Archive for the ‘Fayetteville’ Category

‘Damn the torpedoes!’ Now’s no time to slow down on Smartnews

In Biz, Fayetteville, Freelance, Publishing, smartnews, The news biz on March 27, 2009 at 3:23 am

Charles Apple kindly gave me a platform to pimp Smartnews a little more, in advance of taking the experiment live on April 1. Randy in particular has been actively recruiting publishers, hammering away at state and regional press associations and the like. It’s a monumental task: Just think of the thousands of newspapers; alt weeklies; city, regional and state magazines. And over the horizon — niche and trade pubs, English-language pubs outside the United States, and on and on.

Lest I sound too excited about it all, it’s important to remember that we’re in the proof-of-concept phase. Realistically, this predates even internal alpha-testing, as far as the Web site. We just want to bull ahead as time’s a-wasting. Flying by the seats of our pants, to cop an old cliche, just as with SmartNews (the Fayetteville, N.C., newspaper (R.I.P.)) and Bluffton Today. Newspapers are in deep trouble; they’re dropping journalists like a dog sheds fur in the summer. We want to do what we can while we can.

I don’t think American print news will rebound, even if the ridiculous corporate debt is somehow miraculously resolved. The job losses will be permanent. But the need for news and information remains — my god, there’s a hunger for it — and advertisers still believe more strongly in print and “traditional” media than they do in the Web. Should all news media collapse in the next few years anyway, we should at least have quite a collection of talent at hand. Whatever the medium, whatever the business model, at some point that’s got to be worth something.

Guess I should change the address of this blog

In Fayetteville, N.C., Smartness, The news biz on November 26, 2008 at 6:47 pm

My friend, Randy Foster, writes the epilogue to SmartNews, the coolest newspaper in North Carolina.

I hear a lot about entrepreneurism, but what it means from my experience is the ability to overcome everyone else’s low expectations. SmartNews struggled for 16 months to get a foothold in the Fayetteville market. We thought a fun, interesting, professional, interactive newspaper with good distribution and low ad rates was just the ticket for Fayetteville.

What an amazing learning experience the last two newspapers — SmartNews and, before that, Bluffton Today — have been. I feel like I oughta have a master’s degree to show for it. Thanks for everything, Randy; it was one helluva ride.

Memo: Blackwater fudged numbers to win fat contracts (and other items of interest)

In Biz, Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, N.C., Politics on August 1, 2008 at 6:00 pm

I try to keep an eye on news items related to Blackwater Worldwide, a North Carolina-based company that supplies mercenaries private security in hellholes like Iraq, Afghanistan, New Orleans. Partly because the privatization of the U.S. military is fascinating, partly because the Fayetteville area, home of so many elite, special ops guys, is a fertile recruiting ground. Lately, there’s been another flurry of stories.

Federal investigators are raising new questions about whether an affiliate of the controversial security firm Blackwater Worldwide should have received more than $100 million in federal contracts set aside for small businesses.

In a memorandum made public Monday, internal investigators for the Small Business Administration said the agency “did not adequately explain” how it concluded that Blackwater falls within size limits for small-business contracts.

Meanwhile, Blackwater’s getting into the private eye biz:

“Blackwater started a private intelligence company,” (Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army) explained, “a private CIA essentially, called Total Intelligence Solutions. And the man running Total Intelligence Solutions is J. Cofer Black. He’s a thirty-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency. He also was the guy who ran the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, the government-sanctioned kidnap-and-torture program.”

And here’s an interesting backgrounder on Blackwater:

Critics see Blackwater as a company that recklessly abuses the gears of war to make a buck. (Founder Erik) Prince and his devoted team view themselves as a military support staff that helps the government save a buck through an obsessive commitment to identifying and fixing inefficiencies in operations and training.


In Fayetteville, N.C., Sports on June 15, 2008 at 7:41 pm

I have never in my life witnessed such a beatdown. In rec-league softball, they have a mercy rule to prevent such things. We got to the Swamp Dogs game against the Wilmington Sharks in the third inning and things were pretty well in hand already. But the Sharks just could not field a decent pitcher. We didn’t witness a single home run (evidently there was one in the first inning), just a long string of walks and singles and errors and wild pitches. Sharks infielders had to take the mound to finish off the game, and, unsurprisingly, they didn’t fare well, either. It added up to 32 freakin’ runs. 

More than a dozen robberies — quite a spree, Kangaroo Bandit

In Fayetteville, N.C. on June 2, 2008 at 10:51 pm

Kangaroo bandit’ suspect charged in several hold-ups

A Fayetteville man suspected in more than a dozen convenience store robberies was charged Monday in six hold-ups, authorities said.

Anthony Dean Pierce, 52, of 147 Rosebud Drive, was charged with six counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon. The charges stem from April 22 robberies of Kangaroo stores on Pamalee Drive and Ramsey Street, a May 13 robbery of the Pamalee Drive store, a May 15 robbery of a Sunoco station on Yadkin Road and May 20 robberies of Kangaroo stores on North Bragg Boulevard and McArthur Road.


At least it wasn’t the patient who fell off the ‘copter

In Fayetteville, N.C., Unfettered stupidity on May 16, 2008 at 7:31 pm

Medical supplies are missing after they fell out of a Lifeflight helicopter, an official in Fayetteville, N.C., said Thursday. Police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating the supplies, which fell as a helicopter left Cape Fear Valley Hospital Saturday at about 3:20 p.m.

Higher car tax AND higher bus fare. Everybody wins!

In Fayetteville, N.C., Politics, Unfettered stupidity on April 8, 2008 at 6:15 am

City Council members voted Monday night to raise bus fares and vehicle taxes to fund extending bus routes and expanding the fleet.

So I get to pay a little more in taxes so that people who can no longer afford to ride the bus can not ride them on more routes. Rawk. 

Hey, anyone want a tax hike?

In Fayetteville, N.C., Politics, Unfettered stupidity on April 7, 2008 at 5:34 am

This should go over well with gas at $4 a gallon. 

Maybe it was figurative sniper fire Hillary was ducking …

In Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, hillary clinton, N.C., Politics on March 26, 2008 at 3:51 am

A former first lady who’s padded her resume with a soundbite about arriving in Bosnia, years ago, under sniper fire. A town with more than its fair share of people who really have been shot at by snipers. The two come together on Thursday at Terry Sanford High School. Good times.

Hey, Miss Grundy: Lay off the skateboard tree

In Biz, Fayetteville, N.C., Politics, Unfettered stupidity on February 20, 2008 at 5:10 am

Screw the legal arguments. The skateboard tree (see below if you’re not familiar) deserves an exemption for being cool.

David Beasley and Dorian Motowylak put their hearts into this weird work of art that, in its homespun way, transends the commercial purpose of the current resident of 500 Blount St., a skateboard shop. Fayetteville’s Board of Adjustments should have shown a little respect for these guys Monday evening. Unless the trees are destroyed, what these guys have created will be in evidence long after that building no longer sells skateboards.

It’s hard to see who’s harmed by a tree with a bunch of skateboards nailed to it. Let’s face it: Blount Street is a dump. It’s not like the trees are in King’s Grant, whose well-to-do residents minutes earlier at the same meeting won a reprieve from a development they felt would tower over their backyards and spoil their views.

Frankly, arguing about whether the trees constitute a “snipe sign” feels petty. The question: What if all businesses felt free to do similar projects? Fayetteville should only be so funky and cool. The secret to a great city is not enforcing the same, boring design standards that can be found in every city code book in America. The secret is citizens creating something unique and wonderful, something that can’t be found anywhere else. You can’t legislate or even much hope to control that impulse, but you can nurture it when it crops up, or you can beat it down.

Beating down the skate shop folks isn’t going to improve Fayetteville one iota. It’s not going to rescue Fayetteville — or even Blount Street — from ugliness. It will alienate a small group of citizens who’re emotionally invested in a work that might not meet a bland, Thomas Kincaid/Norman Rockwell criteria for beauty, but which surely is no uglier than the Tallywood Shopping Center sign on Raeford Road, and is definitely less cheesy than the Bordeaux mini-Eiffel Tower. What’s the value in that?

Amanda Briggs, assistant city attorney who argued for upholding the order to take down the “sign,” says she and the city don’t hate skaters. The city council has the opportunity to put its money where Amanda’s mouth is. Save the trees, make a few folks happy, harm none.

And maybe someone else will do something unexpected and cool to make this town a tiny bit cooler.

– Jim McBee, managing editor

[The text of our story, which ran 02.15.08 in print, in case you’re not familiar with the Board Tree.]

Shrine or sign: A downtown shop (and its loyal fans) can’t believe the city expects it to de-skateboard its trees.

For centuries, man has argued: Who can truly define what can be considered art?

Fayetteville city planners, that’s who.

500 Blount St. Skate Shop (located, appropriately, at 500 Blount St.) has attracted unwanted attention from the city with its monument to skaterdom, the Board Trees.
The tree project began a month after the opening of 500 Blount St. (then called Duh! Skate Shop) last year, when skater David Beasley was struck with inspiration.

Beasley would take the broken skateboards of kids who used the park, and nail them to the four trees just outside the shop. Soon, other skaters, and skateshop employee Dorian Motowylak took over much of the trees’ reconstruction. Naturally, the trees have been embraced by local skaters, and according to Motowylak, passersby who often stop just to take pictures.

The trees have also been dedicated to fallen skaters, including John Buchanan, a skater who died after being hit by a car. His broken board, with a stencil of his likeness, is attached to one of the trees.

“There are so many different things about it that have made it special to people,” Beasley said. “It depicts all the dedication of the skateboarders in the community.”

Drive-by critique

One man’s art is another’s eyesore. A passing motorist was apparently so offended by the sight that he felt it was time to call the city planners to the rescue.
City planners seem to agree with the motorist’s assessment.

“It sure don’t look like art to me,” said Jim Alexander, assistant inspections director.
But wait a minute, art isn’t illegal, is it? There’s no way the city can ask someone to destroy six months worth of work based purely on a subjective opinion, right?
Ah, but that’s why God made loopholes. The city planners have come out calling the tree a “snipe sign.”

Traditionally, snipe signs are what they call those wooden light posts, or trees, with all sorts of flyers and signs nailed into them.

“Anything attached to a tree is a snipe sign,” said Alexander.

That’s right. Hammock lovers beware, you may just be napping on a sign.


In order to comply, the skate shop will have to remove each board from the trees, thereby removing the nails, which Beasley said would kill the trees.
Alexander is less than sympathetic.

“They should have thought of that before they did it,” he said. “They can remove the nails and then maybe try pushing them back in. I don’t know, I ain’t a tree expert.”

Support from high branches

The trees’ supporters aren’t willing to let their trees go without a fight, and have taken to filling out various petitions. So far, Beasley says that they’ve collected more than 300 names.

“The city has better things to do than pick on these folks about a tree that’s not hurting anyone,” said Councilman Charles Evans, who has come out in support of the trees. “You caught me on a good day. I’m really not feeling the city right now.”

500 Blount St. owner Ross Roggio will be showing his support for the shop’s loyal customers by going before the Board of Adjustment in City Hall on Monday, Feb. 18, hoping to appeal the findings.

“We want as many people to show up as they can,” Motowylak said. “That’ll be a huge help.”

For more information or to find out how you can get your name on the tree petition, call 868-3233.

James Johnson can be reached at jamesjohnson@smartnewsnc.com.