At a time when seemingly everything (except oyster bed research) is on the budgetary chopping block, it is important that the media consumer be adept at reading a news story with a great amount of care. Two columns, that require a keen eye, have recently been published by the Raleigh News and Observer.
A June 7 article detailing the savings associated with scrapping North Carolina's Habitual Felons Law is the first of these two. I do not argue with the research, nor do I argue with the math, but I do have a problem with the overall premise. The argument put forth by the author is that strict sentencing guidelines for recidivist criminals are costing the taxpayer plenty, and that revisiting these guidelines could save us $190 million over five years. This is all fine and good, but I would like to see the costs associated with establishing statewide drug treatment centers, halfway houses, and repetitive police work that is avoided by the current program. There is also the aspect of property loss by victims of these repeat offenders. The story details the history of Jerry Adams who admits "he shoplifted or stole lawnmowers from sheds to get money for drugs and alcohol…" A lawnmower or television may seem small, but it isn't when it belongs to you. My point is this: please don't get caught up in the savings. We must be able to see the big picture. Safe communities are vital to our prosperity.
The June 16 article is a little more difficult to disect. The story details the trials of recent college graduates struggling to find teaching jobs in North Carolina. The article is capably written, and rightly accounts for the number of teaching vacancies remaining in North Carolina, but it is quick to dress up these facts in personal struggle. This makes it difficult for the reader to critically examine the key point: the principle subjects of the article are unable to find jobs in their home counties. A UNCGA study published in 2006 projected a shortage of 5,486 teachers for 2009. Where did these jobs go? These graduates are simply not looking hard enough. Many districts across the state are still short of staff, and are still hiring. If you need a job then you need to be prepared to move to find one. This in one of life's truly harsh realities.
In sum, it is important that you as a consumer be able to discern the purpose of every story, and be able to sort out the big picture.