This space in your favorite weekly newspaper hasn’t taken a recent look at what accumulates in the editor’s illegible-to-everyone-else notes, so …
I told you journalism is the opposite of math: I am embarrassed to say that apparently I can’t subtract four-digit numbers, given that I wrote the story and headline that announced The Journal’s 145th anniversary Feb. 25. The problem is that Feb. 25 was the 115th anniversary of the first issue of your favorite weekly newspaper.
In fact, this year doesn’t seem to be the 145th anniversary of anything related to The Journal specifically or Platteville newspapering generally, though May 26 is the 155th anniversary of the first issue of the Grant County Witness, which became the Platteville Witness & Mining Times, which became the Platteville Witness, which ceased publication in 1937.
Government vs. the First Amendment: It’s ironic that each Wisconsin Newspaper Association convention seems to bring with it news of government attempts to evade the free press.
The most recent example is the Federal Communications Commission’s Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs, which proposes to send researchers into broadcast and newspaper newsrooms to find out how editors and reporters decide which stories run. The FCC plans to base this study on what the FCC thinks the media should cover, along with asking such questions as “Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers that was rejected by management?”
The fact the study has been suspended after right-leaning news media reported this is not the point. The study could come back unless the FCC gets rid of it entirely. No arm of government has the right to tell the news media what it can and cannot cover, and if you the FCC is sitting in your newsroom, that is what will happen. The FCC also has no jurisdiction over print or the Internet, and yet the study is supposed to research the print media as well.
Meanwhile, the Legislature is considering Assembly Bill 685, which would restrict information available on the state online court records system. AB 685 would require the state to purge the site of all felony, misdemeanor or civil-forfeiture acquittals. That will give the mistaken impression that the only people in court are guilty people, and that prosecutors have 100 percent conviction percentages. And, by the way, your tax dollars fund the court system, so taxpayers have the absolute right to know what is happening in the court system.
Survey says … The SWNews4U.com poll question asked which was the worst drug problem in Southwest Wisconsin, and readers said as of Wednesday …
• Alcohol: 54.
• Marijuana: 9.
• Heroin: 29.
• Methamphetamine: 33.
• Drug abuse isn’t a problem here: 4.
At listeners’ service: The Platteville Regional Chamber held its annual awards two weeks ago. Being here less than two years, I’ve met many of the award-winners (for instance, Bob Just, retired from Mound City Bank), but I don’t know many of them.
The exception is my friend Doug Wagen, news and sports director of QueenB Radio, well-deserved recipient of the chamber’s Community Service Award. He and I covered news and sports around here in years beginning with the number 1, when neither of us had children. I left and came back; he stayed, getting to cover uncountable numbers of government meetings and sporting events. (Including, Saturday, state wrestling.)
People here may not realize how fortunate they are to have a news operation on the radio as a complement to the printed word. I am familiar with radio stations whose news coverage doesn’t fit an acceptable definition of “news.” Those stations fail to serve their areas, and the FCC says the airwaves are public.
I didn’t ask him, but Doug would probably say he was honored for doing his job. But Doug should be honored for doing his job well, and for serving his listeners.
Death to winter: It’s hard to believe given the craptacular nature of this winter, but we didn’t experience our first record low until Monday morning, when 10 below zero crushed the old record of 2 below zero set in 1884. It’s also hard to believe, given the fact that snow has been on the ground since approximately Labor Day, that we have not more than 5 inches of snow in a single day this winter. (Yet.)
Since Dec. 1, according to Weather Underground, Platteville has had 4,910 heating degree days. A heating degree day is a day when the average temperature is below 65 degrees, the temperature deemed ideal for a building in the winter. That helps explain your mind-boggling electric and heat bills.
Or this does: The average temperature by month:
January: 10. (The average low: 1.)
February: 10. (The average low: 2.)
The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is predicting below-normal temperatures for the next three months. By that forecast, high schools might as well cancel all spring sports seasons now.
On the other hand, The Old Farmer’s Almanac says “April and May will be warmer and drier than normal. Summer will be hotter and rainier than normal, with the hottest periods in early and late July and in mid- to late August.” The Farmers Almanac (as opposed to the Old Farmers Almanac) forecast is all over the map, so to speak, because southwest Wisconsin is arguably closer to the North Central zone (which starts at the Mississippi River) than the Midwest/Great Lakes zone.
The NWS, by the way, said we were going to have a normal winter.