Archive - July, 2013

Legal ads and local news reporting

Legal ads. They’re the mice-type blocks of legalese in local newspapers that most ignore. If you’re brave enough to read them you’ll find foreclosures, meeting notices, liquor licenses and bid invitations. Recently while perusing these I found a legal ad inviting newspapers to bid on providing legal ads. Crazy huh? Actually I found two of these. Both Roswell and Alpharetta are currently considering bids from newspapers to become each city’s legal organ.

A legal ad seeking bids for legal ads

Are legal ads still necessary or even relevant in this age of the internet? Municipalities are becoming much more transparent on their web pages and social media campaigns. Forsyth County and the city of Alpharetta in particular are very transparent online. I can get far more detail on what’s going on than I can with a legal ad in a weekly newspaper.

Nevertheless municipalities will spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on this slow and antiquated way to disseminate information to citizens. But don’t blame them. State law requires the selection of a legal organ. Alpharetta, Johns Creek and Milton all use the Appen Newspapers for their legal ads. Roswell currently uses the Neighbor Newspaper (owned by the Marietta Daily Journal). Forsyth County and Cumming used the Forsyth County News.

Legal ad contracts create a relationship between municipality and newspaper that isn’t directly disclosed to readers. Effectively the municipalities are customers of the newspapers. And even if a paper doesn’t have a legal ad contract with a city, in the future they might bid on the business.

It’s these same newspapers that report on the happenings at city hall or a candidate. And like any article a paper writes about a client, the story is almost always going to be positive. It would be extremely unwise for a newspaper to report negatively on a city, a city employee or politician when these same people decide who receives lucrative legal ad contracts.

Most stories that are critical of local governments are first reported by either bloggers or media from Atlanta (the AJC, WSBtv, etc). That should come as no surprise.

I’m not leveling criticism at any particular newspaper. I know several local journalists and think they do tremendous work bringing compelling news to their readers. But readers need to understand when there is a financial consideration happening behind the story.

Alpharetta’s last bastions

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

In this column we sometimes talk of restaurants who make Alpharetta first on their list. A chain will plant a flag here in the burbs before attempting to conquer a larger portion of metro Atlanta. Recently that’s happened with the burger chains like Smashburger. Others like Qdoba Mexican Grill have followed this strategy.

But what about those leaving? A small handful struggling restaurants and retailers have largely left metro Atlanta yet still hold onto turf here in the burbs. Do you know of any in Alpharetta? Here’s a few.

Fuddruckers - A few days ago a co-worker gave me a false alarm. She thought Fuddruckers had closed their North Point location. I double checked and her information was incorrect. But that news wouldn’t have surprised me. North Point’s location is one of only three left in metro Atlanta. The chain has been sold numerous times and has been in and out of bankruptcy.

I’ll admit that I go here once or twice a year. Suppose it is nostalgia. Somehow these guys have kept at it, surviving well into the burger craze. They’ve even managed to survive with a Five Guys just across the parking lot.

Artuzzi’s - Windward Parkway is home to the very last location of this chain that once had eateries across metro Atlanta. In its glory days six or eight years ago this restaurant had throngs of cubicle dwellers at lunchtime with lines out the door. Today their menu looks bland compared to similar fast-casual Italian joints like Figo or Mirko. But the place appears to be under new ownership. Can they turn the ship around?

Blockbuster - This one gets an honorable mention (or maybe a dishonorable mention). But Alpharetta managed to hang onto one of the very last retail locations of Blockbuster video. They were on Crabapple Road in the Kroger shopping center but closed recently. Today the last Blockbuster store in metro Atlanta can be found in Norcross. The purveyor of movies in legacy media formats failed to stay with the technology, allowing themselves to become a commodity.

Can you think of any other chain restaurants or retailers that have managed to cling to life in Alpharetta? Let me know in the comments!

Independence Day in Alpharetta

Today we feature a guest post from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

July 4, 1776, the date that America declared its independence from Britain.  America has been onward and upward ever since.  It’s the freedoms we’ve earned since that day that allow me to write this article, although it’s the freedoms allowed by Lee to let me have this article published.

Independence Day is my favorite holiday, mostly because I can celebrate in the fashion that Americans love – by blowing stuff up.  Growing up in Atlanta, I had no access to personal fireworks due to Georgia laws.  Imagine the sadness of a ten year old boy standing in the driveway holding a lowly sparkler craning my head to the sky longing for more.

The fireworks laws in Georgia have turned most of the citizens into interstate traffickers.  When I was able to drive, my friends and I made the short 90 minute jaunt out I-20 to the first exit inside Alabama, where there was nothing except half a dozen fireworks stores.  We would load up and head back, risking fines and possible jail time.  That’s how much we love this country.  Today, the laws have relaxed a bit.   Fireworks tents have popped up in most large parking lots offering all kinds of sparking, flaming, exploding bits of freedom.

There are tons of other options for fireworks in Atlanta other than the “where are my fingers” do it yourself  variety.  I spent many a night asleep in the backseat while my parents fought traffic for hours trying to leave Stone Mountain after the display ended.  I’ve been to Lenox and Roswell.  Lenox was insanely crowded.  I ended up sitting in a bush in the Lenox mall parking lot.  Not the most comfortable experience.  It felt like I had Black cats going off on my rear end from the thorns.

I love Alpharetta’s Independence Day celebration at Wills Park.  Highway 9 is lined with families tailgating in their folding chairs and kids running about with the classic sparkler.  In addition to the fireworks, there is food, live entertainment and bouncy houses inside the park itself from 5:00 PM on.  My wife and I discovered a special secret place to view the fireworks – the parking deck at North Fulton Hospital.  It’s free on the weekends, but you will have to pay during  the week.  Drive to the top, park your car and wait for the magic.  As the fireworks roll on, look to the South. You will see numerous other displays from around the city – Roswell, Canton and maybe even Lenox.  It’s very peaceful.  Plus, it’s easy to get out and get home once everything is over.

So everyone have a safe and fun July 4th.  We want you around on July 5th to continue to celebrate the freedom of America.

Photo credit: bayassa (creative commons)

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