Excerpts from recent Illinois editorials

Associated Press Modified: November 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm •  Published: November 6, 2012
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Nov.2, 2012

Pekin Daily Times

Courtroom transparency worth the downsides

When opening statements in the trial of alleged serial killer Nicholas Sheley got under way in Morrison Monday, cameras were rolling.

That isn't entirely unprecedented in Illinois, as a handful of court systems across the state have been participating in the project since Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride announced the Illinois Supreme Court had approved the experimental program back in January, but the high-profile nature of the case does make it noteworthy nonetheless.

Kilbride said the trial of the man accused of killing eight people in a two-state killing spree may well be the biggest test of the pilot program so far, due to the increased interest of the media and the public.

Admittedly, as members of the media we have a vested interest in seeing this experiment succeed. During other high-profile trials in Illinois, we typically have had to rely on outdated file photos — which can sometimes even be years old — or courtroom sketches that, no matter how skillfully rendered, often seem to look similar. It's even more of a dilemma for our friends in the TV news business because they rely so heavily on quotes as soundbites.

However, we believe allowing cameras in the courtrooms is just as valuable for the public.

Some judges and attorneys have expressed concern that permitting cameras in the courtroom could disrupt proceedings, but there are already provisions in place to address that. If a trial judge or the circuit's chief judge objects, they won't be forced to allow cameras. And filming won't be permitted during jury selection, or testimony from a sex abuse victim — unless the victim consents. Victims who testify in other forcible felony prosecutions would be permitted to object as well. In addition, according to the statement, "The policy also prohibits media coverage in any juvenile, divorce, adoption, child custody, evidence suppression and trade secret cases, as well as in any court proceeding required under Illinois law to be held in private."

We believe those safeguards provide a good basis for continuing this experiment, and we hope Illinois will soon deem its pilot program a success and officially join the 36 other states that allow cameras in the courtrooms.

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Nov. 1, 2012

The (Bloomington) Pantagraph

Organic or not, veggies, fruits good for health

Yet another group has weighed in on organic fruits and vegetables. It's rather surprising, since it's clear that eating any fruits and vegetables can only be a benefit.

Most recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics said pesticide-free food doesn't translate to healthier people. An earlier study by Stanford University said eating organic food reduces exposure to pesticides, but "the amount measured in conventionally grown produce was within safety limits."

All sides can agree that unless you grow your own, organic food does tend to be more expensive. Supporters say it tastes better, often is fresher, and has less impact on soil and the environment because of a lack of pesticides and shorter travel distances from farm to store.

Detractors note the label "organic" is not well defined and that the price difference and lack of noticeable health benefits make it a questionable and expensive choice. (Ag journalist Alan Guebert of Delavan, whose weekly column appears in Sunday's Pantagraph, describes organic as "generally grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers or routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones.")

Nutritionists agree Americans eat fewer than the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains overall, regardless of the food's origin. Eating more of those items, whether they are canned, frozen, fresh or from a farmer's market, is of paramount importance to a balanced diet.

If you're worried about pesticides and pennies, the pediatrician's group recommends buying organic versions of foods that use higher amounts of pesticides — apples, peaches, strawberries, celery — and buying traditional versions of other items.

Organic or not, you need to know what you're eating and how much is reasonable. If you're not sure, or are embarrassed to ask, go to www.choosemyplate.gov. The site, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has all sorts of fun and informative ways to learn about starting and maintaining a good diet.