Each day at 3:45 p.m., editors here meet to discuss which stories to publish on the front page of the next day’s edition.
Deciding what stories to put on Page 1A each day is a collaborative endeavor among several editors. Usually, it’s fairly obvious which four stories to select. We emphasize local and state news and features about people and topics we know from experience our readers care about.
Readership numbers on our website give us added direction. If many people are reading stories online, it’s a pretty good bet those stories will wind up on our print front page.
As we discussed Thursday’s edition of The Daily Item on Wednesday afternoon, some editors thought we should include the story about Gov. Tom Wolf asking the state Legislature to return from recess to Harrisburg to pass a law to mandate masks in our schools.
If there had been any real chance the Legislature would agree to Wolf’s request, I would have agreed it was a big story and belonged on the front page.
But I expected that would not be the case. As soon as I saw our Harrisburg state reporter John Finnerty’s story, I knew it would not be. The Repblican leadership would note be voting for a new mask manadate.
We compromised and promoted the story at the top of the front, but ran it on an inside page.
Here’s a bit of what was in that Finnerty story: “State Rep. Jim Rigby, R-Cambria County, said that if legislative leaders call lawmakers back to the state Capitol, he’d go but he wouldn’t support a statewide mask mandate for schools.
“What we’re experiencing in Johnstown might be different than what they are experiencing in Philadelphia,” he said. “The districts should be monitoring the situations in their areas and they should take action if they need to. But that’s why they are there.”
The next day, that position was reiterated in a letter Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, and House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster sent to Wolf.
“At this late date, in many of our communities, local leaders have already made important decisions they believe are in the best interest of their residents and are prepared to adjust those decisions as challenges evolve,” the letter, acquired by The Associated Press, read in part.
In most cases, I’d be fine with leaving the decision to the local districts. I don’t disagree with Rigby that things vary from region to region. But with COVID-19 delta variant cases continuing to increase, I’m very concerned that most of our districts have made mask-wearing voluntary.
According to an AP report out Thursday, the majority of districts statewide are not requiring masks as students return to class. The AP also reported that just 36 percent of Pennsylvania residents between the ages of 12 and 17 are fully vaccinated, citing recent federal data.
Children under 12, of course, are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Yet here in the Valley, so far Lewisburg is the only district requiring masks for those under 12.
I know it’s been very hot and that not all of our school buildings have air conditioning. I understand those conditions make wearing a mask even more uncomfortable. But I hope our school districts will come around to accepting the idea that masks, however tough they are to deal with, can make a difference in keeping everyone healthy.
The last thing anyone wants to see on our front page is news of Valley young people getting sick from this virus in increasing numbers.
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