it to us. And now there’s a twist.

In our appeal, which annoyingly covers much of the first page of our website, I wrote that “our efforts to obtain government loans and private grants have so far been unsuccessful.”

That was true until Monday evening when I received an email that, at first glance, made me suspect it was a scam. But our tech advisor said it passed the spoofing test, which is tech talk for it’s okay to open. The email said Google has selected The Columbia Paper to participate in a program called the Google News Initiative Journalism Emergency Relief Fund: https://newsinitiative.withgoogle.com/journalism-emergency-relief-fund Read more…

EDITORIAL: The dust isn’t settled yet

WITH ALL DUE RESPECT to our good friend Alan Chartock, it is not true that The Columbia Paper “bit the dust.” Not yet, anyway.

Alan, the founder and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio, was making a point last week on WAMC’s The Media Project show about the number of newspapers that have shut down. I tuned in just as he called The Columbia Paper a “great newspaper.” But I had no time to savor that praise before he pronounced this paper dead and lamented our passing.

If the Paper is Dead then Long Live the Paper. Put another way, there’s life left in us as a source of news about Columbia County. But Dr. Chartock is technically correct. I did “suspended publication” of the print edition after the March 26 issue. It was too risky for the delivery drivers. It was financially risky too. We lost almost all our revenue, which came from advertising and from subscriptions to the printed paper. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Imagine the future

If you want to understand why social distancing and quarantines matter now, read accounts of the flu pandemic of a century ago. U.S. cities that ignored the warnings that crowds were dangerous suffered the greatest loss of life in 1918-19 outbreak. That virus disproportionately killed otherwise healthy young adults.

My grandparents survived that pandemic and died half century later. It wasn’t until they were gone that a relative recounted a story about my maternal grandfather I hadn’t heard. He was a young doctor, just a few years out of medical school and a “general practitioner,” when he joined the Army in 1918. He was transferred from Kansas to Georgia and was boarding a troop ship bound for the “Great War” in France. But just before the gangplank was pulled up, someone shouted his name and handed him new orders to disembark.

I never heard my grandfather speak about that incident or anything else related to the pandemic, so it’s only guesswork to imagine why he was needed thousands of miles from the front lines. But one fact of that time can’t be ignored: more U.S. soldiers died from the flu than were killed in combat. Read more…