THUMBS DOWN to a report that shows the remarkably low rate of economic growth in rural areas of Maine since the beginning of the economic downturn.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported Thursday in the Portland Press Herald, four out of five jobs created in Maine since the summer of 2009 have come out of the Portland metro area. In addition, the areas outside of the greater Bangor, Lewiston-Auburn and Portland regions had 13,700 fewer jobs as of April than in January 2008. Those rural parts of the state have added only about 700 jobs in more than four years.

That is not unexpected, as Maine recovers slowly from the Great Recession, pulled along by the strong economy of greater Portland.

Larger forces also are at play, as the recession, across the country, hit rural areas already staggering from the loss of core manufacturing industries.

In 2012, according to a report by the Maine Development Foundation, the poverty rate in the more populated counties of York and Cumberland was 11.4 percent. But the rates were, and remain, much higher in Somerset (17.6 percent), Washington (19.4) and Piscataquis (20.0) counties, .

This disparity is not a new problem, and good people have been working on solutions since the mills and factories first began to struggle. But the challenge is steep, and rural America is not much closer to meeting it.

In Maine, there is some hope. The burgeoning small and organic farming sector has a real chance to blossom into a major industry, with the right support.

The state also has to support rural health care initiatives, which come with steady jobs.

It will not be easy to reverse a trend that has its roots in structural changes to the international and national economy. But in rural Maine, it only takes a few jobs here, and a few jobs there, to make a difference.

THUMBS DOWN to a decision by a news network in Canada not to report the name of the person who allegedly killed three police officers in a shooting in Moncton, New Brunswick, last week.

Sun News announced its policy in an editorial, saying that mass shootings receive media attention that far outweighs their impact, and gives the shooters the notoriety they often crave.

But the issue isn’t media attention, it’s irresponsible media attention.

When done correctly, media reports provide valuable information and context about such tragedies. Knowing the shooter’s background — his behavior leading up to the shooting, his mental health status or treatment, how he obtained weapons, whether he issued warning that should have been noticed — helps the public understand how such horrible shootings occur, and help formulate policy to keep them from happening in the future.

Yes, too often reports on these shootings are speculative and even exploitative.

But when they are not, they add valuable information to the public discourse. Let’s hold media to that standard.

THUMBS UP to the Waterville High School boys and girls track teams for winning their respective Class B state championships last weekend in Brewer. That marks the second straight title for the boys, and the eighth straight for the girls, adding to the school’s tremendous record of success in outdoor and indoor track.


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