This is a big week for two big men. One is our own publisher, Kenneth Neill, whose cup surely runneth over. Early in the week he was in Denver, where, at the annual convention of the City and Regional Magazine Association (CRMA), Neill — a major force, as onetime editor and as publisher, in Memphis magazine's more than 30-year history and a onetime president of CRMA itself — received the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.
As edifying as that experience was for Ken, however, it may actually have taken second place this week to another honor that befell him, this time as current president of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN, an umbrella organization of some 125-odd papers, including the Flyer). He was the presenter in New York of the AAN's first annual Molly Ivins award — named for the late great columnist for The Texas Observer, who won many battles, rhetorical and otherwise, over ignorance, cant, and hypocrisy before succumbing to cancer earlier this year. That first Molly Ivins Award went to MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann, who was cited for journalism that spoke "truth to power" in the Ivins tradition.
In the words of the citation: "It's one thing to shake up the establishment, to play Paul Revere, as it were, within the pages of a progressive magazine, or on a Web site blog where many if not most readers already share the opinions of the blogger. It's quite another to go against grain on network television, encouraging thousands if not millions of viewers to think for themselves and to dare to challenge the conventional wisdom."
Challenging the conventional wisdom is the specialty of Olbermann. It is also the full-time occupation of publisher Ken Neill. We congratulate them both.
Keeping Hope Alive
Beginning this week, the Tennessee legislature starts getting down to business on revisions in the state's formula for lottery-funded Hope Scholarships. There are several proposals. The one we favor is also supported by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and by major institutions of higher learning here in Memphis.
Back in March, representatives of the University of Memphis and Christian Brothers University journeyed to Nashville to make the case for the THEC proposal.
Local colleges and universities, like those elsewhere in the state, have been experiencing a drastic attrition in their Hope Scholarship-holders from year to year. According to THEC's figures, the number of Hope students who won scholarships in 2004 and still retained them two years later went this way: U of M, 33 percent; Rhodes College, 57 percent; CBU, 41 percent; and LeMoyne-Owen College, 15 percent.
That's too much fall-off — disruptive both to the affected institutions and to the career plans of the students themselves. THEC is backing a bill that would stabilize the grade point average required for Hope students at 2.75 for all years. That's the current requirement for the freshman year; as of now, a 3.0 average is mandated for subsequent years.
Critics call the proposal "dumbing down." We call it common sense. Keeping the students in school is the best way of maximizing their potential, and the THEC proposal recognizes the longer learning curve that college life consists of in reality.