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Happy Birthday To Us: Why Flagpole Still Matters at 32

Flagpole is 32. Woohoo!

It might not be a milestone, but it sure feels monumental. Since this publication launched in 1987, print media has undergone a seismic shift, and there have been moments when the future of Flagpole looked, shall we say, uncertain. Yet thanks to the support of our faithful readers and awesome advertisers, we’ve managed to not only keep the lights on but continue creating quality, hyperlocal journalism that keeps Athens engaged and informed, week after week.

To celebrate our birthday, we invited a few of our friends to show us some love by telling us why they think Flagpole matters. Read more in this week’s Pub Notes, and show your support by visiting

It is 2019. It is harder than ever for print journalism to survive. The internet has just killed newspapers. We live in a world of constantly shortening attention spans, governed by a president who regularly attacks the First Amendment rights of the free press. Flagpole exposes me to myriad points of view. Flagpole lets me know what’s going on with the ACC Commission, local real estate development, who is playing at the 40 Watt, what is showing at Ciné and what Pete thinks about things. Flagpole is still my go-to. Thirty-two years in, I value it more than ever. Flagpole matters. [David Barbe]

My family and I have lived and worked in Athens for almost eight years. When we arrived in town, Flagpole was one of the most visible media outlets we would encounter on our regular route to school, work or shopping. The fact that it was a free publication full of valuable local news and family activities made it really easy for us to stay connected to the things that mattered to us as a family and entrepreneurs. Over the years, I have seen a genuine effort by Flagpole to highlight the diversity that sometimes goes unnoticed in the community, along with the music genres that struggle for acceptance and recognition in a rock-dominated music scene. [Knowa Johnson]

Flagpole is essential reading for anyone living in Athens or interested in Athens. Whether it is music or politics or university life, the arts writ large or the various communities and cultures throughout the town, week after week, year after year, nobody else captures what makes Athens Athens even close to the way Flagpole does in print and online. I cannot imagine Athens without it. [Bertis Downs]


As a late arrival in Athens, I’m what in Ireland we call a blow-in, although never to your face. Blow-ins can be melancholy figures. They just missed the band, the party and the after-show. They hear about the good stuff when it’s gone bad, and the bad stuff after it’s too late to change it. But then I read Flagpole. And then I was in Flagpole. Admittedly, I paid advertising rates for that, but still, Flagpole is one of the places that makes Athens home. You don’t need me to tell you why. But you might like to be reminded what friends we all have in Pete and his colleagues, in the dry humor, the deep knowledge and the constant attention to the little things that join us all together in a town that’s not quite like anywhere else, in part because of them. [Nicholas Allen]

When I moved to Athens 20 years ago, it was difficult to live in such a different culture—the food, music, everything was different to me. Flagpole opened the door to a language I understand. The front page and the Calendar were the first things I started looking at every week. The cultural events, art exhibitions, music concerts and open mic nights became the door to the new community I was becoming a part of. In my first years in Athens, despite my broken English, Flagpole published a story-memory I wrote. Ben [Emmanuel] was so helpful and supportive in that endeavor. It was never easy for immigrants in Athens. It was painful to discover the segregationist history of our town and to realize the continuous segregation we still live in, especially when black and brown people are not welcome in many areas downtown. But having the guidance of Flagpole has opened other doors that make life livable in Athens. Felicidades on your 32nd anniversary. [Beto Mendoza] 

Thirteen lucky years ago this past March, on a visit from Portland, OR, to Athens, I put a Flagpole into my sweetheart Nancy’s hands and said, “Baby doll, if you want to understand Athens, you need to read this paper.” She read it. We walked around, Flagpole in hand, and breathed the sweet spring college town air. I said, “Pete McCommons was a secret hero to me when I was in school here in the early ’70s. I’d sure like to meet him some day.” Nancy said, “Well, if we move here, maybe you will, honey. Maybe you will.” [Charlie Hartness]

Since Ciné opened its doors to the public in 2007, Flagpole has been an invaluable friend. Promoting independent and arthouse films in a small town is a mighty challenge, and Flagpole has always been there to help us spread the word. Be it film reviews, alerting the public about our numerous special events or even helping to extend the deadlines for us on an occasion when there is a last-minute change in our film booking schedule, Flagpole has always been there for us. We congratulate them on their anniversary and look forward to being their great friends and neighbors for years to come. [Pamela Kohn and Jeff Bennett]

Our beloved Athens came into being over 200 years ago, yet only in our lifetimes has its rich cultural identity with music and art so truly blossomed, while our burdensome legacies of social, political and economic injustice have been so truly fought. Thank you, Flagpole, for 32 years being our community’s standard-bearer for both. Here’s to 32 more! [Grady Thrasher]


…and Now

From its first issue, Flagpole has told Athens what was happening. Lauded arts when they were ignored by Chamber of Commerce types. Explained politics with a deep sense of history and impact. Pete’s wisdom continues to astound and entertain—he is my Molly Ivins. Blake Aued keeps us In the Loop and pays the price of knowing by being there. He gathers the facts and explains the issue. Art and talent from every corner of Athens is revealed by Jessica Smith. We wouldn’t know or love Athens as much if we didn’t have Flagpole to educate us every week. [Gwen O’Looney]

Because the reporting is so damn good. Because Pete McCommons touches your heart and your funny bone. Because it gives new talent a chance to flourish. Because Blake Aued goes to meetings that I wouldn’t want to go to but that I need to know about. [John O’Looney]

Flagpole always satisfies our weekly requirements for news-trition: a smorgasbord of local events, meat and potatoes of news and politics, a cornucopia of music, arts and entertainment and then, last, never least, Pete’s Pub Notes for dessert. We get it hot out of the box on Tuesday nights and don’t push away from the table until we have devoured the whole thing.  Thanks for keeping our minds well fed. [Betsy and Blair Dorminey]

Oh boy, do I love Flagpole! And I so admire and rely on Pete and Alicia, Jessica, Hillary, the music menfolk and the dryly witty Blake. I read the paper cover to cover and dig inside the website, too, to read the fine print by Barbette and others. Hooray for the advertisers and writers and graphic designers and advertising staff who make Flagpole a community treasure that covers and celebrates the arts and happenings and deep, quirky nature of our fair city. Stand tall forever, Flagpole. We need you now more than ever! [Pat Priest] 

Flagpole, my absolute “Be in touch with Athens.” Hungry? See Hillary Brown’s Grub Notes. Feeling cultural? Look no further for updates: GMOA, OCAF, Lyndon House, et al. Old? Historically speaking, Flagpole covers it all. Opinionated? Most definitely! Political? Most assuredly! Agree or disagree—ain’t that the fun of it all? Follow Rebecca and Blake. Charles Beaumont (RIP), not one to casually assign a compliment, remarked that Flagpole was the only true and honest instrument of news in all of Athens. [S.B.]

I love that Flagpole is an institution in our community. To me, it is the most viable and reliable source of information. The news articles are on local issues that affect all of our lives. The Calendar provides a list of programs which I might not know about and articles that are interesting and entertaining. But most of all, Flagpole is a supporter of Athens. Our community would not be what it is today, and I truly believe that Flagpole has had an integral part in shaping and sharing our uniqueness. Congratulations, and happy anniversary! [Denise Ricks] 

Every Thursday morning, after my shrink has declared me sane enough to face another week without restraints, I go to Jittery Joe’s and read the new Flagpole. As an old reporter, I understand how lucky we are in Athens to have an alternative newspaper that actually covers the news, unlike the pretend “daily” paper owned by bankruptcy-happy investors. America now has 1,300 communities without newspapers—news deserts. That makes Athens a news oasis, thanks to Flagpole and the uncanny memory and passion of Editor Pete McCommons. Happy 32nd birthday, Flagpole! I’ll send you another $10 this month as a present. [Doug Monroe]

In the words of Harvey Danger, “I want to publish zines and rage against machines.” Thanks to Flagpole, independent media and holding powerful institutions accountable is alive and well. [Tim Denson]

When I was in high school in the late ’90s and came to visit my older sister in Athens, I would linger at Blue Sky Coffee downtown, sipping some sugary drink and leafing through Flagpole. I thought I was at the height of sophistication. In 2004, I moved to Athens on what I thought was a temporary basis to earn my master’s degree. I ended up staying because of the smart, thoughtful people I met; the supportive creative community; and the arts, music and literary scenes. There are so many bands I’ve listened to, art exhibitions I’ve seen and movies I’ve watched due to having read about them in Flagpole. Thirty-two cheers to the best alt-weekly in the world. [Janet Geddis]

Ode on a Grecian Flagpole

Flagpole oh Flagpole
Just where would we be
Without your insights, your wisdom, your brave sanity?

To Pete and his minions 
We gleefully turn
When this world gets too much
And for lucidity we yearn. 

You’re a beacon, a cairn, a guiding light in the dark;
When we’ve all lost our way, you know where to park.
You’re the weekly reminder that keeps us all sane:
A much needed balm, a cool breeze, a bold flame…

So may you have 32 years more: no getting slack now!
We have an idiot at the helm
Who knows not his stern from his bow. [Melissa Tufts]