The Waynesville town attorney serves at the pleasure of the board. Elected officials can fire or terminate him for any reason they see fit.
Think Facebook’s ban of Donald Trump is justified? It’s a fascinating issue, one that gets to the heart of the differences between the internet and more traditional news sources like television, radio and newspapers.
Early morning, June 2, 1999. I remember exactly where I was at and what I was doing. More on that later.
Last July, The Smoky Mountain News produced a series of stories looking into police reform following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and other incidents of violence by law enforcement officers. One of the takeaways from that reporting was that good law enforcement officers are, perhaps, more critical of bad cops than the general public.
I got home from work yesterday after running a couple of errands. It was approaching 6 p.m. My wife, a teacher, was scrunched over her computer at our kitchen island, still working, still all in, too busy to even chat. OK. I changed from my work clothes, did a couple yard chores, tinkered around with my motorcycle. At 6:45 I came back and was just closing her laptop as I walked in, finally ready to relax.
They didn’t know where they were going, their only waypoint the “S” on the compass rose.
They were both from Minnesota. For a laugh they could turn on the accent that became the humorous aside of the Coen brothers’ film “Fargo,” with the “yaah” and “geez” and “you betcha.” In their 50s, both had been able to retire early, she a landscape architect and he an Air National Guard pilot.
We who live in Western North Carolina are fortunate in many ways. We know that. It’s a beautiful place with a vibrant economy populated by interesting people from all over. It’s easy to commune with friends at a brewery or restaurant (adhering to covid restrictions) or slip away to the woods in the East Coast’s largest wilderness area.
A year later. We’re still mourning the deaths and illnesses, the disruption of life as we knew it, the months of gut-wrenching unknowns causing unfamiliar anxiety. It was March 17, 2020, when Gov. Roy Cooper began shutting down businesses and most of us waited for the tsunami that we could see — or at least imagine — in the distance without having any idea how horrific its final toll, when the worst of it would come, when it would finally recede, and who or what would be left standing.
The Covid relief bill now working its way through Congress will mark a transformation in the way this country treats poor children. It’s about damn time.
First the numbers, which vary ever-so-slightly from year-to-year, but which should be appalling to the citizens of the world’s richest country: 24 percent in Swain County, 26.6 percent in Macon, 22.5 percent in Jackson and 22.5 percent in Haywood. That the number of children living in poverty every single day of their lives. Right at one-fourth of the youngsters we see around our community every day.
The Smokies region is an outdoor mecca that attracts millions of people each year. For better or worse, that onslaught of visitors is increasing and likely to continue doing so.
Another poll, another reality check for the media: Americans don’t trust us. The question that comes to mind, for me, is who does the public does trust for reporting the news?
A Gallup poll released late last year revealed that 60 percent of Americans don’t think the media accurately and fairly reports the news, and 33 percent have absolutely no trust or confidence in the media. Finally, a whopping 27 percent have “not very much” trust in mass media (newspapers, television and radio).
When I read that Annie McCord-Wilson was among those leading the charge to have the rebel removed as the mascot of her daughter’s elementary school — Cullowhee Valley — I almost couldn’t believe it.
In 2002 when The Smoky Mountain News was only three years old and trying to establish itself as an information source for the region, I read a fantastic letter to the editor in the Sylva Herald. It was written by then-eighth-grader Annie McCord, and I was astonished at her maturity. Here’s an excerpt from that letter discussing the use of the rebel as a mascot:
Short escapes from all of the noise coming from everywhere are so refreshing, so worthwhile.
The holidays were a fantastic time at our home. Lori and I and our children and their partners had been spending time together since the pandemic started, had been tested, and so we felt safe getting together. My birthday is Dec. 18, a week before Christmas, so from then until New Year’s Day we had children visiting, excursions out and about, long dinners and a relatively busy holiday. Great times, especially in this year when so much was not normal.
How does one best express gratitude?
That thought kept coming up as I sat down to write a column for this week’s paper. After the rush of a holiday season that was so different, I found myself in our quiet mountain house on an unseasonably warm and sunny day pondering the year to come with more than a little excitement. This is going to be another memorable year, and I can’t wait to push forward.
This year has prompted a reckoning unlike any in memory, so we’re all looking to put a bow on 2020 and call it done, right?
“… one of the most significant facts about us may finally be that we all begin with the natural equipment to live a thousand kinds of life but end in the end having lived only one.” — The Interpretation of Cultures, by Clifford Geertz
How do we get from here to there, from youthful idealism, optimism and boundless energy where the whole world is your oyster to a rewarding life? Some people know right from the start where they want to go and what they want to be, but for lot of others, me included, it was a process, a step forward and one backward, but always moving. Do you adventure or buckle down, go back to school or learn life lessons? Stay in a relationship or move on?
When the Lyft driver asked where we were from, our answer was, “outside Asheville, in the mountains.”
His reply: “Wow, the mountains and the coast. You’re getting the best of both worlds.”
I’m semi-quarantining in the week leading up to Thanksgiving due to a potential exposure to COVID. At this very moment I’m working at my stand-up desk enjoying a homemade hot mocha made with freshly roasted Colombian coffee beans from Steamline Coffee Company. It’s damn good coffee.
If you’re feeling COVID fatigue, it’s no wonder.
It seems this all started “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” We could be so lucky. In fact, it was one year ago, Nov. 17, 2019, that the first case of the novel coronavirus emerged was reported from a seafood market in Wuhan, China. At least that’s according to Chinese government data that was reported in the South China Morning Post.
Can we bridge the divide? That’s the most fundamental question facing us as Americans as we sort out the post-mortem of the 2020 election. Is there a way forward that will forge a common bond as Americans that will be more fundamental to our personal identity than political ideology?
It won’t happen easily. No, I feel certain that in the short term the landscape will be littered with the wreckage from retribution, pride, fear, ignorance, accusations, etc. A long election season is dragging on, and too many of the major players are too entrenched in their distrust of the other side.
As the sun began its descent on Monday — the eve of Election Day — I sat down to write this column and my thoughts turned to happiness and satisfaction.
I thought about being in a place, a state of mind, where one can look at one’s life, both into the past and into the future, and perhaps break into a small grin and say something like, “Somehow, surprisingly, I’ve managed to create a pretty good thing, a life and a family I never imagined for myself. I’m happy.”
A message came back to me from an advertiser via one of our ad reps. He said we needed to quit running so many “liberal” articles.
This newspaper has been my life and a 21-year labor of love, so I always listen intently to criticisms and critiques. Especially in cases like this, where I’ve known the business owner for years and know he’s no dummy. I feel certain the criticism is of our opinion pages, where the overwhelming number of letters this election season has been in favor of Democratic candidates for Congress and the state legislature or from those against President Trump.
Elementary schools will open their doors and welcome students back over the next few days, and middle and high schools are getting into the groove of remote and in-class learning. Planning by administrators and teachers has been underway for months.
Our readers have spoken. You won’t find a single case of the F-word in this article, and perhaps never again in this newspaper.
September 11 snuck up on me this year. I was listening to public radio this morning when they discussed commemorations happening today at Ground Zero.
All of a sudden it took me back to that Tuesday morning 19 years ago. In my world, the last 20 years of Tuesdays have been press days, the time when all hands are on deck at the newspaper as we try to finish stories, design the paper and send it to the press so it can be delivered on Wednesday mornings.
What’s happening in North Carolina right now with absentee ballot requests is staggering.
Currently there are around 7.1 million registered voters in North Carolina. Breaking it down, there are 2.55 million Democrats, 2.13 million Republicans, and 2.37 million unaffiliated and a sprinkling of Green, Libertarian and other party affiliations.
If you don’t vote, then just shut up. You don’t even really deserve the right to be heard. Especially when you consider the treatment many in this country endured before — and after — they earned to right to vote.
Keep electing people who are ideologically too far left or right to reach across the aisle, and we’ll have the same kind of Congress we have today: divided, ineffective, laughable. So despite Madison Cawthorn trying to brand himself as a new face of conservatism, many of his statements since winning the 11th District GOP primary reveal a young man with a narrow, hard-right world view that may make him the darling of a certain segment of his party but will do little to help those in his district or help get Congress moving in a positive direction.
In the streets of Western North Carolina, mostly young protestors calling for an end to structural and sometimes violent racism are being confronted by working-class Americans who think many of those grievances are illegitimate. Statues of Confederates and former slaveholders are toppling, and those that remain will forever be looked upon differently.
I was walking my animal last night at sunset, enjoying the evening views and cool temps, thinking back to the July 4 weekend. Along the way, it hit me that half of 2020 is now in the history books. The verdict is still out as to how this time will be viewed by those who look back, but hell, it sure feels like the world is in a different orbit.
Haywood County resident Lynda Bennett was beaten badly in the Republican runoff primary for Congress last week against 24-year-old political newcomer Madison Cawthorn. As a reporter and editor who has been involved in the coverage of more than a dozen races for this congressional seat, I was heartened by her loss.
When I saw the video of the mostly young crowd marching Monday night in Waynesville to protest the killing of George Floyd and the systemic, violent racism that still exists in this country, it gave me a jolt. I was proud of those who turned out, but also feared it would turn violent. It didn’t, and it’s these mostly young people who will bring needed changes to this country if those of my generation can just get the hell out of the way. And that this small protest happened in this place in Western North Carolina where people of color are so few made it even more meaningful.
National Emergency Medical Services Week is May 17-23, and in the midst of a global pandemic the timing resonates more this year than at any other moment in recent memory. What these men and women do — whether it be EMTs, those in the medical field, firemen and the police — has never been more essential to helping our society maintain some semblance of normalcy and order.
It seems every time I sit down to write these days, it has something to do with journalism and the state of our industry. Forgive me my obsession, but during this time of isolation it’s difficult to concentrate for long on any other topic. I am obsessed — a strong word, I know, but the truth — with steering our company through this strange, once-in-a-lifetime business disruption.
Way back, way back, like three or four weeks ago, our little company was on track for its best year ever.
Our print newspaper was going strong and we had just added a new, energetic and driven sales professional. Our digital footprint was growing faster than we had expected, and our staff was brimming with new ideas to help local businesses get their message out via several online platforms. Our niche publishing sector had grown significantly in the last 12 months, adding two annual magazines and the four-time-per-year Blue Ridge Motorcycling Magazine to our portfolio.
The helplessness is the thing that’s making all of us so uneasy. Like being pushed along by a wave that you know is big and that you know could hurt you, but in that second before it crashes it’s too late to do anything but ride it out.
The world changed over the weekend, especially on main street. And it likely won’t ever again look the same as it did on Friday, not with the Covid-19 hell storm unleashing its fury.
The family of a Sylva woman who died by suicide in the Jackson County Detention Center last year has filed suit in federal district court against members of the sheriff’s department who handled her incarceration. Filed by Rice’s son Matthew Dillard, who is the administrator of Rice’s estate, the suit seeks a series of judgments that would easily exceed $3 million if granted in full. He claims that the defendants’ “negligent” acts and “malicious, willful and wanton disregard” for Rice’s rights led to her death.
The phones we carry everywhere contain or have access to more information than the largest libraries in the world, many times more. It’s the same with our laptops, tablets, desktops or whatever digital device one prefers. All the collected knowledge of science, literature, mathematics and the arts that humans have amassed since the dawn of civilization is right there at our fingertips.
Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.
— Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of the United Kingdom
“Let me put a face on this for you.”
So uttered Natalie Henry Howell in a gut-wrenching presentation to Haywood County Commissioners and a roomful of Second Amendment Sanctuary supporters on Tuesday night, Jan. 21.
I just turned the big 6-0. Sixty. What the hell?
I’ve been reading essays on reaching this point in life, and I don’t seem to be taking this as philosophically as some. Unlike others, I don’t think I’ll be posting up on a barstool or relaxing in an easy chair and waxing poetic regarding the wisdom attained over so many years, or professing to be at the stage of life where I am perfectly satisfied, confident and content in being the person I want to be and where my life is. That’s what so many essays on aging seem to prioritize.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park — for all its grandeur — is facing serious challenges, and it’s going to take those who cherish it the most to protect this acclaimed natural and cultural resource for future generations. If that means instituting entrance fees, then we’ll support taking the necessary steps to make that happen.
Under this commander-in-chief, war criminals are framed as heroes for political gains with his base while veterans who served with honor for decades are vilified. Of all of President Trump’s outrageous, disruptive behavior, it’s his un-military like actions toward our soldiers in uniform that roil me the most.
It’s called Blue Ridge Motorcycling Magazine, and it’s become part of our family. Let me explain.
At almost 60 years old — damn, I can’t believe that’s true — odds are I’m beyond the midpoint of my life. That means I couldn’t realistically blame a mid-life crisis around three years ago when I became obsessed with buying a motorcycle. I had owned dirt bikes as a teenager and so knew how to ride. I wasn’t one of those old guys who was starting from scratch, figuring out the gears and the clutch and braking and starting on a hill and all the nuances of counter-steering and leaning into curves. Once upon a time all that was second-nature.
Does the information we provide each week — information that we have been producing free for the last 20 years — have a value? I am asking that question of all of our readers.
At our inception in June 1999, we were not so unusual in the newspaper world. We decided to give the paper away, our revenue source being the advertisers who wanted to get their message to our readers. That remains a relatively common model in our business, and you can look around the world and around Western North Carolina and find other print media who do the same.
These days, too many Americans refuse to concede that a point-of-view other than their own has any validity. I’m afraid that the root of this problem is that too few are willing to put in the intellectual energy required to walk in someone else’s shoes. That requires reading, thinking, taking time for reflection, diving deep into issues rather than relying on Twitter and Facebook posts as the whole of one’s political philosophy.
Is it a Taj Mahal or a wise use of tax dollars?
I’m talking about the proposal to spend around $13 million to build a central office for the Haywood County School System that will bring administration, food services, transportation, teacher/staff training facilities and more all under one roof.
Remember those old movies where submarines find themselves navigating through an underwater minefield, sometimes relying on skill to avoid what would be a sure death and other times surviving near misses on luck alone?
That’s what it feels like sometimes in the world of journalism as we try to make the right ethical choices. It seems almost every day we are discussing the right way to cover a story or whether some event should even be reported. Sometimes these issues are discussed at length, other times reporters and editors have to rely on gut instincts and past experience.
It’s rare when one newspaper questions the integrity of another paper and the intentions of a hard-working journalist whose entire career personifies honesty and ethical decision-making. So we were surprised and a bit taken aback after we read Editor Robert Jumper’s column in last week’s Cherokee One Feather in which he referenced an article in The Smoky Mountain News. For that reason, I felt compelled to respond.
Summer is ending and schools are opening. It’s the time year when I remember the teachers.
These days, teachers are too often scapegoats for the shortcomings of parents, politicians and society at large. Truth be told, what they do each day in the classroom changes lives and changes the world.