Hometown newspapers

Headlines sell papers, content brings them back

Often, we are stirred to emotional response by the headlines of a “news” article, opinion page, and yes, even a blog headline.

A current article in today’s Gazette makes us chuckle a bit: “How Liquor Stores Stack Up in Gaston County”.

At first glance, without reading the article, one would think (even the simpletons who edit these pages), that we have stacks of ABC stores in our backwoods lovin’ neighborhoods.

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You could have a stack of books, a stack of boxes, or a stack of pallets, but stacking up liquor stores?

Of course it made us look — you did too if you clicked on the link or read it in the paper.

The content of the story is trying to make a case to combine all the community’s ABC boards into one (Re: Gastonia), and to point out that the smaller towns don’t know how to market their local operations. And of course, the Gastonia ABC general manager points out that people want to shop at larger, well lit stores. (Re: Gastonia –Cox Road or Long Avenue).

Well, we haven’t seen either dirty or poorly lit stores in either Cramerton or Mt. Holly. Yes, the selection of product is smaller, and as most retail outlets will demonstrate, product offerings tend to follow local consumer demand. Certain items that sell well at Cox Road might not do well or even be offered at Mt. Holly. We get a kick out of the fact that a Harris Teeter is nearby the Cox Road store, and “Always Low Prices” Food Lion is next to the Cramerton and Mt. Holly stores.

Hmmm…

Mt. Holly and Cramerton have Belmont’s business depending on which side of town you are coming from. It certainly is more convenient most of the time to shop locally.

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Good for the Gazette trying to imply that the yokels outside of Gastonia don’t know what they are doing. It certainly sold a couple of papers.

HOORAY !!! BannerNews Online Fulltime !!

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Congratulations to our local hometown paper the BannerNews on their launch of an online version of the weekly paper. The Belmont Front Porch has added your link under our column of “websites of interest” (below).

We sincerely welcome Republic Newspapers and the reporters and editors of the Belmont Banner and Mt. Holly News to the 21st century and wish them well.

As we have noted before, as subscribers and neighbors, we DO appreciate your efforts to report on the “Good News”, as former editor Dwight Frady would often comment. Your commitment to the communities is evident by this upgrade to your service.  

This particular development, after a few trial and error “semi-launches”, is particularly welcome after the Observer announced continued cutbacks to its service in Gaston County. Recently, the Observer announced that it would only publish the Gaston/Lincoln Neighbors section on Sundays.

The BannerNews, by adding the online edition will fill a small part of the weekly good news void for those people who use the internet on a regular basis. It is a great resource for our children,  former neighbors, and grandchildren who have moved away from the area.

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Belmont Abbey making area headlines lately

Maybe this blogsite has tweaked area media outlets a bit. Maybe they didn’t like being upstaged a few times. We don’t care either way, Belmont seems to be getting better coverage across the board for everything from the Abbey’s personnel policies and the monastic community lifestyle to our Belmont politics and school functions.

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Even the local paper, the BannerNews has dramatically cleaned its lense (well, except for the sports reporting) and scope.

The Abbey has made news with sports – doing well; With the faculty/staff personnel policies — opportunity to debate faith adherence practices versus having a job — or not. And, what it is like to become a member of a religious order.  

An explanation of a Monk’s Life —from Mount Angel Abbey, a Bendictine community in Oregon:

Locally, the more vocal religious fundamentalists certainly support the Abbey’s stance on taking away women’s health choices. Those supporters, both Catholic and Protestant appear to have a public viewpoint and a completely different set of values in their private lives. But hey, why would we call a spade, a spade, just for the heck of it?

The Catholic Church’s stance has been unwavering for 1500 years in their view towards women. Most Protestant denominations are closer in philosophy to the Universal Church than they think.

Unfortunately, the shrinking numbers of the priestly vocation, even in the developing world, contributes the crisis of faith by many Catholic-born. 

Local dioceses are ordaining fewer and fewer young and middle-aged men into the priesthood. Those who are entering are more fervently “conservative” and sometimes downright misogynistic in their practice of faith leadership to the faithful and seekers.

The local bishop, Peter Jugis of Charlotte, has a Belmont connection. He served as pastor of Queen of the Apostles a few years ago. Rarely did he venture out into the community unless heavily prompted by a few notable citizens. Upon appointment as leader of one of the fastest growing dioceses in the US, he issued a politically inspired letter threatening excommunication toward any Catholic who would vote for pro-choice political candidates.

Is it any wonder that the largest parish in Gaston County, St Michael in Gastonia, has had at least 4 pastors in the past 6 years?

In this ramble of an entry, it is good that the Abbey, its practices and operations, are becoming more transparent to the larger community. As the “driver” of the second or third largest land tracts in the area, it is a smart move to keep an outreach going with the traditional media outlets, many of whom like to think that they can guide debate along their own agenda pathways.

We prefer to be a bit more skeptical.

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Link to Gazette video of  celebration of vows of two newest brothers:

http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1155201824/bclid1155106715/bctid1410389962

Belmont Citizens of the Year

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(Gazette photo)

The Belmont, oops, Montcross, Chamber of Commerce bestowed its highest community award to Jack and Gearl Dean Page at its January 24 annual dinner.

We also congratulate the Pages for this award. As friends and neighbors at church and in the community, Jack and Gearl Dean have always been active and engaged in community projects.

Both the Gazette and Gaston/Lincoln section of the Observer wrote very nice stories about the Page’s involvement in a host of community activities.

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Caravan Coffee owner, Vince Hill, was recognized as Business person of the year.

Now about changing Belmont to Montcross… 

Belmont becomes Berkeley

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Belmont Middle School students, evoking memories of a past era of protests by young people, held their own rally at Stowe Park on January 15. A peaceful protest rally seeking to be heard in the town-wide discussion of behavior in the park and downtown area.

Spurred on by a growing animosity between hundreds of adolescents in the downtown area immediately after school and downtown merchants, Belmont police addressed all the parents via a letter.

The word got out that the city wanted the park emptied of young teens and that the kids were ‘banned from the park”.

As the BannerNews reported, albeit delayed by its posting on this site, the students were not “banned”, but were definitely given the message to “go elsewhere”.

Parks and Recreation opinion — set up surveillance systems to track troublemakers — not a good option.

Downtown Merchants opinion — get them out, or get them supervised — not particularly good, but better.

Belmont Police — we need more officers, we need more money — SOP response, also not productive.

Gaston County Schools’ — once the students leave our campus, they are no longer our responsibility — oooh-kaay, how productive is that?  

The kids took matters into their own hands, and, voila’, a meeting occurs on January 16.

Way to go Teens! 

We still stand by our original opinion, that all the groups need to dialogue/plan better afterschool options so that “bad apples” don’t spoil the adolescent need to “hang out” in public areas — and feel safe while growing up.

It does require the entire community to monitor. It does require individual families with children in this age group and school group to have open communication and supervision of the kids. It does require cooperation.  

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Belmont Police try to rid Stowe Park of children

Sorta anyway,                                   belmont-pd-logo.jpg

Just wrote an inflammatory headline to see if ya’ll were paying attention.

But, there is an issue brewing with the popularity of the downtown area with young and old alike.

Stowe Park has long been a gathering place for students from the junior high/now, middle school, immediately after school each day from about 3:05 to almost 6:00 PM.

After the Central Avenue bridge was renovated in 1992-1993, the Belmont Public Library saw a huge increase in the after school “attendance”. The library created a policy for behavior and time limits for this new attendance pattern.

Successive Belmont Middle School principals have had varying levels of success with afterschool clubs and activities, all pretty much completing by 4:00 PM each day.

With the opening of the Belmont General Store and Caravan Coffee Shop, students began flocking to these venues as well as the library and park area.

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Parents began “allowing” the children to go to these places afterschool. Many of the children getting “freedom” after years of afterschool child-care type programs aged them out of their licensing focus. Parents saw this freedom as also freedom from the financial burden of child-care.

So, the community must now bear the added cost of more police officers patrolling downtown Belmont and Stowe Park. As Chief James claimed in a letter to Middle School families, patrolling the park is taking away an officer from [more important] other duties during their shifts.

Caravan Coffee and the Belmont General Store, for all the goodwill that is done by these businesses, have had to call in the police to deal with the behavior of more than just a few kids at times.

The opening of the pavilion at the top of the hill in Stowe Park has contributed to a growing crowd of kids, particularly on nice days.

So, what can be done? The BannerNews did an article about the issue in last Thursday’s paper:

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We are suggesting that the school take a more proactive approach toward afterschool “latchkey” children. “Latchkey” is a terminolgy for children who carry their housekey to let themselves in at home while the parents or guardians are away. It was also used by some political elements to stigmatize children of families who have both parents in the away-from-home workforce.

Community groups such as the the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and others have offered programs for years, specifically designed and geared to the ‘tweens and early adolescents of a community. Many times these programs meet until 5:30 or 6, but not every day. The school itself offers many clubs that meet from 3:15 to 4:00 PM, only closing down when the teacher-advisors vacate the buildings around 4’ish. Team sports generally take place from 3:15 to 5:00 PM and when games are held, large student crowds are present.

Grants are available to offer teachers incentives to stay longer to develop interesting programs and activities.

We agree, this is a particularly difficult age of student to engage. Chief James singles out the skateboarders for example, as a negative impact.

The negativeness of skateboarding and inline skating (called “boarding, or “skaters” respectively) is because the community doesn’t generally take kindly to young (mostly) boys who like individual challenges as opposed to the traditional ‘team sports” approach of engagement.

Girls like to gather in small groups to socialize, and where would that be? Close to where boys hang out – be it on the ball field or in a park area.

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The Belmont Parks and Recreation director’s comments about setting up surveillance cameras in all the parks is short-sighted and not going to accomplish a P & R goal of engagement. It will just send the students “somewhere else”.

One of the Belmont P& R department’s long term goals was to develop and operate a skate park. Now that the bond referendum has passed, it is time to move this project forward rapidly. Of course, if the placement of such a park is farther away from the prospective user group — middle school aged children– the less impactful it will be in the long run. We have long recommended that the lower (unused) tennis courts at Davis Park be the site.

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(Davis Park photo)

It is time for the elements to match up and get a comprehensive series of goals and action steps into place. We suggest that the four main groups — the school, downtown merchants, parks and recreation, and students (along with their parents) — develop this plan. It would be wise to include the police department after there is consensus on the “self-policing” process before the law enforcement brings its heavy hand to bear on the result.  

  

Props and Shin Kicks

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(BannerNews online logo) 

The BannerNews, formerly the Belmont Banner and the Mount Holly News, deserves several positive comments on the formatting and new-found energy for our “hometown” weekly.

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Current BannerNews editor, Diane Turbyfill, has done an excellent job of turning around the staid, worn out look of the paper. Under the the rejuvenated leadership of the Republic Newspapers publisher, the local papers are actually enjoying a comeback of readership by each of the owned publications.

As in the past, locally submitted articles can be published, however the BannerNews has improved its own reporting of activities and events in the Belmont and Mt. Holly area.

There seems to be a good balance of attention given to both communities. The number of column inches devoted to “news” in each of Gaston Counties largest satellite cities often is determined by which town makes a bigger splash each week county-wide.  

The once frequently moved office of the BannerNews, has been stable at its present location, 132 North Main Street (that’s in Belmont,  for you Mt. Holly readers –nahny nahny boo boo), now for several years. This has helped its own visibility and has contributed to the renewed vitality of the downtown community. Yup, one EDC win for us!

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We don’t understand the recent reassignment of young reporter, Thomas Lark, off the local sports beat and giving the responsibilities to Jim Heffner. The shin kick to Heffner comes from his obvious “over-love” of the old school traditions of  pointyball, roundball, and gloveball, and lack of knowledge of all the other opportunities given to people of all ages within the athletic arena.

Apparently, the BannerNews will have to continue to accept locally submitted articles on things like softball, volleyball, wrestling, soccer, golf, cross country, track and field, and yes, even ultimate frisbee.

We are always a willing to give props when deserved: the BannerNews is a wonderful hometown weekly paper that a lot of people seek each week.

It is technically published on Thursdays, however, you can find newly issued copies in the stand at the office after 2 PM on Wednesdays and in the various boxes around town shortly thereafter.

To submit articles, you can write them out and take to the office, or email the editor, Diane Turbyfill at diane@mybannernews.com . Sports articles can go to Jim Heffner at jim@mybannernews.com . Local reporters are Thomas Lark and Tara Manjarres. You guessed it, their respective email addresses are thomas@mybannernews.com, and tara@mybannernews.com .

Keep up the good work, ya’ll.  all-thumbs-up.jpg