Often when I have a speaking opportunity to espouse my knowledge on and about media relations, I ask the audience/group a question: what is the news media----television, radio, newspapers. The answer is one that may surprise you, as it often surprises my audiences. The news is a business! For instance, when I resigned from Six Flags Over Georgia, I had chosen Forsyth and all of Monroe County as the place I wanted to start a business, a newspaper. Yes, I had done my homework and Forsyth-Monroe County was an opportune location to get into the newspaper business.
I attempted to purchase the already existing newspaper, The Monroe Advertiser, but to no avail. So I started the business that you are reading and the success has been very rewarding. Yeah, there were some rough times, not only financially but even emotionally. The satisfaction of success was sometimes dampening and it has been challenging., but still, being a part of a community was a positive example of working together to accomplish the good of the community.
So, the other day The Wall Street Journal published a column that really brought to light the “perils” of not only the weekly newspaper business but news reporting in general. The short column by Peter Funt is entitled, “Obituary for a Pine Tree” and here it is:
An inside-page headline in the June 25 Caramel Pine Cone read, “Pine falls before tree service gets to it.” City forester Sara Davis told the paper that “the tree’s condition declined rapidly due to drought and an infestation of bark beetles.”
You could say the local news is suffering a drought. We hear about it all the time with the closings of the newspapers and the shrinking of staffs- for instance, the recent departure of 40 journalists at the Chicago Tribune following its sale to a hedge fund.
Weeklies like the Pine Cone are especially vulnerable. The journalism school at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill says some 2,000 weeklies- more than 1 in 5- have folded in the past 15 years.
Those who fret over the loss of local news usually focus on reporting about municipal government. But reading about the Caramel tree shifted my thoughts to little things that give a community its heartbeat.
There’s more to local news than school board meetings.
I called the Pine Cone’s editor, Paul Miller. He had an accomplished career as a news producer at CBS and NBC before buying Pine Cone in 1997. “Perpetuating the culture and traditions, the foibles and the eccentricities of a local culture is vital,” he said. “I’d feel irresponsible if I didn’t try to pay homage to that stuff in every issue.
Operating in an affluent community with an older readership that values its local newspaper as much as its internet options makes things easier for the Pine Cone. It prints 18,000 copies and distributes them free. Mr. Miller says his operation remains profitable despite a dip in advertising revenue during the pandemic.
Local news knits the fabric of American life. While websites have picked up some slack, true neighborhood news is actually more difficult, and costly, to generate. Anyone with a computer can reprint handouts from local businesses and town government, but who is going to cover the news when a tree falls on Lincoln Street?
Or, for that matter, without the Pine Cone’s front-page photo on June 25, how would Caramel residents know about the 89 pink plastic flamingos that turned up in a font yard on Ocean Avenue? The display was organized by the local Women’s Club to surprise Flo Snyder on her 89th birthday.
It’s easy to scoff at devoting paper and in ink to pink flamingos and rotting pine. But if a tree falls and there’s no one there to cover it, does it make news? Alas, probably not.
To reiterate what the editor stated, “perpetuating the culture and traditions, the foibles and the eccentricities of local culture is vital”.
ATTENTION ALL you motorcycles riders. Put Aug. 28 on your calendar to participate in the local Anchor of Hope Foundation Charity Ride with the proceeds going to help families facing autism and other developmental disabilities. Cost is $20 per rider and $10 per passenger and sign up is at the Anchor of Hope Office at 41 W. Johnston Street in downtown Forsyth.
COMPUTER WENT on the fritz and I lost the email from the reader who replied with the correct answer to last week’s The Question. Last weeks’ The Question what was the award Monroe County 4-H’ers won.
So, let’s try again with a new question: what was/is the name of the laughing mule that was entered in the Monroe County Cutest Pet contest? First correct answer after 12 noon Thursday gets the certificate for a dozen Dunkin Donuts, Dairy Queen Blizzard, slice of Shoney’s strawberry pie, single dip of ice cream from scoops, Whistle Stop fried green tomato appetizer, Monroe County Reporter t-shirt, Forsyth Main Street t-shirt and slice of Jonah’s pizza.
GUESS FORSYTH’S City Council members and support staff have returned from their annual Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia meeting (soiree) on Amelia Island. It will be interesting to see how much re-imbursement----mileage, tips, other restaurant dining---each will apply for. Their regular meeting was this past Monday and I guess they showed off their new beach tans.
Did you see where Yazmen Blandenburg, county employee, got paid $270 to attend a “gang conference”? Michael Ogletree and Telricks Middlebrooks also got $270 each to attend a gang seminar.
The county paid out $172,996.80, writing 106 checks.
WELL, THE new car wash opened this past weekend which brings us two carwashes in Forsyth, and the crowd was lined up to experience the new business.
AND THIS from George Carlin: “We no longer have old people in this country; they’re all gone, replaced by senior citizens.
GOT a comment or want to answer The Question? Contact Don Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don Daniel founded the Reporter in 1972.