Banks County Opinions...

JANUARY 14, 2004


By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
January 14, 2004

Terror alert burnout
The problem with a good defense system is that the visible need for such a defense system soon becomes invisible. The defenders do their job well and no one sees a threat.
Let’s take the tale of the boy who cried wolf. The threat of a wolf was real, but because the boy cried wolf when no wolf was there, the townspeople didn’t believe him when there really was a wolf and so the sheep were eaten. The classic moral is don’t cry wolf.
But what if the wolf had been real and had been chased off by the boy screaming wolf. Apply it to our times. Our government works to uncover plots against our country and our assets and when they believe attacks are imminent, they cry wolf. Millions of our armed forces, including policemen, answer the call and as yet no threat has been actualized. But Americans continue to rally around the terrorist threat levels with a great deal of groaning and wondering aloud if anyone knows what they are doing in Washington or if they’re playing darts on a great big terror alert board. As years go by with no actual attack, the grumbling has grown worse and more than a few have suggested terror alerts purpose is to save some jobs in Washington. And they cost money as so many point out and as Atlanta can surely attest. An orange alert like the one we underwent from December 20 through the first part of January costs Atlanta roughly $2.25 million per week, the highest amount nationwide on a per capita basis at $5.40 per citizen, according to a survey of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2003. However, the terrorist attacks of September 11 cost New York City between $83 and $95 billion when taking into account the loss of jobs and tourism as well as everything else. That kind of puts things into perspective, at least where our pocketbook is concerned. But what of the loss of life and of our feeling of security? At what value do we place that?
In a statement by Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge on the recent uneventful orange terror alert, he said, “We believe this is a testament to the incredible level of awareness, information sharing and communication that stretched across the country and the world. We know from experience that the increased security and vigilance that accompany a raise in the threat level does make a difference in deterring and disrupting a terrorist attack.”
As terror alerts continue to be fodder for the CNN news station banners, the American people are hesitantly trying something that hasn’t been done for decades; they are trusting their government. Yet the trust is a very shaky thing. Without a manifestation of the threat soon, trust and faith may be misplaced. This is an information age and Americans want to barter their trust for information.
The threat of danger is like the existence of God. We can’t see God, yet almost everyone will concede that He exists. And maybe Americans need to concede that homeland security is one cookie jar we can’t have our hands in without breaking the cookies.
Back to the little boy, the moral should have been—if we fall into the trap of not believing the threat is real because we don’t see a wolf, then we stand to lose a lot more than a few sheep.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.

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By:Angela Gary
The Banks County News
January 14, 2004

What goes in a community newspaper?
Small-town community newspapers are something that I love. I always have. During my travels, I pick up newspapers from across the country and delight in seeing what is going on in these communities. A look at a community newspaper gives you a great look at what is going on in that area and what its people are like.
An e-mail I received from one of our subscribers last week made me think about our role as a community newspaper. This lady doesn’t like our crime coverage, our political coverage or our columnists.
The Homer woman wrote: “I’m not interested in who hit who and called him a dirty word, nor what backed into what at Wal-Mart, nor the tackiness of that small group of controlling, uneducated wannabees called politicians.” Well, that is exactly what you are going to find in this and most community newspapers.
It’s very important to know the kinds of crimes that are going on in a community. For one thing, it shows how your tax dollars are being used by the sheriff’s office to provide security and safety. It lets you know how many calls the department receives each week and what kind of crimes are being committed. It shows us the increase in domestic violence which causes many problems in our society. It shows us that drug abuse is on the rise and shoplifting is becoming common-place.
I believe it is important to know what kind of crimes are going on around me. I even find it helpful to know the number of wrecks that occur in parking lots. I’m sure a lot more careful in parking lots because I have read in our paper that several occur each week.
As for the actions of politicians, I don’t know any community newspaper that doesn’t report on this. We need to know how our elected officials are spending our tax dollars and what kinds of decisions they are making. It is crucial that newspapers shine the light on the actions of government officials. That is the foundation of how and why community newspapers were formed and it continues to be a crucial part of what goes into them.
As for the end-of-the-year issue, we believe it is important to have a report of the top stories for the year. I have done research in writing a history book on another county and I found issues from over 100 years ago to be very helpful. The role of a community newspaper includes being a keeper of the history of a county. Our end-of-the year issue is part of this effort.
The lady who wrote me last week also doesn’t like our columnists. I realize that not everyone will like what we write. That is why we have several different columnists to give our readers variety. It is a personal column. Some will love it, some will not. I have had people call and stop me in stores to tell me they love reading about my travels and my family. I write about what I know and love—my nephew, my family, my cat, books I read, movies I see, places I visit and even food I eat. If you don’t like these things, don’t read my column.
I do visit Nashville a couple of times a year and you will likely be reading about my experiences there in 2004. I haven’t been to Branson, although I hear it’s a fun place to visit. I love traveling and have been to Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, South America, New York City, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., Dallas and small and large towns throughout the Southeast. I’m sure I will continue to write about my travels.
I also love reading about vacation spots and I always check out the travel articles in the large daily papers. The tips on where to eat, spend the night and visit are always helpful to me. I clip many of them and keep them for reference in case I ever visit the town that is highlighted.
As for the two recent columns by reporter Shar Porier on the death of her mother, I found them very touching. I think most compassionate people will relate to the feelings of loss that Shar has suffered. The loss was only two weeks ago and it occurred over a holiday period. I’m sure people who have suffered a loss will relate and understand the things she so eloquently wrote about.
I thank Shar for sharing with us. I always enjoy reading her column. Her columns have brought tears to my eyes and made me laugh out loud. I thank her for making me think and feel these emotions. I might add that she has also won awards from the state newspaper association for her columns.
I know we don’t always agree. I respect different opinions, but I think it’s important that we all understand the role of a community newspaper. It is to give in-depth coverage of a community and its people. We always strive to do this and we will continue to do so in the new year.
If you like what we are doing or you don’t, let us know. The e-mail I received last week made me think about our role and that’s always a good thing to do.
Angela Gary is editor of The Banks County News. She may be reached at
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233 Fax: (706) 367-8056

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