While spending our Christmas holiday between Blue Ridge and Ellijay in North Georgia I occasionally made a trek from our remote mountain cabin to a local convenience store to pick up the Chattanooga Times Free Press, which after reading for several days, I now consider to be one of the finest daily newspapers in the country, particularly for a city with a population of just 168,000. Meanwhile if you are one of the more than 840,000 people who live in Jacksonville and the surrounding area and aren’t interested in the city’s professional Jaguars football team, then you’re better off saving your two bucks for the Florida Times-Union daily paper and you sure don’t want to spend three dollars for the Sunday paper, which I assume is now being edited from Jaguar team owner Shad Kahn’s offices.
Maybe Chattanooga is blessed that it isn’t large enough to support a major pro sports team, leaving its daily paper’s sports section free to cover a variety of local, regional and national events that appeal to a wide range of its more than 80,000 daily and 86,500 Sunday subscribers in a 21-county area covering North Georgia and Tennessee. For a city with a population five times larger than Chattanooga Jacksonville’s Times-Union has a paltry 98,000 daily subscribers and 157,000 on Sunday, low numbers that to me reflect the paper’s skewed coverage.
But the superb Times Free Press coverage doesn’t stop with its sports section. The newspaper’s coverage of international, national, regional and local events is astounding for a city the size of Chattanooga and an embarrassment to the pathetic Times-Union. This past April the Chattanooga Times Free Press was nominated as a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and in 2002 the Tennessee Press Association recognized the Times Free Press as the best newspaper in Tennessee and the next year Editor and Publisher magazine named the Times Free Press as one of the top 10 newspapers in the United States. The paper also runs two editorial pages, one staunchly liberal, the other staunchly conservative.
Meanwhile in Jacksonville the local paper’s editors appear confused. For example, in its year-end December 31 edition the Florida Times-Union ran a lead story on the front page of its Metro Section headlined “Region’s Top Stories of 2014” citing city pensions, the Michael Dunn trial, Fort Caroline, Operation Ceasefire, Governor Rick Scott’s re-election, and so on as the top subjects that “captured people’s attention.”
Missing from the list, however, was any mention of the Jacksonville Jaguars, which I find odd since the paper devotes page-after-page of copy as well as special sections to this woeful football team that not only appear in its sports section when the team isn’t even playing, but often spills over onto Page 1A, and into the metro section. This hapless 3-13 NFL team has consumed far more Times-Union space than any of the stories the paper listed as the “Top” ones of 2014 combined but failed to make the list. If the paper doesn’t consider the team to be one of the top stories of the year, then how does it explain the disproportionate year-around coverage?
At a time when newspapers are facing declining profits because of stiff competition from the Internet, it appears the folks that run the Chattanooga paper are managing to provide their readers with a quality product while Morris Communications has converted Florida’s oldest daily newspaper into a Jaguars fan club newsletter while its editors appear oblivious.
Speaking Of Newspapers: Foy Malloy, publisher of the local News-Leader penned a 2014 year-ending editorial in his December 31 issue suggesting the top four tasks the Fernandina Beach City Commission should focus on in 2015, and while I agree with his list I think he needs to add a handful more. Malloy’s list in order of importance included: 1- Fixing the $20 million under-funded city pension fund; 2- Stopping the chaos in the city fire department through privatization or a merger with the county’s department; 3- Merging the city police department with the county sheriff’s operation to avoid duplication and; 4- Reviewing and fixing existing infrastructure and storm drainage requirements. I think Malloy’s list should be extended to include: Reviewing alternatives to the city’s controversial impact fees; getting rid of Public Utilities Director John Mandrick; City Attorney Tammi Bach and City Manager Joe Geritty; Investigating the necessity of a $1.2 million “visitor center” at the city’s tiny municipal airport; Quickly moving on the downtown waterfront park; Immediately building the sidewalk alongside the Marina Restaurant on Front Street to connect with the one the owners of the Salty Pelican constructed almost three years ago and that has been promised long before today’s date.
Let NPR Fail On Its Own Dime: Following my mid-December post advocating pulling the plug on National Public Radio I heard from a number of folks who disagree with me and like the station. But they may have a fight ahead as NPR is directly in the crosshairs of those Republicans who want all government funding of domestic news gathering organizations stopped since they believe, as I do, that government should not be in the news business. Why should those who find the information spilling out of the NPR airwaves distasteful, be forced to pay for it? Let the NPR audience who wants it, fund it through their annual pledge drives, checks from liberal billionaires like George Soros, or by selling commercial air time. The US government has more important priorities without spending our tax dollars to fund a national propaganda machine for the Democrat party. NPR should have the same right to thrive or fail just as Air America did.
Здравствуйте! When talented graphic designer and friend Wendy Schaefer created this blog site for me she also showed me how to conduct analytics so I could determine the number of people reading it as well as the areas where those folks live. It doesn’t tell me who these people are, of course, but it does indicate geographically where they are and how often they tune in. I’m flattered that these numbers also include the more than 1,200 people who subscribe to the blog so it automatically pops up in their email each Friday, the majority of those being residents of Amelia Island, with the next greatest number from Yulee, then Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, St. Augustine, Atlanta and so on, with a handful in Moscow, Russia. There are many more readers than subscribers and many of those are in England, France and Belgium, because I once worked in those countries and still know people there, but I have no idea why anyone in Moscow would read this blog, unless they were visitors to the island at one time or have a second home here. So, if you Muscovites are reading this, I’d love to hear from you. And for those who want to subscribe so it appears each Friday in your email, just go to the left side of this column, scroll down and type your email address in the indicated box.
Do You Prefer The Smoking Or Recreational Drug Section? Years ago comedian Bob Newhart did a hilarious standup routine impersonating a London-based marketing executive on the phone with the 16th Century’s Sir Walter Raleigh as the English explorer tried to convince him of the marketing potential for his new discovery, tobacco. Part of the routine I recall was the agency executive incredulously asking: “Let me get this right Walt…..you roll these shredded leaves up in paper, stick it in your mouth and then do WHAT? Set it on fire? And then INHALE the smoke? Walt, have you been drinking?” Today that routine is still funny but could be updated to include marijuana, the new morally accepted health hazard. Cigarette smokers were once free to enjoy their addiction in crowded restaurants, on airplanes, corporate conference rooms, bars and even grocery stores, and I even remember ash trays in the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices and hospitals. Today smokers are looked upon as pariahs of society. Light up a cigarette in public and you are considered morally repugnant because smoking tobacco is devastatingly unhealthy for smokers and allegedly those around them. Yet, while many state legislatures including Florida’s, successfully sued the tobacco companies for billions of dollars, and tobacco users are looked upon as though they just broke out in open sores, marijuana has become more and more accepted with 23 states legalizing it in some form with voters in four — Colorado, Washington State, Oregon and Alaska — proclaiming its sale for “recreational” purposes as just fine with them. I’m not sure what recreational means to these folks, but when I was a kid it involved exercise and sports, not sucking up a substance that fogs your thinking and lowers your IQ to the equivalent of a barrel of hair. Not only does inhaling this stuff have a negative impact on the lungs and cardiovascular system as does tobacco, but its main attractions are its impact on the brain, loosening the mouth and altering rationale thought processes, inhibitions, etc. Mr. Newhart would have even more fun today revising his routine with a stoned proponent of legalized marijuana on the other end of his imaginary phone line.
Cuban Diplomatic Fiasco: By opening diplomatic relations with communist Cuba, President Obama has satisfied one small sector of the American public — antique car dealers who specialize in automobiles from 1950 to the early 1960s — but I see no other beneficiaries, since the Cuban people will still be mired in poverty, prosecuted, punished, imprisoned, tortured, and prevented from freely leaving an island that for the past 55 years Fidel Castro and his henchmen have turned into a penury Caribbean hell-hole. In fact Cubans, fearing that the restoration of diplomatic ties will cause the US to take stronger actions to discourage their efforts to reach the US, are fleeing that island nation in record numbers according to the US Coast Guard with 421 intercepted since December 21 while only 132 were kept from US shores from December 1-16. And those that are already here and haven’t become US citizens are worried they might be deported back as part of Obama’s reckless policy. The losers in this Obama debacle are the Cuban people, while the winners are the Castro brothers.
Loopy Libs On The Loose: Is Ronald Reagan to blame for the vast majority of unstable people out there today? Wasn’t it under the Reagan Administration that the mental asylums were closed down in the 1980s, which enable folks like Nancy Pelosi, Al Sharpton, Harry Reid, Anthony Weiner, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Florida Congressional representatives Corinne Brown, Alan Grayson, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, to roam freely?
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: The Beech Street Grill is still undergoing renovations by owner Ernie Saltmarsh but the building has been leased and is expected to be open the third week in march in time for the Concours D’Elegance under the new name, Beech Street Bar & Grill, and serving “small plates” and a greater emphasis on the bar area than in the past. If you’re looking for a wine bargain then Wines By Steve at 5174 1st Coast Highway next to Bar Zin has a deal that I’m going to take advantage of, a bottle of Oyster Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a fun bottle of holiday Holly Nog for just $11.95 for both while the limited supply lasts. Stop by the shop or Call Steve or Donna Raszkin at 904/557-1206 or email ’em at email@example.com to cash in on this deal. Oh, their regular Friday wine tasting tonight will be held tomorrow instead from 5-7 pm, as this evening Steve and Donna will attend a special Chamber of Commerce function where they are contenders for one of the businesses of the year awards. Something called SweeTThangs will celebrate a grand opening tomorrow, January 10th, 2-5 p.m. at 1440 S 14th Street, Fernandina Beach, where the shaved ice kiosk is, not far from the 14th Street vegetable stand. They’ll be serving shaved ice, coffee, espresso, and smoothies. The Palace Saloon has brought back its popular Ladies’ Night from 9 pm- 2 am on Thursday’s where ladies can get a bargain five drinks for five bucks including call drinks, call shots, domestic draughts and house wines, a price that almost makes it worth going in drag or if that doesn’t appeal to you guys then you can buy your drinks for just $2.