5 lessons I learned from reporting in Athens, Georgia (Part 1)

I went to college in Athens, Georgia. If you don’t know about Athens, I’ll summarize it quickly: It’s a small, quirky college town about 60 miles from Atlanta. It’s where the University of Georgia and 35,000 students reside. Athens loves to tout that it’s the hometown of R.E.M. and the B-52s and that it has delicious restaurants (which is true). It’s a great town for a visit.

AthensI’m a Bulldog. I graduated from UGA in December 2012 after 3.5 years of living in Athens. During that entire time, I wrote for the independent student newspaper, The Red & Black. I was an editor, an investigative reporter, and even a crime reporter. During all that, I’ve interviewed more than 1,000 people.

I saw Athens differently than a lot of students. I guess when most people eat at a restaurant with their friends, they don’t point out that last week, this restaurant sold an undercover, underage police operative a drink.

Athens is the town where I got my start in reporting and journalism, so it holds a special place in my mind. I compiled five lessons I learned while reporting in Athens, but I have a lot to talk about. Here are the first two lessons. The rest will be published tomorrow.

1. The proper capitalization of Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A is a fast-food restaurant in the South. It sells fried chicken sandwiches and nuggets, but the way many people talk about it, you would think the restaurant sells golden nuggets. This is doubly true in a southern college town. Whenever something was going on at Chick-fil-A (the most prominent example being when Chick-fil-A’s founder announced he believed in traditional marriage), you had to report on it — no excuses. Because everyone loves that chicken sandwich. That’s why I know Chick-fil-A is not capitalized Chick-Fil-A or Chick-Fil-a. It’s capital C, lowercase f, capital A with a side of fries.

2. Helicopter parents are real, and they’re scary. I see stories about helicopter parents on Google News whenever there’s a slow news day. Parents who do homework and projects for their kids, call multiple times a day when they go to college, and maybe even send out resumes to companies after graduation. After all, nothing is too good for the precious darlings. I want to tell you that these parents are real — frighteningly real. As a crime reporter for a year, I reported on police activity in Athens. Since Athens is a college town, many of the arrests are of university students. Those mostly fell under the underage possession of alcohol, DUI, and possession of marijuana categories. Part of my job was to call the arrested party for comment. If I was lucky enough, I would run into the child of a helicopter parent. I knew I had struck the jackpot when a few minutes after calling a student, the student’s parent called me.

Parents are never happy when their kids get arrested, but helicopter parents are worse. So much worse. Their child didn’t drive drunk — it was all a misunderstanding, and I’m going to ruin their chances at life if I publish their arrest. Plus, everyone in college drinks and drives. Why am I picking on their child? Case in point: A student was charged with 10 drug counts, including selling drugs. When the parents found out their child’s arrest would be in the newspaper, the mother called to tell me her child was going through “a rough time.” I know he’s going through a rough time. He spent the night in jail. Another parent told me I’m soulless. I think we all need to get something straight. If you want to talk about dropping charges and unjust arrests, call the police. I’m just the person who read about it in publicly available documents.

Check back tomorrow for the final three lessons.

  1. mark said:

    Good read. One quibble that your Spellcheck missed: “Athens loves to “tote” that ….” Actually, the proper word is “tout”it’s the hometown of R.E.M. and the B-52s and that it has delicious restaurants

    • Adina Solomon said:

      Oops, you’re right. Thanks!

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