Grist for the mill: A new year, new leaders, a new city

Grist for the mill: A summary of what’s in the local news Web sites

Greetings, kind readers. Here begins a new feature on The Yeast called “Grist for the mill,” which is a rundown of the what the local news media. I will look for the most interesting and newsworthy stories across the three-county area and deliver them with commentary. I am aware these newspapers have small staffs with people dedicated to the craft, so my hope is that whatever analysis I provide is offered as constructive feedback and not intended to tear people down.

By Jay Jones

Rockdale and Newton counties started the new year with a spate of swearing in ceremonies for elected officials and first meetings of newly elected (and newly sworn in) county chairmen. In DeKalb County, On Common Ground led this week with announced candidates for mayor and city council for the newly created city of Stonecrest. The Champion has a mix of stories, none of them particularly top of the fold quality. I found the piece on Paste Magazine returning to print after six years of online-only content most interesting. Paste’s return to paper is like a maverick running loose from the cattle call of publications leaving print for the riches (i.e., cheaper) promise of the Internet.

Both the Citizen and Covington News provide lots of coverage of the local swearing-in ceremonies here, here and here. Great planning on the organizers’ part to ensure coverage during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, which traditionally the deadest of news periods of the year.

Also, both county boards of commissioners got to work right away at their first meetings of 2017. In Newton County, the News notes the “historic” meeting with Marcello Banes serving as the county’s first African-American chairman. Commissioner J.C. Henderson, who is also African American, was appointed as vice-chair, the paper reports. Newton commissioners discussed revising the county government’s ethics ordinance. The board asked County Attorney Megan Martin to draft proposed revisions concerning conflicts of interest. It appears necessary. The story reads as if Martin brought it up and stated examples of previous conflicts of interest, including Vice Chairman Henderson’s affiliation with a community center that has received county funding. Henderson calls the efforts “beating a dead horse” while Commission Ronnie Cowan called it necessary. Sound familiar Rockdale County residents?

In Rockdale County, the county commissioners held a less historical meeting since Chairman Oz Nesbitt is the second African American ever to serve as Rockdale’s chief executive. Recent memory serves that Nesbitt is just the second person to be elected county chairman after serving as a county commissioner in the three-person commission era (Norman Wheeler is the other). The Citizen reports on the county commissioners consider establishing Responsible Alcohol Sales and Service (RASS) training. The city of Conyers has provided such training since 2012, according to the story. Rockdale County requires RASS as part of its punishment for those caught serving to underage persons.

In other news, the Citizen has another odd crime story out of Newton County, “Good Samaritan who stopped for injured dog charged after fleeing the scene.” Moral of the story? Avoid hitting dogs while allegedly driving a stolen vehicle.

The News reports on the start of a major Georgia DOT road project to widen Ga. 142 and other improvements around the Interstate 20-Alcovy Road interchange.

On Common Ground reports armed robbery of the Fred’s store at Sigman Road and Ga. 20 on New Year’s Eve. OCG also has a story that would only interest lawyers and real estate agents with both DeKalb and Rockdale requiring e-filing of civil cases and land records. Sounds very efficient and probably a good idea. My only concern is how this will change access to public records? Here is the Citizen’s version of the same story, here.

Pet peeve: The Citizen revamped its Web site to finally come out as a regional, two-county newspaper and admitting it has been one for a long time. I worked there when there were separate editorial offices for each Rockdale and Newton Citizens. Folks were very concerned either by “damn too much Newton news or damn too much Rockdale news in my Citizen” for some time (yes, I fielded a few of those phone calls). Things have changed since then.

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