Sam Burnham, Curator
A story in a large, nationally-known newspaper shines a light on the current struggle of small newspapers nationwide. The Vindicator, a local newspaper in Youngstown, Ohio will cease publication on August 31. The paper made this announcement just days after celebrating its 150th anniversary. The Vindicator has been owned by the same family since the 1880s.
You’re probably not familiar with The Vindicator. I didn’t know about it until reading of its demise and I’m a bit of a newspaper junkie. I love checking out the local paper in towns we visit and I’m a sucker for a small town paper. I wrote for my high school paper and I submit editorials to my own local paper.
Just for some background, Youngstown, Ohio is the buckle of the Rust Belt. The town is struggling with a collapsing economy as industries have shuttered their operations there. It has been a domino effect as losses in big industry have led to losses in small businesses. Ultimately one of the falling dominos was The Vindicator.
Operating a newspaper these days can be a challenge. News moves fast and by the time a story comes off the press, television, radio, or digital media have ran with it and moved on. This is especially the case for weekly papers, which are common in small towns. But local papers can also offer stories you might not find elsewhere. Local features, sports, and editorials that shape local policy and hold the powerful accountable. You won’t hear about local corruption on Fox News, TRONC, or Huffpo.
My love for local papers fuels the use of those stories at ABG. You’ll see stories from these papers linked in our social media and cited in our stories. Whether it’s the Pickens Progress, The Tribune & Georgian, The Dalton Daily Citizen, or the Tifton Gazette, small town papers are boots on the ground, finding out what’s really going on in the world.
Obviously there are multiple forces at work in the demise of The Vindicator. The overall economic situation in Youngstown is likely the biggest factor. I don’t know enough about the paper to comment on the need for papers to evolve and adapt to the times. But there’s one other factor that we all need to be aware of.
Just as business and government need to be decentralized, even more so the media needs it. We need small newspapers, small radio stations, small television stations. Of those three, newspapers find a way to exist where the other two don’t. When one of them dies, particularly one that is 150 years old, it stings and we are all a little poorer for it. It’s the proverbial canary in the coal mine.
There is nothing we can do to change the fate of The Vindicator. But in a state that gave us newspaper legends like Henry Grady, Joel Chandler Harris, Margaret Mitchell, Lewis Grizzard, “Bill Arp,” and Bo Whaley, we can preserve that rich history and assure this media platform endures and produces more generations of reporters, writers, photographers, thinkers, and that they hold local power accountable. That requires us to play our part. Support local media, particularly your local newspaper.
Sam Burnham, Curator
The City of Atlanta, in their infinite wisdom, has seen fit to add “contextualization” to many historic markers and monuments. This action was put into motion by former mayor Kasim Reed whose administration continues to be the subject of multiple corruption investigations.
One site adding “contextualization” is Oakland Cemetery. Oakland is a true jewel of Atlanta. We’ve featured the cemetery here as well as on our Instagram on multiple occasions. It’s natural and architectural beauty as well as its historic significance make it an oasis of Victorian charm in a modern city that doesn’t hesitate to demolish the past.
So let’s take a look at these new markers the city has placed at Oakland. At issue is the Lion of Atlanta and the Confederate obelisk. These monuments stand in the Confederate section where close to 7000 soldiers lie in the soil. As a transportation hub, Atlanta became a makeshift medical Mecca for wounded and dying soldiers from battles such as Chickamauga, Resaca, and Kennesaw Mountain. After the war, many soldiers buried hastily in battlefield graves were reinterred at Oakland. The 65 foot tall obelisk, the tallest structure in Atlanta at the time, and the Lion of Atlanta were placed to recognize the dead. These are not “Lost Cause” monuments. The fact that the lion stands over a field of some 3000 unknown soldiers, most of whom lie in unmarked graves, means that this monument, recognized as a significant work of art by The Smithsonian, serves as a proper burial marker for those who died defending their homes and families.
Which brings us to the cause. There remain two myths about the cause of the war. One myth would have us believe that the war had nothing to do with slavery. The other myth would have us believe that it was all about slavery. Both of these are lies and the people pushing both know they are lies. The truth is that the struggle between state sovereignty and centralized power in America predates the Constitution. The war was inevitable because of these two factors: slavery and the question of sovereignty.
But one truth must be told. The 7000 men who lie at Oakland are mostly common soldiers. Most owned no slaves and had little investment in maintaining that institution. If they were from Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, or north Georgia, the scourge of war had already threatened, if not decimated their homes. These were the men who, like the soldier in Shelby Foote’s narrative, were “fighting because you’re down here.”
Fellow Georgian and lover of history and Oakland Cemetery, Eb Joseph Daniels, put it this way and I quite agree:
“The new contextualization plaques are up at Historic Oakland Cemetery. While the text is far less leading than the inscription planned by the DeKalb County Commission to adorn the DeKalb County Confederate Memorial Obelisk, I do feel that it was remiss to include the modern assessment of the function of Confederate monuments on the plaque which acknowledges the Lion of the Confederacy.The Lion is effectively a headstone, and therefore seems a poor spot for academic discourses which, I feel, would seem better suited for the obelisk, which is not the marker for any individual grave.
Nevertheless, working within the constraints placed by the City of Atlanta, I think that the Historic Oakland Foundation did the very best job that it could under the circumstances. There is lots of good and valuable information here which will help enlighten visitors who do not take a tour or purchase a guidebook.”
Daniels and I are also in agreement that the third marker for the Confederate Memorial Grounds was more tastefully done. Neither of us think the City of Atlanta had any mandate on this marker. As for the Lion of Atlanta and the Confederate Obelisk, these are not Lost Cause monuments. “Contextualization” tying them to the Lost Cause is done in poor taste. They are grave markers. And while there are monuments that should be accompanied by contextualization, the City of Atlanta is carrying it too far by insisting on marking those that don’t need it and also by skewing the new narrative too far in the other direction. The war was complex and understanding it requires a depth of inquiry that can’t be facilitated on a monument or a contextualization marker. We need contextualization that will provoke questions and conversations - a search for truth rather than pontification from the thought police.
Sam Burnham, Curator
Something about being on the coast stirs the craving for fresh seafood. Walking along the waterfront, seeing boats gently rocking in the tide, that fresh breeze coming in off the water, all of it.
We got a lot of recommendations of places to eat in the St. Marys area but one name seemed to come up every single time. It was a pleasant walk from the house so we strolled down to Lang’s to see what the buzz was about.
”Probably the best fried shrimp I’ve ever eaten.” That’s how Leigha describes it. The shrimp is pretty consistent. Fried, broiled, and blackened were all delicious. And if you’re gonna do shrimp on the Georgia Coast, that’s how it should be.
Somewhere down inside me is a savage that is not above throwing an afterthought hush puppy across the room. Too often someone puts hush puppies on a plate just because there’s seafood on it. It seems like the right thing to do so the do it. But they don’t do it right. Lang’s takes the time to make a good hush puppy. It’s intentional, as it should be. It’s not a garnish, it’s part of the meal.
Throw in a local beer or wine and you have a delightful meal.
The location gives you excellent options for an after dinner stroll. The restaurant has a pier just out the back door. The riverfront park is just next door. Take a walk to see the sunset on the water and let your food settle.
You’ll get several recommendations for places to eat in St. Marys. Regardless of where else you go, make Lang’s Marina one of your stops.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire