Grist for the mill: Tibetan monks, drunk shoplifters and “illegal aliens”

Greetings, kind readers. Here is our weekly feature on The Yeast called “Grist for the mill,” which is a rundown of the local news media in the east metro Atlanta area. I will look for the most interesting and newsworthy stories across the three-county region 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.

Your tax dollars at work:

The big news out of Rockdale County is an attempt to change the composition of the county’s Board of Commissioners through state legislation. The Citizen’s story is here. The Yeast has a breakdown of the story here.

Covington City Council denies zoning for an apartment complex near Clarks Grove. A Clarks Grove resident goes full NIMBY and slams Conyers for having apartments in voicing his opposition. The story link is here.

A state representative from DeKalb County got a response from the Secretary of State on how many cases of voter fraud in 2016 they were investigating in Georgia. Secretary of State Brian Kemp replied to Rep. Scott Holcomb’s question through an open records request and said four, FOUR, ballots out of 4 million votes cast were investigated. R. Scott Belzer’s story in Champion is here. In context, Holcomb’s request comes after President Trump asserted that 3-5 million ballots were cast illegally.

The Rockdale/Newton Citizen reports a campaign has started to promote voter passage of Newton County’s $64.8 million SPLOST, a 1-percent local sales tax to fund capital improvements. If the referendum passes, most of the money will go toward road improvements. The Citizen’s story has a complete list of projects here. The News also has a SPLOST story behind a paywall.

On Common Ground reports DeKalb County continues to deal with a “billing crisis” at the county’s water department. The story is a meeting announcement really (does not go into the background of the story). The link is here. has the same story but includes background information and links to previous stories on this matter. Way to go, Decaturish! Their link is here.

The most interesting person of the week:

Both the Covington News and Rockdale/Newton Citizen report on Tibetan Buddhist monks presenting a mandala artwork and discussion of Tibetan art and culture at Emory College at Oxford. The News has their story behind a paywall. The Citizen’s just-the-facts story is here. An added resource: The Emory University press office has a video of the monks at work on the mandala and all the details for Tibet Week in Oxford. The link is here.

Gale Horton Gay with The Champion delivers a gem of a story about how teachers Stoneview Elementary in Lithonia are using a garden of winter vegetables to incorporate math, science, reading and social studies lessons into the gardening experience. A link to the story is here.

I love these types of education features, and I wished I had more time to write when working at newspapers. My favorite? The pie throwing in a teacher’s face fundraiser story. It always makes for great photos.

Public Enemy No. 264:

A thin week in crime reporting, which is always good news. The Citizen has a follow up on a murder-suicide investigation in Newton County here. The Newton Sheriff’s Office only released the names. As a reader, I would ask whether the people involved were related. The Citizen’s story does not answer that question.

The Citizen also reports on shoplifting suspects at a local grocery story. Apparently, the driver of the getaway car was “allegedly very drunk and could barely stand up.” The story link is here.

The Citizen reports on a traffic stop that resulted in arresting an “illegal alien.” I bring this one up because I found it written oddly. First, the story is incredibly long for a traffic stop report, apparently written straight from an RCSO incident report. Second, the report does not identify the person arrested until the 11th paragraph (third from the bottom). A link to the story is here.

Also, the term “illegal alien” in the headline is something to cause pause. I wonder what all the legal aliens think of this story. “Undocumented immigrant” or “foreign citizen” make better sense but likely did not fit in a headline for print.

Local media pet peeve of the week:

Spam comments on stories. I see spam on almost all the local news Websites I read, and it is sad. I read a story about a potential controversy, scroll down check out the local take and am immediately disappointed when someone writes people are making $10K a month working online at home. From what I see, very few – if any – real people comment on local news Websites.

At most, spam comments are a nuisance, but at worst they cheat paying advertisers. If I were running a local news Website, I would seriously consider shutting the comments feature down and letting folks have their say on social media.

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