Madison County Opinion...

MARCH 17, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
March 17, 2004

Frankly Speaking

How can a tag be ‘too patriotic?’
A small group of people who identify themselves as environmentalists are objecting to a new Georgia tag.
The state has included a specialty tag to support non game endangered species. The tag depicts a bald eagle in front of the U.S. Flag. The environmentalists object to the flag, they say, because it is too patriotic!
What is it that they find so offensive? Do they object to the eagle? The bald eagle is a fantastic example to use in support of endangered spices.
Our national bird was almost eliminated from American skies by the use of a dangerous pesticides and the destruction of their habitat. A great deal of the problem came from Georgia.
In the middle of the 20th century, Georgia’s economy was tied to cotton. Madison County once had nearly a dozen cotton gins. A vast majority of Madison County’s land was planted in cotton, and the areas that were not suitable for cotton were fenced in for cattle. In order to battle the number one destroyer of cotton, the bowl weevil, the county was saturated in a chemical called DDT. The same was true to a greater or lesser degree of counties all over the southeast.
DDT is an insidious chemical. Among the things it does are cause bird eggs to be excessively thin. Many of our national birds, especially the bald eagle, were unable to reproduce because all their eggs were breaking in the nest. Of the few that were successfully hatched, few found adequate food.
As a result, the bald eagle vanished from most of the Continental United States of America.
A major effort of the endangered species act was to rescue and restore the bald eagle. The use of DDT was banned. Efforts were made to save and restore suitable habitats for the eagle. It worked. We now have a number of bald eagles nesting and reproducing in Georgia.
The bald eagle is an excellent symbol for environmental protection. I don’t see how anyone can object to the eagle as a symbol for environmentalism.
So what do the tag critics find so objectionable? The only other thing on the tag is the U.S. Flag. Are they saying that displaying the flag is “too patriotic?” When our nation, our history and our way of life is being attacked by radicals around the world, the most appropriate thing we can do is to declare our support for our nation by flying the flag. I can’t see why any American would object to our national flag.
The objection to the Georgia wildlife flag by a few environmentalists is unjustified. In my opinion, they need to rethink their criticism and accept the tag as an excellent symbol for their movement.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net.

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
March 17, 2004

In the Meantime

In honor of Mr. Jere Ayers
Mr. Jere Ayers just turned 90.
But he is by no means retired from being a fixture in this community. The long-time newspaperman is at commissioners’ meetings, at civic club events, at most any newsworthy event in this county.
It’s been that way for decades. People take The Comer News and The Danielsville Monitor and know that their mom and dad, their grandparents and their great-grandparents did too.
Yes, technically, his newspapers, The Comer News and Danielsville Monitor, compete with this newspaper, The Madison County Journal. Many still get confused about which paper is which, and who owns what and that’s a source of aggravation for staffs at both The Comer News/Danielsville Monitor and The Journal.
Many also assume that there would be ill feelings between competitors.
But those walls naturally come down when you are around someone enough, and you begin to learn about them.
And there’s a lot to know and appreciate about Mr. Jere.
At first, I knew him just by his gruff voice.
But I know him now for his friendliness, his good humor, his love of the Braves and his wealth of knowledge about the past.
And while I’m certainly no authority on the life of Mr. Jere Ayers, I can respect his years as a newspaperman in a personal way.
Of course, every job, whatever you do, whether you’re a janitor or jet-fighter pilot has its rigors.
And newspaper work — at least for editors and reporters — falls in the category of “desk job.” So any complaining we do must be tempered with the knowledge that there’s plenty of back-breaking work that makes publishing a paper seem easy by comparison.
But publishing a weekly paper is not particularly easy.
There is a perception that since weekly papers come out once a week, people work one-seventh as hard as at daily papers. People who say this ignore the fact that jobs at dailies are very specific, while work at weeklies is quite general and includes a wide variety of responsibilities.
I’ve never met a weekly newspaper person who is not familiar with some late nights, with stress, with a whirlwind of paperwork, page production, phone calls, meetings and unforeseen glitches that seem to overwhelm at times.
However, I honestly don’t know anything about truly difficult newspaper production.
Not like Mr. Jere does.
He has witnessed enormous change in newspaper technology over the past nine decades. And I feel a sort of sympathetic pain, coupled with a sense of awe, when I consider what it took to produce a paper in the old days, when newspaper work did not include the convenience of computers.
For instance, the weekly grind of newspaper work once included such skills as operating a “Linotype machine,” in which brass lines of type were molded into lead “slugs” a column wide and half an inch tall. And these were put into a page frame which was eventually inked over and printed. If a mistake was made, then the entire line of type had to be redone.
No doubt, old-time newspaper production included very time-consuming processes, with specialized skills that are now largely forgotten.
Mr. Jere was kind enough to show me around the building adjacent to his Comer office one day last summer. And the old newspaper equipment that sits in that building gathering dust harkens to days that younger newspapermen like me won’t ever understand.
But I tried to put myself there, to picture the days gone by when there was life bustling about that old metal in the early twentieth century, when Mr. Jere was a boy and his mom and dad let him put the broom down and learn about how the ink goes on the paper, about how the stories are told.
I know that since his boyhood, generations in Madison County have come to know more about their neighbors and their community because of his commitment to the paper.
It’s pleasing to see Mr. Jere Ayers get recognition in this county, such as being presented recently with the Rotary Club’s “Citizen of the Year” award.
He is an attribute to this county.
If you see him, let him know it.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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