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 OPINION PAGE - FEBRUARY 16, 2000 - COMMERCE, GA

Editorial
The Commerce News
February 16, 2000

Commerce News Mission
Same After 125 Years
It was 125 years ago this week that the first issue of The Northeaster Progress was published in what was then Harmony Grove. According to Frary Elrod's Historical Notes on Jackson County, Malcom Stafford was editor and W.A. Shackleford was printer. They published it until 1881, when W.T. Goss became editor, changed the name to The Citizen and operated it until 1884. According to Elrod, the name was changed to The Harmony Grove Signal in 1884, and ownership changed several times over the years. It became The Bumble Bee in 1888, and then The Harmony Grove Age. In 1891, the paper was purchased by Dr. W.B. Hardman, and the name changed to The Harmony Grove Echo. In 1895, it was bought by John F. Shannon, who owned it until 1934.
On Aug. 6, 1904, an act of the legislature changed the name of Harmony Grove to Commerce, so Shannon changed the name to The Commerce News. After Shannon died in 1934, the paper went through several owners and operators until Mrs. P.B. Trawick bought it in 1936. She sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Albert S. Hardy in 1943. Their nephew, current Commerce Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. bought the paper in 1978, and he sold it to the Jackson Herald Publishing Company, now MainStreet Newspapers Inc., owned by the Buffington family of Jefferson, in 1987.
The paper, like the community it served, underwent many changes during the years under new owners and operators, but its purpose has remained the same since 1875: to provide local news and advertisements of importance and interest to the readers of the Commerce area.
In the course of those years, The Commerce News has won its share of awards and recognition among newspapers, but the greatest recognition has been the faithful readership of its subscribers. It remains the oldest business in Jackson County (followed by The Jackson Herald, which will turn 125 in a few months), because its mission has not changed.
Today, the pages of The Commerce News contain more local news and more local advertising than ever before. For all the improvements in communications over the past 125 years, no other means of disseminating local news has come close to matching that of the local newspaper. Today, interested citizens can get international, national, state and regional news on the Internet, from radio and TV stations, and from magazines and newspapers. But the only place they can get local news is from the local newspaper. No other news media covers local activities like local newspapers. No other newspaper covers Commerce like The Commerce News, whether through its weekly edition or on its web page (www.mainstreetnews.com).
Who's to say what the future will bring, but the owners and staff of The Commerce News know one thing: as long as the newspaper exists, it will provide that local news. Readers will be able to get news about Commerce, Nicholson, Maysville, Jackson County, local schools, sports, social events and more from The Commerce News. It's been the newspaper's mission for 125 years; it will be its mission as long as it exists.

Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
February 16, 2000

Pro Wrestling A Tacky Addition To 'Lights Festival'
The "City Lights Festival" took a turn for the tacky when organizers agreed to bring in professional wrestling with its "up yours" approach to entertainment that has less class than a game of donkey basketball.
How did we get from a legend in country music to the moronic arena where men smash chairs over each other, throw one another through sheets of glass and glorify simulated violence in the name of entertainment? At a high school where the staff and administration are trying to fulfill the state mandate of "character education," we're using "characters" of a different sort to raise funds for a performing arts center. That's a valuable lesson - to show what ­ wrestling?
I guess with the city's fine cultural center used largely for beauty pageants, professional wrestling should not be a surprise. But an entertainment lineup boasting "Syn," "Fast Eddy," "Suicide Ride" and "Harsh" seems significantly lower on the family entertainment value scale than Bill Anderson and Steve Wariner.
Don't misunderstand: this could make big bucks. There is no argument that professional wrestling is huge right now, and it may turn out that the City Lights Festival's biggest money maker will be the City Lights Out Wrestlefest at the high school, given the interest in that sort of thing here.
That would make it all the more embarrassing. An annual concert featuring famous (and soon-to-be-famous) musicians can't make enough money; bring in the clowns. Shakespeare is too highbrow for Commerce; bring in the Three Stooges. Better yet, stress the possibility that some wrestler will be hurt, that fans might get lucky and see a jugular cut or at least a compound fracture. General admission tickets for the wrestling will cost more than those for the concert, if that tells you something.
If Commerce must tap professional wrestling to raise money for a performing arts center, we don't need one. The House That Syn Built will be vastly under-used, except for pep rallies and assemblies by the high school. If we want to develop the performing arts, why not use the proceeds from the festival to hire a music/drama teacher? Without performing arts instruction, we hardly need a place to perform. Right now there is no significant instruction.
The "festival" has strayed from the course. Anderson offered a free concert to benefit a good cause. But we got greedy and decided Anderson's generosity should finance a $1 million building. Last year, the concert netted about $25,000, which wouldn't make the annual payment on that kind of project. The thinking, obviously, was that something had to be done to make more money.
Commerce is trying to cash in on Anderson, trying to find a way to make a bunch of money to build something its citizens would never pay for themselves. Brad Paisley probably won't attract as big a crowd as Steve Wariner did. So, Anderson and Jim Ed Brown will hold a private pickin' and grinnin' to raise a few more dollars from the die-hard fans, and the decision was made to offer the rest of the folks something more suitable to their intellect.
The music is wonderful. The wrestling is embarrassing. Surely, it didn't have to come to this.


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