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Georgia editorial roundup

April 10, 2019

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

April 10

The Valdosta Daily Times on diversity in coverage:

Our community does not look like one thing.

We are diverse.

We are young and old, black, white and brown, conservative, liberal and apolitical.

We work hard to mirror our community but we could always do an even better job.

The newspaper cannot be one dimensional or only serve one segment of our population.

We have readers from every walk of life, from every community and every political persuasion.

We have readers from diverse religious beliefs, ethnicities, cultures and race.

Some people seem to want to live in a world where everyone looks like them, talks like them and acts like them.

Some readers seem to want their newspaper the same way.

We audit the newspaper to make sure we are reflecting our community, all of it.

Sometimes we hear people say, “The newspaper is not like it used to be.”

That is true.

Neither is the community.

Valdosta and Lowndes County are not monolithic.

The newspaper should not be any more monolithic than the communities it serves.

If you are not changing, you are not growing and if you are not growing, you are dying.

Let’s take the editorial page for example.

Some people get upset because there are liberal points of view.

When they read liberal columns, letters to the editor or cartoons, they say, “The newspaper has gone liberal.”

The problem with that is that other people complain about conservative columns, letters to the editor or very occasionally conservative cartoons (those are hard to find).

Does that mean the newspaper has gone all conservative?

Of course it doesn’t.

There are actually more conservative voices on a consistent basis on those pages than there are liberal or progressive voices, if you care to do the math.

The only way to truly reflect our community is to provide content that spans the spectrum.

There was a time, for example, that newspapers banned the publication of positive photographs of black people.

Who could imagine that happening now?

What we publish does not necessarily reflect our values, beliefs, judgments or ideologies.

It reflects our community.

Or at least it should.

Online: https://www.valdostadailytimes.com

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April 7

The Rome News-Tribune on putting old hospital to good use:

We’ve gone from crisis — foster care children from Floyd County sent all over the state and a loss of a mental health support system — to possibly the best news we could have for a former hospital property.

The announcement this week that the 132-acre former Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital property would be purchased and converted into a partnership of public, private and faith-based organizations to provide services for people in need of assistance is a godsend.

Jeff Mauer, Global Impact International president and CEO, likened the Hope Village project to a “recovery ecosystem” for those suffering from substance abuse issues, mental health issues and poverty.

The Hope Village will concentrate on residential treatment, transitional recovery housing and out-patient services delivered within a “safe city within a city” on the property. Some of the services will be physical health support, spiritual counseling, vocational and on-the-job training along with vital life skills instruction.

It’s similar to the Restoration Rome Comprehensive Care Unit in that they’re looking to create a functioning system that partners with all of the entities who already provide services.

As of 2017 there were approximately 499 Floyd County children in foster homes. At one point only 25 percent of those children were placed in foster homes in Floyd County. The other 75 percent were spread across the state, many miles from any family or even their caseworkers. Just focusing on those numbers, that would have been over 300 children. Just take a moment to think about that. The fear, the uncertainty, the sadness, the loneliness. Even the best of us can’t strive alone and without support — how could we expect them to?

Luckily for us there are people like Jeff and Mary Margaret Mauer — and so many others — who have stepped up and began working on what hopefully becomes a solution to that problem.

It’s not like Floyd County exists in a vacuum and it’s not like other parts of the state weren’t equally plagued with similar issues.

But from one crisis to the next, mental health issues have plagued our area since federal and state funding for treatment were repeatedly cut and the hospital — once a hub for treatment in North Georgia — was a pretty large victim of those cuts.

Anecdotally, there’s an old rumor we’ve never been able to prove. It’s been said that agencies would drop off people suffering from mental health issues in Floyd County because they knew they’d eventually find their way over to Northwest Georgia Regional and be able to get help. Those other counties, the rumor goes, didn’t have the facilities or abilities to give them help or deal with their problems.

Did that happen? Great question.

Regardless, the closure of NWGA Regional put essentially much of the burden on police and Floyd County Jail. There wasn’t anywhere else to put someone having an episode and the jail and the sheriff has been in the process of dealing with that issue. One of the 2017 SPLOST items was $5.2 million to turn a section of the jail into a medical and mental health wing.

As the mental health programs were cut from larger budgets the onus of paying still fell to taxpayers — this time locally through SPLOST projects — thank goodness voters passed it.

It’ll take some time as the development plan works itself out and this announcement, and the willingness of groups to participate, to bring the plan to fruition. We’re hoping the service providers, non-profits, as well as state and federal government get on board to make this idea a reality.

Online: http://www.northwestgeorgianews.com

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April 4

The Augusta Chronicle on the upcoming James Brown celebration:

It would have been an improvement. It even might have been better.

But it is, as Augusta Commissioner Sean Frantom pointed out at Tuesday’s commission meeting, “a done deal.” The James Brown celebration scheduled in Augusta for May 3, Brown’s birthday, will not be on Augusta Common. It will be at the Miller Theater.

Even the stubborn will of other commissioners couldn’t bend reality. The event, after all, is for SMG, the worldwide venue management company whose massive portfolio includes the Miller. Commissioner Marion Williams and others thought the Miller’s 1,300-seat capacity would be too small to contain the throngs expected to attend the event for free, so they wanted it outdoors.

Sorry. That’s not the way it works.

A big reason this year’s event started coming together is because Miller operations manager Coco Rubio saw that no other similar celebration was planned, so he simply seized the opportunity. It’s what he does best - he’s one of the seminal business owners responsible for breathing new life into downtown Augusta, and his Soul Bar opened in 1995 as a tribute to James Brown.

City leaders had to be reminded that next month’s James Brown event is not their event. Fair enough.

But we would ask: What’s stopping them from planning their own?

In past years Augusta has played host to the Garden City Music Festival, a fun gathering of area bands. Organizers tried making it the James Brown Music Festival in 2004, but Mr. Brown’s arrest on domestic violence charges just a few months before the festival cast an uncomfortable shadow, and the original name was quickly restored.

Mr. Brown would hold rollicking annual birthday bashes in Augusta by performing with reunions of his old bandmates. After he died Christmas Day 2006, the bash was held the following May but didn’t re-emerge until 2016, when a private promoter put together a musical line-up at Bell Auditorium including Sharon Jones, an Augusta native and one of the best soul and funk singers on the planet. Sadly, she died just a few months after appearing here.

Since the Godfather of Soul’s death, musical and cultural tributes to him have emerged locally only in fits and starts - nothing sustained.

The city’s connection to James Brown is one of its most powerful cultural assets. Isn’t it about time that either the city or the right group of concerned private citizens — maybe a combination of the two — mount a serious effort for a birthday celebration that’s truly proportional to the musical greatness of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business? We’ve seen the mountains that can be moved in Augusta with the right amount of community buy-in.

With Rubio’s expertise attached to the Miller event, it will be a success, and we’d encourage everyone to attend. Former members of Mr. Brown’s band will be there, along with the James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils, the music program led by Mr. Brown’s daughter, Deanna Brown Thomas.

Maybe this year’s bash at the Miller could be a jumping-off point. It could provide the template for other well-organized events, this time on a committed annual basis, with the ability and encouragement to grow.

Imagine a future where huge, A-list celebrities who love and respect James Brown started returning that love by performing here in Augusta.

Why not seize the opportunity?

Online: https://www.augustachronicle.com