NewsPub Notes

Flagpole Celebrates 28 Years As the Colorbearer of Athens

I spent part of a summer driving for a statewide political candidate who, when he introduced me at gatherings, increasingly exaggerated my status to enhance his own. I started out as a political science graduate student, and by the end of the campaign, his driver was a lawyer. It would not have been politic for me to stand up and object, “I am not a lawyer.” So, of course I went along with it as one of those harmless political lies that we excuse in our own candidates while excoriating them in our opponents.

There has been a lot written lately about the level of lying reached in the current campaign for president, with the candidates increasingly untethered from any need to adhere to a standard of truth. As observers have pointed out, the decline of objective journalism, the lack of a commonly acknowledged truth and the absence of a consensus regarding the accuracy of facts leaves all candidates free to make up their own version of truth. And it doesn’t matter that we all have the means to run an instant check on facts, because many voters have been conditioned to believe that opinion is the same as fact. So now we see the spectacle of politicians who no longer need to twist facts; they can simply ignore them or make them up.

The late, peripatetic troubadour Gamble Rogers used to say that in a small town everybody knows what everybody else is doing; they just read the newspaper to find out who got caught. But maybe Gamble’s paradigm has shifted, and by simply denying what’s in the paper, you can get off the hook.

Or maybe Gamble is still right, at least in a small town, where everybody can see the truth with their own eyes and recognize it if it shows up in the newspaper.

That’s what makes somebody like Flagpole City Editor Blake Aued so valuable in a town like Athens. His job is to write the truth, as he sees it, regardless of his opinion about it. In the format of City Dope, he can even occasionally throw in his opinion, but you know exactly where he’s coming from, and you know where he lives, or at least where he works, and you can complain directly to him by telephone, email, online comments or a face-to-face chat. Blake is not some disembodied snark floating on the Internet. He is a conscientious, serious, experienced journalist—a known quantity, and he is trying to tell you what’s going on, in spite of what politicians say.

Music Editor Gabe Vodicka is a great proponent of the Athens music scene. He and his writers explain and describe music in Athens every week in the paper and practically every day online. But their endorsement is not for sale. They write the truth as they hear it, and sometimes, this being a small community, they follow their mamas’ advice and refrain from saying something bad. You may not agree with their assessments, but you never have to worry that they were bought. That kind of enthusiastic and trusted exposure has done far more for the music scene than payola ever could.

The same with the arts. Arts Editor Jessica Smith promotes Athens artists in her Art Notes column. She tells you what their art is like and where it is and how long it will be up and allows you to be the critic by going to see it for yourself, instead of telling you what you ought to think.

With all the fragmentation and untrustworthy voices that report the “news” or bring you their own self-serving messages disguised as news, Flagpole for the last 28 years has remained a local voice you know and trust. It is important for Athens to have a local, trusted voice. On this, Flagpole’s 28th birthday, we can say Athens would not be Athens without Flagpole.

An added benefit, of course, is that local businesses know their advertising in Flagpole is seen within the context of Flagpole’s reputation for honesty and regard for the truth. Where you advertise is just as important as what you advertise, and Flagpole advertisers buy into Athens by making their voices part of Flagpole’s voice.

So, what you get in Flagpole—and have for 28 years—is the voice of your community, telling you what’s going on and offering you ways to enhance your experience of our town.

For 28 years, Flagpole writers and advertisers have promoted and celebrated our colorful town in all its richness and diversity. That’s why we call Flagpole the “Colorbearer of Athens.”