Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Columnists

February 20, 2014

Beth Alston: Your newspaper: a community leader, not a law firm

AMERICUS — I love to hear from you, our readers; I want to know what’s on your mind. For the most part, what’s on your mind is on mine as well: the sky-rocketing cost of health care, the ludicrous machinations of the Board of Education, the lack of local employment, the increasing crime rate in our community, and the burgeoning welfare rolls.

It’s all real, and even for those who wish to keep it under wraps, it does exist.

Your local newspaper seeks to keep citizens informed about what your local elected officials are up to, how they are spending taxpayers’ dollars and how they are addressing the challenges facing every government during these tough economic times.

Your local newspaper also seeks to entertain when it can. That’s why we write stories about local people of interest, the activities of local civic and service organizations, what local churches are doing in the way of expansion and programming, which students are making the Honor Roll or Dean’s List, etc.

Get the picture?

I think we do an amazing job for a news staff of  only three people. Because there are only three of us, most of our readers realize that we can’t be everywhere every time. That’s why we ask to partner with people in the community such as the club representatives, the schools’ public relations folks, the people who know what’s going on and are often there with a camera when we can’t be. It is these people who understand why we can’t possibly be everywhere every single time and we appreciate your willingness to partner with us to get the news in the paper.

What we are not is a law firm. Not one of us has a law degree. While we are well versed in the state law regarding public meetings/records, we can’t help you if you feel your car mechanic has done you wrong. If you call to complain that your teen-aged son was wrongfully arrested, we will refer you to the judge. If you see someone shoplifting or selling drugs or driving while drunk or beating his wife, please call 911. If you feel that some other law has been broken, please do not rely on the newspaper to handle it for you. Step up and do it for yourself. If you don’t get satisfaction from the police or sheriff’s office, contact the District Attorney.

When you call us with a legal problem and we refer you to an agency that can help you, which we do often, please don’t tell us you “don’t want to get involved.” How can you expect us to get involved if you’re not willing to do so?

I receive phone calls of all kinds each and every day, Monday-Sunday. I  love to get phone calls. Some are informative, some are useful, some are enlightening and others, well, maybe there should be a law against drinking and dialing ...

If you are a victim of some sort of scam, by all means let us know, after you have alerted the authorities. We will contact local law enforcement and publish something to warn local citizens so they will not become victims.

If you feel you have been unfairly relieved of your job, you will need to contact the local labor department or perhaps the state Commissioner of Labor or just hire a lawyer.

We’re on the same “side.” We want to help readers by keeping you informed and entertained, but because we are not a law firm and are not attorneys, we cannot fight your legal battles for you. That’s a matter of personal responsibility.

This area of the state contains legions of attorneys. Contact one, and we wish you the very best. Should you and your attorney decide to bring a law suit against a public entity, let us know and we can inform the public about it because once in the system, it becomes a matter of public record.

On another matter, I am very appreciative of the numerous e-mails and phone calls in response to my recent column about everyone having a story.  I have received many and we are working on the list. Thank you so much for reading and for responding.

Beth Alston, an award-winning journalist, is executive editor of the Americus Times-Recorder. Contact her at 229-924-2751, ext. 1529 or beth.alston@gaflnews.com



 

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