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Finding meaning on Palmour Street

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This is a guest essay from Matt Boedy, a professor of English at the University of North Georgia who teaches in its First Year Composition program, as well as upper-level courses in writing and publication. He is the author of Murder Creek, chronicling the story of the last man to die in Georgia’s electric chair, and Speaking of Evil, an examination of the question of why God would allow for the existence of evil through a rhetorical prism.

The old black and white film, scratchy now with age, begins with a little boy – a Black boy, maybe six or seven – running down a dirt road.

What sounds like a soft flute creates a happy soundtrack as the boy scrambles onto a front porch to meet his mother. Then the camera pans to the porch swing, where his father sits next to another child. Our running boy bounces into his father’s arms.

The voiceover narrates: “Can parents help their children grow up? Let’s see how one couple is trying.”

The viewer is introduced to a family living at 511 Palmour Street in Gainesville, Georgia, circa 1949. The three numbers are posted just above the mail box next to the front screen door as seen in the introduction or “trailer” to the film.

This family – given a fictional surname – are real people acting out a beneficial public mental health message.

COVID-19 Road Trip, Part III: Revelations and Return

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Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

I didn’t meet an unpleasant person in Colorado. Nor did I meet anyone who wasn’t wearing a mask.

Florissant wasn’t much of a town, but everyone wore their mask at the market next to its one stoplight. The same scene occurred in Divide. Up the road, Idaho Springs had moved its entire downtown outside. At the Kum & Go at the end of the street, not only did the clerks enforce wearing masks, but they made sure to keep my friends and I from getting too close to the pizza counter.

At the end of the long weekend, I dropped off my buddies at the Denver airport and headed east. My friends are sure that everything surrounding COVID-19 is overblown. They were quick to bring up the latest CDC data about how few people are dying due to COVID alone. They weren’t happy about having to wear masks everywhere, but they did it just the same.

They believe personable responsibility should dictate our response to this global pandemic. I agree.

I believe we all have a responsibility to contribute to the communities we are in, and public health is part of that contribution. If me wearing a mask and staying away from people can make a me-sized dent in dealing with the pandemic, that’s all I can really control.

A reflection of place: The story of WNEG, part three

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Photo of WNEG studios courtesy of John Hart

This is Part Three of our look back at the history of NewsChannel 32, a television station that provided in-depth coverage of local news and sports for Northeast Georgia. In Part One, we took a look at the formation of the station and the work of its news department, and you can read it here. In Part Two, we explored the reputation and reach of its sports department, and you can read it here.

If you can name it, Michael Castengera has probably done it.

He’s been a reporter and an editor. 

He’s worked in print journalism and broadcast journalism.

He’s run a local radio station and served as a consultant to some of the biggest media companies in the country.

It was a breadth of professional experience that made him the natural fit to lead a new hybrid journalism project at the University of Georgia that mixed education and newsgathering as WNEG — long a fixture for Northeast Georgia — migrated its operations south.

“When they acquired the station, because I had been a general manager, they decided that I would be the logical one to take over when we do it,” Castengera said with a laugh. “Well, like an idiot, I agreed.”

The promise of the station under the control of the University of Georgia made sense in the abstract, pairing one of the nation’s premier journalism programs with a professional, commercial television station to help create a learning laboratory. It represented a significant shift from the original intent of WNEG, which functioned largely as a community asset that focused on the stories of the small communities throughout the region.

COVID Vacation, Vol. 2: Donuts everywhere

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Photo of Grand Elk Golf Club in Tabernash, Colorado

Earlier this year, Joe VanHoose decided to take a cross-country road trip to see how the rest of the country was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. In Part Two, he visits Oklahoma, sees the end of the world in North Texas and takes up hiking in Colorado. Check out Part One here.

Friday, August 21, Edmond, Oklahoma

After a full 24 hours into my road trip, I was starting to see how many states seemed to have a handle on COVID-19. On Friday morning, I drove out of Arkansas, stopping at the Donut Palace south of Batesville on the way. I was greeted with a large, plexiglass shield that separated me and the shop worker, who used tongs to carefully grab the donuts I was pointing to.

These were the best donuts on a trip full of them. I’d never tasted a glaze that was so thick and rich. Now six weeks removed, I still think about those donuts and wish that Arkansas was a bit closer.

Not that there was time to linger. I was due to meet up with my old boss and good friend Dave outside of Oklahoma City for the weekend.

Dave and his two sons had been quarantining in style, getting a lot of use out of the swimming pool in the backyard and the music studio complete with all the instruments that I kind of know how to play.

A reflection of place: The story of WNEG, part two

Photo of Mack Poss and Jason Maderer

This is Part Two of our look back at the history of NewsChannel 32, a television station that provided in-depth coverage of local news and sports for Northeast Georgia. In Part One, we took a look at the formation of the station and the work of its news department, and you can read it here.

There really isn’t any other to put it, but if you didn’t live through it, you don’t really get it.

You see, there once was a time where you couldn’t just flip on the TV and watch whatever game you wanted to watch.

This was especially true for the NFL.

Before the days of Sunday Ticket or RedZone — where the NFL finally realized it could make even more money by simply making you pay to watch its weekly games — folks were stuck with whatever it was the local networks gave them. If the Atlanta Falcons were blacked out, hello Dallas vs. Cleveland. If you really wanted to check in on that Miami-Washington contest, just hold your breath and hope they break into coverage to show you a quick snippet.

Yes, this is hard to comprehend in today’s media landscape where nearly every professional league has some sort of on-demand package to watch games, meaning a Seattle Seahawks fan in Memphis, Tennessee can tune in every Sunday to watch Russell Wilson scramble to and fro.

In the 1990s, we all were at the mercy of the prevailing media rules of the market. And that helped make WNEG a prized asset for cable providers beyond the Atlanta market. 

‘I want to be the person that I wish I had had’

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In recent years, sports social media has seen a growth in the number of professional women who manage the brand voices for collegiate and professional teams. Beyond The Trestle reached out to several women who lead social media work for various programs, franchises and institutions, to get their take on the industry, its challenges and opportunities, and the difficulties that come with simply putting the phone down. These transcriptions were pieced together through a mixture of phone interviews, email threads and Twitter exchanges with some portions lightly edited for grammar or style.

Jen Blackwell Galas, University of Georgia: I came to (this career) by chance. I needed to find an internship because my scholarship was going to end, and I didn’t want to pay for an additional year of school. Found a loophole in my scholarship where it would pay for my summer classes as a full semester. 

Katie Gillen, Atlanta United: I got my start in sports freshman year at the University of Florida with GatorVision and the PBS Station WUFT-TV in Gainesville. I am fortunate that I was given opportunities to volunteer from the beginning as there is much to learn and the need to network is huge in our world. 

Maddie Heaps, San Diego State University: I started out in the industry officially in college, as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley acting as a media relations student assistant in the athletics department. I had a love of sports from a young age — it started as a way to get attention from my dad while my sister, eight years older than me, was going through bigger life events than I was. Watching baseball or Sunday night football was our main method of bonding as I was growing up. 

The importance of the one

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Photo courtesy of Braves Archives

As Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium rocked around him, the roar of 51,875 fans mushrooming up, out, and over a success-starved city, a breath after Atlanta-born Marquis Grissom ran down Carlos Baerga’s drive in the gap, Bob Costas delivered his line.

“The team of the nineties has its world championship!”

Everyone who heard his words the night of October 28, 1995 understood. They remembered the gut-wrenching Game 7 loss to the Twins that ended 1991’s magical run, and falling to Pat Borders and the Blue Jays in ‘92, and seeing the 104-win ‘93 season go for naught with an NLCS loss to the Phillies. 

Disappointments all, even within the context of a team and a city that had accomplished little of note in the decades leading up to its first major professional sports championship. 

But now? A spellbinding performance from Tom Glavine, a solo home run from David Justice, and it was done. It was theirs.  

“It was a breath of fresh air. It was exultation,” said Wayne Coleman, who watched the celebration unfold from the same seat in the front row behind the third-base dugout he had held since 1982. “It was just delirium. It was joy.” 

A reflection of place: The story of WNEG

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Photo courtesy of Jennifer Cathey Arbitter

Admittedly, it probably wasn’t a good idea.

But here was Jennifer Cathey Arbitter making her way through a wooded area in White County, Georgia to capture some b-roll footage for an upcoming segment. There had been a stabbing in the area, and the local sheriff wasn’t available for an interview at the moment. 

No matter. She asked where she could get some shots, and the folks at the police department told her where to look.

The limited resources of her television station — they cobbled together their newscasts with “shoestrings and paper clips” as she recalled some 20 years later — meant here she was, alone with a camera in the woods.

And that’s when the truck stopped by.

The gentleman behind the wheel seemed sincere and non-threatening. Mostly, he just seemed puzzled why there was this young woman lugging around a bulky camera so close to where he lived.

He checked to see if she was OK and what she was doing, to which Arbitter responded she was a reporter, letting him know there had been a stabbing in these very woods, and she was getting some footage for the 6 p.m. broadcast.

Kathleen Kelly would be proud: The story of The Bookshelf

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Photo courtesy of Annie Jones

There’s a scene in You’ve Got Mail, about halfway through the film, where Meg Ryan’s Kathleen Kelly begins to realize that it’s just not working.

The day is coming to an end. The last customers file out. She flips the sign from “Open” to “Closed” in the storefront window, retreats to table — a children’s table — to get an update from Birdie, a character played so wonderfully by Mary Stapleton.

You see, in the film she and her small-yet-merry band of staffers have taken their fight with Fox Books — F … O … X — to the airwaves and streets and everywhere else in between. Yet, despite the crush of attention, the humble bookstore’s foot traffic continues to fall and its sales trend downward.

It’s a sobering blow to Kelly as she starts to wrestle with the reality that this store, this charming Shop Around The Corner, just might not make it through after all. Birdie kisses her on the cheek, leaving Kelly to do what she feels is best.

COVID Vacation, Vol. 1: Freeways & Face Masks

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Photo of the Batesville (Arkansas) Speedway courtesy of Joe VanHoose

This was supposed to be a big vacation year for me.

After moving back to Athens in February, I had laid out a fairly long list of festivals, three-day weekend vacations and races to go see this year: the Shaky Knees and Sweetwater music festivals, my annual trip to the Indy 500, visits to Martinsville and Darlington for some NASCAR races, and a few days out in Colorado at the end of summer to play some golf with a few of my oldest friends.

So much for best-laid plans. By the end of May, it was clear that most all of these events and trips were off. From March through June, I hardly ventured outside of my house. And it was eating at me.

I was ready to cancel the Colorado trip, too. As a guy with Crohn’s Disease (an autoimmune disorder) who takes bimonthly doses of an immunosuppressant drug, I thought flying may be a bad idea.

Then, one night, it hit me: I could just drive there. Man, what a trip that would be. I could eat a lot of good takeout food, check out a lot of state parks and see plenty of sights that I had not seen before. Heck, I could take a full two weeks off to do it.

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