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Staff Editorials

Mailbag - recent questions and comments

By Dan Pool, editor

     Here are a handful of recent questions or comments we wanted to address in public. As always, we are open to comments from readers at 706-253-2457 or by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

     One reader who spotted us filling up paper boxes asked about the schedule of when papers are available and why home subscribers get their papers a day later than the Progress is available for sale in stores.

     Our response: Ideally we would put our newspaper on the racks in stores and in home subscribers’ mailboxes all on the same day, but that is not possible. There is just no way to get the papers printed and addressed and to the post office in time for subscribers to get them in the Wednesday mail.

     In a normal week, the online e-edition is available at about 9 a.m. on Wednesday at  www.pickensprogress.com. Papers should be available in stores by noon at the latest. Local subscribers should see the Progress in their mailbox with the Thursday mail. When out of-area subscribers get their papers is totally dependant on the mail service.

 

     Question from e-mail: Why do we put some stories in their entirety on our website for free and keep others only in print and in the (paid) e-edition?

Our response: There is a fine line by which we decide what material is offered for free and what pieces are only in the paid print/e-edition. I’m sure thoughts at the Progress and all newspapers will continue to evolve concerning free versus paid content online.

     The Progress, nor any newspaper I’m aware of, can sustain itself by giving away its content for free, any more than a restaurant can offer free food because people are hungry. The Atlanta paper, the Gilmer County paper, the Blue Ridge paper and the New York Times all hold some of their content for paying subscribers only.

     One of the most exciting uses of our website is the ability to put up timely and accurate information on breaking community news. This has been a valuable resource for road closings, weather events and crimes, where readers will benefit by having this  knowledge available ASAP. We also try to post entire stories on upcoming events and benefits, where people can help by taking action.

     For general coverage of the people and happenings in this community, we will continue to publish them primarily in a paid format, whether it’s in print or online.

 

     Paraphrased from E-mail: Did  last week’s article on the Popcorn and Politics forum at the chamber of commerce with Sole Commissioner Robert Jones signal an endorsement of Jones over his competitor, Wesley Weaver, in the race for chairman of the three-person board of commissioners?

     Our Response: Most assuredly no. The Progress does not endorse any candidates and strives for unbiased coverage of politics. In the case above, we’d like to point out:

     1. Jones was asked to speak at a forum (Popcorn and Politics) that we have always covered. We neither chose the speaker nor made any input into who would be speaking. Would it have been better to ignore the county’s top official speaking on the state of the county in a chamber of commerce forum?

     2. No intentionally biased article for a candidate would use the words "tax hike" in a headline with their name, which was the case with the article in question.

The article, from last week’s paper, not only included accomplishments presented by Jones (911 improvements and paving) but also problems (Tate Depot and a possible tax increase).

     News from incumbent candidates, whether it’s the sheriff starting a new program or the DA being recognized for exemplary DUI prosecution, will continue during the election cycle and needs to be reported. Conversely, should a crime spree that goes unsolved occur or the DA lose a significant case, it too will be reported with no regard for the political impact.

 

Kids Page

 

     Finally, a reader wrote to say the Kids Page from the May 17th edition had words missing in the word search. If we wanted to be mean, we might have intentionally left words out to keep kids searching all summer. But in reality, Kids Page material is supplied by a vendor and, unfortunately, there were words missing in last week’s word search – so all the kids can stop looking at last week’s puzzle. Sorry for the mistake.

Advice for the PHS class of 2012

Congratulations on having completed high school. Now it’s on to real life, and it is largely what you make it. Because we wish you well, here are ten bits of advice from our editorial staff. Not all are original thoughts. Some are common advice we felt it was worth repeating.

 

• Gaining opportunities is like catching fish: you may not get anything for a long time and then get more than you can handle all at once. Before you turn down or squander any job/scholarship/offer, be aware the next good chance may not pop up for a year.

 

• “Gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret,” – Proverbs 11:13. Keep this in mind as well when you use social media. What’s online is way more public than something chatted about at a party.

 

• Think long and hard about tattoos. Maybe they can be removed later, but it’s a pain literally and financially. What you think looks cool at 21 years old and after a 12-pack may not sit well with a future spouse.

 

• Use sunscreen and condoms as needed.

 

• Listen to your mama, unless she’s a nut. And in that case, just love her anyway.

• In adult life, no one cares why you are late or miss work or college classes. They only care that you were not where you were supposed to be.

 

• Do what you love to do – The iconic writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell encouraged all his students to follow their bliss. Find what you are passionate about and work toward making that a viable life for yourself. If you love what you do, it shows. You will be happy, and that happiness will hopefully rub off on those around you.

 

• Don’t spend every penny you make – However large or small your salary ends up being, learn to live below your means. We recommend a good dose of Clark Howard or Dave Ramsey every now and again.

 

• When you start finding national news interesting, we suggest you pepper your serious print and television media preferences with a good smattering of satirical news––for perspective, we’re saying. We like The Onion and The Colbert Report.

 

•Surprise yourself - Make a conscious decision to take risks, meet new people and learn new things. Surprising yourself with your own accomplishments can be extremely rewarding and may inspire you to do even more.

Public profanity is gosh darn inappropriate

     Earlier this spring, a Progress staff member overheard two younger people walking down Main Street near our building just cussing up a storm for lack of a better description.

Around the same time, another newspaper employee recalled a group of young people in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot having a shouting match over someone’s “&#%%  cigarettes,” which apparently someone else had taken.

     These reflections brought to mind another day when the editor spotted an adult at the Roper Park playground wearing a t-shirt that contained the queen mother of all obscene words – and in great big letters. Indeed, a parent/guardian apparently felt no qualms about wearing to a kid’s playground at a county park a shirt with the “f-bomb,” as it is called.

Fans and parents have complained in past years that the language heard clearly at field level during high school football games would shame a group of sailors.

Curse words date back to the middle ages at least. The idea that profanity has just reared its ugly head is no more accurate than the belief that teen smoking, drinking and sex never happened back in the good ol’ days.

     As far back as the 1600s, old William Shakespeare used the occasional “Fie” to spice up his iambic pentameter. And, if you can wade through the Old English, The Canterbury Tales rival anything on HBO for salacious content.

     But while the words have always been part of the language, it does surely seem profanity is more common in public today than it was a decade ago. Going back two decades, even the more hardened juvenile delinquents grasped the idea of some control limits on when and where to let certain words fly.

Today, it seems the noted torrents of foul-language come more and more from young people who appear genuinely ignorant of the social guidelines heretofore. Many cussing speakers we’ve witnessed appear oblivious that when addressing adults you don’t use certain synonyms for bad, really bad and horrible.

     “Ah, Mr. Principal, that idea #$%,*” no longer arrives as a shocker.

     Not that we’re all dandified Southern gentlemen or women at the newspaper, but it’s awkward to be in the presence of children or ladies when you hear people in public, neither angry nor arguing, who let fly with four-letter words as casually as normal folks might discuss the weather.

     At one point in Georgia, state law criminalized any cussing in front of a dead body. And while it may still be on the books, that law is no longer applied with any regularity, based on our crime watch reports.

     It is also illegal in Georgia to use profanity in front of children. But again, it’s not readily enforced, as there aren’t enough jails, judges or cops to round up everyone who let’s fly a few vulgarities.

     There are those who would argue lack of etiquette doesn’t mean general low morals. Rather, it just means the speaker is unrefined or un-educated, as teachers used to advise those who favored off-color expression. And compared with some of the problems young people face, using foul language is hardly something to start a new non-profit to battle.

But it is distressing to see how many young people have been brought up learning or have learned from social culture to disregard the old unspoken rules regarding inappropriate language that could be offensive to others.

     And maybe it is no big deal anymore, but it sure doesn’t sit right to hear all the words that ten-plus years ago would have resulted in a serious whipping or a screeching classroom halt if uttered. These days, those words pop up as frequently as gosh darns used to.

 

Do you really want a revolution in this country?

     Albert Camus, the French philosopher, is often associated with a bunch of high-falutin hogwash on esoteric subjects.

     But, according to reviews of recent biographies, Camus, politically speaking, was much more a pragmatic thinker – something we could use a dose of today with all the paranoid theories of government working to destroy the Constitution, U.N. takeovers, death panels killing seniors and the secret plot by the president, really a Muslim fanatic in hiding who has bigger secret plans––as though the United States presidency wasn’t enough.

     In the face of much heated political rhetoric and talk of revolutions, assaults of the Constitution, defending our liberty, rights under siege, standing up to tyranny, we need someone to remind us that most Americans want our great country to improve, not have bankers, pharmacists and insurance agents rioting in the streets.

     It’s ironic how quickly groups and candidates using fiery rhetoric wilt in their radicalism when Occupy groups actually do march in the streets also demanding change.

     So, back to Camus––at this time, we’d like to remind groups from the Tea Party to the Occupiers that the average Americans desires a tax system that is fair and as low as possible, government that is responsive to our needs and decent healthcare. We want to feel secure in our homes and with our firearms. We want to know our kids will grow up in neighborhoods that are as safe as the ones we live in now or maybe a little better and that these young people will get the chance to make a good living.

     But, many of us will balance the call for low taxes and small government with the recognition that the elderly must be cared for if they reach the end of the lives without personal bank accounts to cover the wildly-high costs of operations and medications.

     We want to know that our government is not handing out money to able-bodied people who won’t work, but also that the kids of these people aren’t going hungry in the streets.

     And we want to see our government treating both the rich and poor and the middle classes fairly. And that our laws are not giving large corporations unfair advantages over small businesses.

     We don’t need a revolution to achieve any of this. We need lawmakers who will bring common sense and problem solving, (even if it means bi-partisan co-operation) to work everyday – not the ability to ignite a crowd of patriots with hype.

     A lot of speakers call for “clean sweeps” of elected officials. Without ascertaining between public servants trying to do a good job and the abusers of public funds, it’s easy to say “sack them all.” But that’s a shortsighted reaction to Washington. There are certainly some politicians who need to go, but keep in mind when you have a clean sweep you get rid of everyone, including people like Senator Johnny Isakson, State Rep. Rick Jasperse and Congressman Tom Graves.

     Besides creating unrealistic goals, this yelling and screaming showmanship hampers genuine discourse, debate and education.  It further distracts real analysis of the problems we face as a country, in favor of catchy phrases.

     Discussing the situation with one state official, he expressed dismay to realize how few people take time to read, comment on or discuss the actual workings of government. This official said it’s often hard to weigh the pro’s and cons of programs, because so many people begin with a take-no-prisoners attitude of debate.

     People get so accustomed to seeing political shows with trash-talking banter, that if someone wants to discuss the finer points of cutting a state budget without impacting teacher salaries, no one will listen.

     It’s boring to discuss the real challenges of government and reform compared to a revolution. But ask yourself, do you really want a revolution in this country?

 

Drop in teen birth rate a step in right direction

     Most of the time when you hear about social problems you are left with the feeling things never can get better. Last week, however, to minimal fanfare, the Centers for Disease Control announced that the rate of teenagers giving birth has hit the lowest level since 1946, the first year teen births were tracked.

     Expecting the public to scoff at the positive report after hearing mostly dire ones, a researcher with the National Center for Health Statistics assured the New York Times that experts are confident with these findings. Figures are based on actual birth certificates across the nation, not projections.

     From 2009 to 2010, births to teen mothers fell by 9 percent across the United States with a level of 34.3 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19 in 2010.

     A graph on the Washington Post website showed a solid improvement in teen birth rates since the 1990s.

     In Georgia, the drop was dramatic with teens giving birth to 20,886 babies in 2009, declining to 14,285 teen births in 2010, according to the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention. However, with a rate of 41.2 births per 1,000 teens, Georgia is still higher than the national average.

     Improvement in teenager pregnancy rates held true across all racial lines and in all but three states. (Sorry, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia.)

Researchers from the CDC, the Healthy Teen Network and the National Center for Health Statistics attributed the improvement to a combination of less risk taking among teens, abstinence programs, better sex education classes and more birth control use.

     "The teen birth rate decline is excellent news, supporting the recent emphasis and federal funding for evidenced-based programs to prevent teen pregnancy," says Dr. Pat Paluzzi, President/CEO of Healthy Teen Network. "These programs are proven to be effective at reducing sexual risk-taking behavior and incorporate contraception."

     This double approach of abstinence and contraception-use is backed by other statistics from the CDC as reported by the New York Times, showing that since 1991 the number of teens who say they have never had sex has increased by 15 percent, while the number of teens using birth control has risen by 32 percent.

     Dr. John Santelli from Columbia University was quoted in the Times as saying that the current generation of youth are “more conscientious and cautious.”

     Is there still work left to do? Definitely. For one thing, a dramatic drop in one year can easily be reversed the next year. Still, gradual improvement since the 1990s is no fluke.

     Second, according to the Washington Post’s coverage, the United States still ranks horribly when the teenage birth rate here is compared to other industrialized nations. American teens are still twice as likely to give birth, compared to teens in most other first world countries. Even as they celebrate last year’s drop, the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention reminds visitors to their website that the costs for pregnant teens and society remain a problem. They noted everything from lower birth weight babies, to high school drop-out mothers to higher incarceration rates for the children of teen mothers.

     The improvement of the past year flies in the face of the overhyped stereotype that today’s kids are all going quickly down the wrong path. Reality television shows and the general prophets of doom across all media have filled the airwaves and Internet with opinions that society is at the worst point ever.

     But for teen pregnancies, the facts are not nearly so dark. In fact, the current crop of teens can rightfully say they are doing better than all those before them in this area.

     And while it is only one factor affecting youth today, the improvement with teenage pregnancy is a big step in the right direction.