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DEAR READER: Plans and other hopes for news coverage this fall

Friday, August 23, 2013 | 6:00 p.m. CDT; updated 7:24 p.m. CDT, Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dear Reader,

The good news: So far this week, I’ve only had to lock my brakes twice to avoid a) another bicyclist turning into the street and b) a school bus turning off one.

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Welcome to the first week of school. We all get to experience it, one way or another.

It’s a fresh start, again, for the Missourian. There are 81 new and 16 returning reporters. Those are healthy numbers, but not even close to some semesters.

Staff photographers have been told of the project “Battle Rising,” in which they will help document the first two years of Columbia’s newest public high school. The community outreach team is making plans to roll out the Missourian tent again on tailgate Saturdays. Expect more multimedia stories, thanks in part to the addition of Derek Poore, a professional multimedia editor who comes from work at Yahoo! Sports.

I talked to the year-round staff about two story lines that should continue to play out this fall.

The conversation about safety in our community, and how to pay for it, is something that won’t go away with the first frost. High-profile cases like the death of Brandon Coleman remain unresolved and the city’s task force on youth violence begins its work.

The mayor’s unusual (unorthodox? bizarre?) tax proposal for new police officers, withdrawn a week later, succeeded in prompting questions that need more considered answers: How many officers is enough? Where, including property tax increases, can the money be found?

To date, the solutions by Bob McDavid and by the Columbia Police Officers' Association seem more off the cuff than based on solid information. The Missourian needs to follow the conversation while unearthing some facts to help fuel it.

Another issue I want to concentrate on this fall is sexual assault on our college campuses and throughout our city.

There isn’t a particular celebrated case here, just too many individual cases and too little improvement: Too many women are assaulted, and too few men are arrested or prosecuted.

In March, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that sexual violence against females 12 and older fell 64 percent from 1995 to 2005, to 1.8 assaults per 1,000 girls or women.

That’s a fantastic success story — or would be, if the rate continued to decline. But the report said it had risen to 2 assaults per 1,000 by 2010, the last year of the study. From 2005 to 2010, 12 percent of assaults, whether reported or unreported, led to an arrest. The incidence of violence is much higher in some sectors, including college-age women.

I hope Missourian staff can find new ways to approach the issue.

The staff and the Missourian Readers Board will be talking in the coming weeks about other coverage priorities.

Speaking of the board: I’m excited to report that there were about twice as many applicants as there were openings. The new members will have a tall task to beat the previous group in ideas offered, questions asked and complaints (gracefully given) aired.

Oh, and don’t forget to mark your calendars for Oct. 3, when everyone is invited to celebrate the people who participated in the 100 Ages project, the collection of mid-Missourians aged 1 to 100. It’s 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Jack’s Gourmet Restaurant.

That’s my fall first-week report.

Tom

 


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