Editorial Roundup: Mississippi

Columbus Dispatch. April 26, 2022.

Editorial: A new type of research paper: podcasts

For older readers, the high school research paper meant taking an assigned topic and spending long after-school hours in the public library navigating the mysteries of card catalogs and the Dewey Decimal System, scanning the pages of thick books to find a relevant nuggets or two, compiling bibliographies and footnotes, followed by the arduous chore of putting all those elements together, typed and double-spaced, into some sort of coherent manuscript.

Over the past 25 years, much has changed, and the process of putting together a research paper is a lot less complicated in the age of the internet.

Nowhere is that likely to be more apparent than at Mississippi School for Math and Science where at least one traditional research paper has been replaced with podcasts.

According to the latest data, there are more than a million unique individual podcasts, with about 104 million American podcast listeners and 78 million podcast views. Podcasts advertising revenue exceeded $1 billion in 2021.

Still, research shows half of all Americans have never listened to or viewed a podcast.

A podcast is a digital audio file made available on the internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. Think of it as radio-on-demand but for computers and mobile devices.

The subject matter available is endless, everything from politics to pop culture and every specialty interest imaginable.

Even The Dispatch has a podcast in the fall for Mississippi State football analysis.

The idea of converting the traditional research paper into a podcast came to MSMS English teacher Thomas Easterling two years ago as a work-around for the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s students were given a prompt — heroes and villains from their hometown — and set to work.

Some of the basic elements remain. Students must still research their subjects, provide citations and write a script. With the podcast format, students must do more than summarize facts; they must use sound editing software to mix their audio reports, adding ambient noise and music.

The purpose now is as it was for previous generations — telling a story, based on solid research in an informative and entertaining way.

But the biggest difference may be the MSMS students actually seem to enjoy the experience, which probably seems suspicious to older readers.

By embracing this new platform, the old “research paper” doesn’t have to be a tedious and dreaded undertaking.

That’s a good thing, we think. When learning is fun, the lessons learned stay with you and you are likely to embrace them.

Even more, the students are learning a practical 21st century skill.

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Greenwood Commonwealth. April 27, 2022.

Editorial: Override Reeves On Felon Voting Bill

Gov. Tate Reeves has vetoed a bill that set up a path for many convicted felons to have their voting rights restored after completing their sentence and paying all related costs.

The veto reflects a throwback way of thinking from the Mississippi governor, and the Legislature should override him at the soonest opportunity, which unfortunately is not likely to be until next January.

Senate Bill 2536 had wide support in the Legislature. Along with restoring felons’ voting rights, the bill also set up a registry of people convicted of embezzling or improperly spending public money. There was much to like about this bill, but the governor failed to see it.

His veto message said felony disenfranchisement was “an animating principle” dating back to the ancient Greek and Roman empires. He also noted that in America, laws permanently preventing felons from voting date back to the colonial era, and that Mississippi has followed the practice ever since it became a state.

Where to start? Well, most likely, the “animating principle” among the Romans was that anybody who committed a felony would be crucified, tortured, condemned to slavery or simply executed on the spot to be done with it. That’s hardly a justice system to which anyone should aspire.

As for early American history, just because felons couldn’t vote a long time ago doesn’t make it right. Slavery once was legal, too, and neither women nor minorities gained proper access to the ballot box until the 20th century.

If Reeves is going to look back 200 years, he also should look at laws around the country today. Mississippi Today reports that this state is among less than 10 that do not restore most felons’ right to vote after completing their sentence.

Lawmakers came up with a way to be less punitive. The bill said any felon, upon completion of his sentence and full payment of fines, could ask the court that sentenced him to expunge the conviction — basically wipe it away. If a judge approved, the former felon would be restored “to the status he occupied” before his arrest and conviction, including the right to vote.

The bill was a way around some of the less serious felony crimes listed in the state Constitution that permanently bar someone from casting a ballot, and which, the historical record shows, were originally motivated by a desire to disenfranchise as many Black voters as possible.

Senate Bill 2536 specifically limited expungement to one per person, and it also included a list of crimes that were ineligible for this relief, including crimes of violence, first-degree arson, drug trafficking, a felony DUI charge, witness intimidation, abuse or neglect of a vulnerable person, and embezzlement.

The original bill passed the Senate 52-0 and got through the House by a 100-16 vote. A conference bill that ironed out differences in what the two chambers approved passed with only two dissenting votes in the Senate and none in the House.

Given that overwhelming level of support, the Legislature clearly has the votes to override the governor’s veto. Lawmakers ought to do it as a matter of fairness. Criminal punishment shouldn’t be permanent except in the most extreme cases.

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