If legislators had been just a shade less grabby, had exercised some mild restraint, they might have gotten away with their use of state funds for local projects indefinitely. Though the practice is pretty clearly prohibited by the Arkansas Constitution, it had survived previous legal challenges. But legislative appetites increased in recent years, and the diversion of funds from state purposes to the installation of stop lights in tiny towns had reached a point that the Arkansas Supreme Court could no longer overlook. The court last week declared invalid a $400,000 appropriation for streets and sewers in Bigelow (Perry County), a ruling that’s likely to block similar projects around the state and change the way the legislature operates. The way it has been operating is that legislators dip into state money for their own local improvements pretty much at will. But in a 6 to 1 decision, the court said the practice violated the Constitution’s prohibition against special and local legislation. (The one dissenter agreed with the other judges on the substance of the case, but had doubts about jurisdiction.) Was it mere happenstance that the Court, with other appropriations to choose from, selected the Bigelow case for a ruling? We’d like to think not. Bigelow is the home of Sen. Bob Johnson, the reigning porkmeister of the General Assembly. A court that stands up to Johnson is a court that means business.

New Journalism

Journalists of the early 21st century worry about their trade the way blacksmiths of the early 20th worried about theirs. Troubled minds weren’t eased by a Washington Post article on the huge Gannett chain’s experiment with a kind of New Journalism.

Gannett-style NJ includes a reduction in the size of trained, fulltime newspaper staffs, with the professionals replaced by irregulars working out of their cars and using electronic equipment to file frequent notices of occurrences around town, no matter how trivial. Coverage of car washes and candy sales replaces reports of tax increases, impeachments, and declarations of war. (It sounds very like the “journalism” of the satirical newspaper The Onion: “Area man discards old underwear; says elastic worn out.”) Readers are permitted to post anything they want on the newspaper’s web site, from lost pets to profanity, free of editorial judgment. Worst of all, the hallowed wall of separation between the business and news sides of the paper is demolished. Reporters become ad salesmen and vice versa. Advertisers dictate news content. Keeping reporters and editors away from the business types is no longer considered journalistic integrity, but merely “old-school snobbery,” as a Gannettoid told the Post. This kind of journalism amounts to burning the village to save it. The concept has been tried before, in other fields of endeavor. The village never survives.


From the ArkTimes store


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Arkansas Times Staff

Most Shared

Latest in Editorials

  • The end of an era

    We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
    • May 8, 2014
  • A stand for equality

    Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
    • May 8, 2014
  • Same old, same old

    Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.
    • May 1, 2014
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Brant Collins named Group Travel Manager for Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Brant Collins named Group Travel Manager for Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Never his fault

    Unlike his personal hero Vladimir Putin, President Trump can't have his political opponents thrown into prison, shot dead in the street or flung off fourth-floor balconies.
  • The two cities of Little Rock

    The Little Rock City Board illustrated the capital city's division again last week.
  • Repeal charade

    The debacle of the repeal-Obamacare movement left the president and the Republican Congress ruminating about the terrible lessons they had learned from the defeat — mainly that neither ever had a health plan or even a clue about how to frame one.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Never his fault

    • @investigator of both sides - shouldn't we all, including Mr. Lyons, focus our attention on…

    • on March 30, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • Silly boy - Pit bulls attack people, many times, children - which is reported several…

    • on March 30, 2017
  • Re: Never his fault

    • I think the Affordable Care Act was the crowning achievement of Obama's presidency. I think…

    • on March 30, 2017

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation