More Jackson County Opinions...

JULY 24, 2002


Column
By: Rochelle Beckstein
The Jackson Herald
July 24, 2002

A new breed of reality TV
New reality TV shows are cropping up every week. As reruns dominate summer prime time, networks are trying to woo viewers away from their rivals by flooding the market with their brand of reality TV. And it pays high dollars to find a reality TV show that America wants to watch. Reality TV lacks the pricey celebrity salaries of Kelsey Grammer and Lisa Kudrow, yet, if you produce a hit like Survivor, advertisers will clamor for commercial time.
In the wake of September 11, network watchers predicted that reality TV had hit its apex and it was on the way out. They seemed to be right as Survivor’s ratings plummeted and more and more people tuned in to see their old Friends. Sitcoms offered America an escape into a time before the tragedy. For thirty minutes Americans could forget we were at war while we laughed with Will and Grace and Drew Carey.
It seemed that reality TV was dead — the prime time war had lost another combatant. Yet summer prime time is a whole other ballgame. No one really vies for summer viewers. Does that bother anyone else? Networks love you in February and May, but once the ratings are in on their season finale, they don’t know you until September rolls around. What is the answer to summer reruns, i.e. summer boredom? For some networks it is reality TV. To escape the heat outside and to put chores like mopping the floor off for another hour, America seeks an escape and at this point, we’ll settle for just about anything. Some reality shows like Big Brother and the Mole have escaped rigor mortis because there is nothing else on. It’s like the old joke — what’s worse than having four channels and nothing interesting on? Having 150 channels and nothing interesting on.
While I don’t see Big Brother or the Mole as being competition for the top ratings spot when the regular fodder returns in September, Fox has come up with a new principle that just might give “Yes, Dear” and other sitcoms a run for their money—”American Idol.”
The show offers its viewers an escape from reality and its producers the benefits of reality TV — fewer costs. America can tune in as star-hopefuls compete for the chance to become the next singing sensation. It’s a chance to watch as people who have enough gumption to pursue their dream do just that. And some of those who are succeeding are actually “nice guys” (or girls as the case may be). It’s clear who you root for and who you root against. You don’t vote people off the show; you vote contestants onto the show for another week. And when the votes are tallied, there are no cheers from the eight who will go onto the next round, there are only tears for the two who will be going home. There is no animosity and no alliances among them. They are just 10 people out of the original thousands who tried out in cities across our country. Ten people who want to make their dream come true, but they aren’t willing to step on someone else in order to get there. The ultimate prize is a record contract. The ironic part of the entire contest is that the show has become such a hit that more than one of them will get record deals. The PR alone will sell records.
But those aren’t the only reasons America is in love with “American Idol.” The main reason the show has all of the ratings this summer is because America gets to watch the best of the best. In a different time, American Idol would garner some faithful viewers, maybe those who have singing ambitions themselves, but it wouldn’t be a hit. Think of Star Search (different show, same premise) which was only mediocre in the 80s and 90s. In war times with the lives of thousands already expended to fight terrorism, this reality show has what America is fighting for — Americans from the big cities to the little towns with families and friends and hopes and dreams and the freedom to pursue those hopes and dreams. It is an hour or so when we can reaffirm part of why it is important for America to stand for freedom and justice. An hour or so when we can watch that freedom in action.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.

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Column
By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
July 24, 2002

How important are newspapers?
(Note from Virgil: The Buffingtons would not have written this column. I can get away with it because I am an old has-been freelancer who does pretty much what he pleases. All the powers that be did was to write the headline, “Herald wins 14 awards in state contest,” and then list the awards in a straight news story. More needs to be said. So listen up.)
“Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.”-Thomas Carlyle.
I met Bill Rogers, Sr. in 1950. We were classmates at the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism at U. Ga. We critiqued Dean Drewry’s lectures, shared our notes, and talked about our futures.
If ever a man found his work-and his future — it was Bill Rogers.
Mike’s column on July 3 got it right. Bill really was “a giant of a man.”
And if ever a family found its work-and its future — it is the Buffingtons: Herman and Helen, and sons Mike and Scott.
Herman and Helen came to Jefferson in 1965 with a prayer and faith and little else.
Well, there were a couple of other things. Mike, 6, and Scott, 3, tagged along.
It is this scribe’s humble opinion that, if the Buffingtons had not come when they did, The Jackson Herald would have folded within a year. It was that bad. The headline would have been a no-brainer: “Herald skunked in state contest.”
I shall now refer to Mike’s July 3rd column, “The legacy of Bill Rogers, Sr.,” and draw some parallels.
The Swainsboro Forest Blade, which Bill owned and edited, dominated the weekly newspaper winnings in the Georgia Press Association’s “Better Newspaper Contest.”
“Indeed, during his tenure with The Blade (1959-1990), the newspaper won over 160 state and national awards.”
None of the Buffingtons would write this, but during their tenure with The Herald (1965 and counting) the newspaper has won 163 state and national awards.
One year while he was in college, Mike spent a summer at The Blade working for Bill as an intern. “The lessons I learned there have followed me throughout my career,” said The Herald editor.
The old adage, “what goes around comes around,” is true. Mike, the intern turned editor, has worked with interns here. Three of them — Adam Fouche, Angela Gary and Ben Munro — are now full-time staff members with MainStreet Newspapers.
No doubt the lessons they and other young members of the team have learned will follow them throughout their careers.
There are other parallels between the old editor gone on to his reward and the young editor building his career.
In 1969, Bill became president of the GPA and a decade later was president of the National Newspaper Association.
In 1995, Mike was president of the GPA, and this fall, after representing the South on the Board of Directors of the NNA, is in line to become treasurer of the national organization.
“There are many of us in Georgia newspapering who can point to Rogers’ influence on our careers,” Mike wrote in his recent column. “I was in awe of his skills. I’m still in awe today.”
I have no idea how many of Mike’s co-workers and journalistic peers are in awe of him. Most are probably too young to admit it. But this old man is not ashamed to. He could write and edit for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek and any other national publication if he wanted to. We are fortunate that he doesn’t want to.
Lest we give the young man the big head, let us point out that he is just one among many. If his mama and daddy hadn’t come to Jefferson with a prayer and faith and little else in 1965, there’s no telling where Mike would be today and what he would be doing.
Herman and Helen resurrected a dead weekly newspaper and slowly but surely, year after year, improved it editorially and financially. They did the early, hard down-and-dirty work and presented their sons with an opportunity for enterprise.
Without little brother (little?), there’s no telling where Mike would be today and what he would be doing. Without Scott and the advertising staff, the editor and his young and professional writers, photographers, printers and office personnel would not have a forum.
The business community — advertisers, if you will — supported The Herald and helped it grow. And an ever-increasing number of subscribers contributed to its success. Together, they enabled the Buffingtons to purchase The Commerce News, The Banks County News and The Madison County Journal; to incorporate as MainStreet Newspapers, and to become Northeast Georgia’s local online newspaper (mainstreetnews.ccom).
The Herald is one of Jackson County’s oldest businesses. In the past it sputtered and coughed and almost gave up the ghost. Today I know of nothing that is more a part of the cultural, economic, educational, political and religious activities of the county. Without the paper we would be — if not ignorant — then poorly informed about all of these areas of our lives. I wonder if we really appreciate what we have here.
How important are newspapers?
On January 16, 1787, in a letter to Colonel Edward Carrington, Thomas Jefferson said this:
“The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.


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