Local newspaper column lacks information — may reflect lack of staff

December 18, 2017 – In a Commercial Appeal column today, Ted Evanoff opined on several topics. For two of them, it would seem he, and perhaps the newspaper itself, was unaware of what has happened or is happening in Memphis.

Given the repeated reductions in reporters and copy editors it may be unlikely the newspaper staff collectively knows about Memphis activities. A single writer might never have known but when copy editors were local and long familiar with Memphis events, it is more likely a column which seemed to miss some points would be either edited to supply them or returned to the writer with information helpful for a rewrite.

In today’s article, Evanoff wrote, “I know there’s already a lot going on to bring college-level instruction into the high schools. But I doubt there’s enough, particularly on the vocational side.”

Of course, “enough” is always going to be subjective evaluation. What is enough for some may not be enough for others. The idea of “college level” courses being in high schools boarders on an oxymoron. While high school advanced classes with either dual enrollment (in a college and high school) or those which bestow college credit do exist in local public schools, it would seem that the vast majority of “college level” courses, vocational or otherwise, would be held at colleges. If they were held in large numbers in high schools, would they not then be high school level courses?

To the point of being fully informed and fully informing, the article could have been of greater benefit if it noted that Shelby County Schools is currently reworking its vocational program. Central office administrators are planning to present to the members of the Board of Education their recommendations in January. While not revealing all the details, the school district says it has examined the needs of Memphis employers and proposes to revamp the vocational programs to focus on the six areas they believe will be more beneficial to Shelby County employers and, therefore, for graduates of the programs as they hunt for jobs. Currently the school system offers vocational classes in about 17 different subjects. It is said some classes will continue in those areas, but greater emphasis, and more classes, will be put on those six areas identified as more likely to help more students fit into the local workforce.

A second subject in the same article asks, “Could Memphis at least synchronize the Poplar Corridor stoplights?”

It has. Or at least it has tried. Even the Commercial Appeal has reported on it. Reporter Tom Charlier in an August 10, 2016, article wrote:

Five years ago this month, the city began laying 120 miles of fiber-optic cable to connect traffic signals on such roads as Lamar, Winchester, Poplar, Airways, Summer, Germantown Parkway and Stage Road to a coordinated network. The synchronized signal system gives motorists — especially rush-hour commuters — a good chance of driving through several successive intersections without hitting a red light… Along Poplar, between East Parkway and Yates, travel times in both directions have been cut by an average of 2 minutes.

It may be reasonable to be unimpressed with only a two minute advantage and perhaps there is a good point to be made there. If the improvement is only two minutes when many stoplights hold traffic for a minute, it would seem that effective coordination of the lights might reduce travel time considerably more. Nevertheless, the Evanoff article does not acknowledge the synchronization projects that have taken place and, as noted, even reported on by his newspaper.

Finally, a couple of observations. “Odd thing is I drive 12,000 miles a year into just about every nook of this city and I rarely see anyone toss anything out of car windows,” writes Evanoff. He says he does see a lot of “awful lot of litter flying out of the back of garbage trucks speeding along the road.”

No doubt Evanoff’s view of garbage trucks spreading litter is accurate but for this writer it not an uncommon site to see individuals dump trash out of their car onto public streets or parking lots.

One might wonder if after multiple rounds of cuts in editorial staff at The Commercial Appeal if resources might be better spent to increase the number of reporters and local copy editors rather than maintaining columnists who express opinions which sometimes appear to be not fully informed. That is not to disparage Evanoff’s position, he is fulfilling his role. It is to question the roles being filled at The Commercial Appeal given its much diminished capacity.



One thought on “Local newspaper column lacks information — may reflect lack of staff

  1. I’m not experienced in local newspaper editorial content creation- in the past or now. But as a former Commercial Appeal daily reader I support the premise of this critique. Gannett has completed the conversion of a once proud news reporting institution into a community “shoppers” tabloid.

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