Top 5 most viewed stories 2009-2015 on rockdalenews.com:
CJH Coach Candace McGriff killed by fiancé (Feb. 19-25, 2015)
Magnet Bottle shooter Pitts’ death ruled suicide, dash cam footage released (May 31-June 5, 2015)
Statutory rape charge for girl, 16, in sex with boy, 14, at middle school (March 4, 2014)
2nd Whitehead twin pleads guilty to manslaughter (Feb. 7, 2014)
Boil water advisory lifted (June 8, 2014)
By The Numbers
(April 4, 2009 – September 26, 2015)
351 print editions
39 digital magazine editions
1.2 million website users
2.5 million sessions
5 million pageviews
50 Georgia Press Association Awards (2010-2014)
20 first place GPA Awards (2010-2014) including General Excellence
312 County Board of Commissioners meetings /work sessions attended
156 school board meetings/work sessions attended
5 babies born to staff or staff family
From start to finish
Six and half years ago, when the idea of starting a new paper in Rockdale County made its way around the newsroom at the Covington News office, we could not have imagined the journey that would follow. When we toiled into the wee hours of the night to send the very first issue to the printer, little did we realize we were carving out our own little piece of Rockdale history. Even when, as the paper’s first editor, my life took a different turn and I left the helm at the Rockdale News, did I understand what was in store for the publication. But what I did know then, and have had the pleasure to see come to fruition over the years, was that Michelle Kim was just the leader the paper needed to be as great as we all hoped.
Growing a paper is a labor of love. Late nights and early mornings are the norm; weekends are spent covering ribbon cuttings, football games, meetings, galas, performances, community service events or all of the above; and sharing the stories of those working to the make our community better is a responsibility not taken lightly by those who are entrusted to do so. I know that it has not always been easy, but the work you have done over the years has always been important.
To the staff of the Rockdale News, thank you for your service to our community. From the folks who began the journey to those who have the honor of crossing the finish line, job well done.
Tisa Smart Washington is the founding Editor currently the Chief Deputy Tax Commissioner of Rockdale County.
A privilege and an honor
This week has been a rollercoaster of emotions. Going through the daily routine and realizing it’s the last time I’ll be sending out that email, or seeing this group of people as I drop off a paper, or posting that picture has been tough. But what’s been unexpectedly harder has been the incredible outpouring of kindness, love and well-wishes since we’ve made the announcement that the Rockdale News is shutting down.
Your words, calls and support throughout the week have moved me to tears, and anyone who’s ever worked with me can tell you that just does not happen, much.
The September 26, 2015 edition is the last print edition. After six and a half years, this paper, facing the changing media habits and economic tides that challenge most community newspapers today, has made the tough choices that many businesses have had to make. But while the economic legs might have stopped, the journalistic heart beats on.
We have been privileged to bear witness to some incredible stories. We have seen lives at their highest peak and lowest days. And we’ve seen lives reborn and creativity and innovation come when you least expect. The clichés are true - journalism is the first draft of history and the light that keeps our government and elected officials accountable. Journalism is also an exercise of trust. You, our dear readers and the community, trust us with your stories, your name, your lives. It is an awesome responsibility that any journalist worth their salt takes very seriously.
The team that brought you The News – from the ad sales persons to the graphics department, bookkeepers, IT folks, publishers, printers, paginators, copy editors, interns, carriers who got up at indecently early hours to bring you the paper, reporters/writers and photographers who spent long hours in the community – tried to live up to this trust.
In the end, it’s the relationships that matter, and this week has shown that in abundance. It’s also the stories that matter, passing down through the generations to form a community’s identity. The space on these pages have always belonged to the people of Conyers-Rockdale. We’ve just been lucky enough to be the steward.
Thank you for this privilege. I hope we’ve done some good work during the time God had granted us and that we’ve been able to make a positive impact. What comes next is in His hands.
Michelle Kim can be reached at email@example.com
Opportunity of a Lifetime
“Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy Magazine.” - Walter Cronkite –
I remember my initial phone call to the Rockdale News. “Hi, my name is Pete Mecca. I’m a Vietnam veteran and would like to talk to someone about the opportunity to write stories on our local veterans.”
The reply was prompt and to the point. “I like it. My name is Michelle Kim. How quick can you get here?”
Thus began my weekly column “A Veteran’s Story” and the opportunity to interview over 300 of my brothers and sisters from all branches, all ranks, and all wars. Michelle offered the “opportunity of a lifetime,” not just for me, but for hundreds of men and women to tell their stories of duty, honor, and country. “A Veteran’s Story” has given veterans, and their spouses, the “opportunity” to complete their journey home.
Veterans mostly talk only to other veterans about their experiences in a foxhole, a cockpit, or in the belly of a submarine. Veterans understand that John Q. Citizen can’t relate and that usually the general public just doesn’t care, but for a veteran who may be home physically, mentally they are still stuck on a Pacific beach under murderous fire, shivering uncontrollably on a frozen tundra, or picking off leeches as they slosh through a filthy rice paddy. And they go to bed each night with images of buddies whose lives ended in sand, in snow, or in murky water. Why them; not me, is a common mantra.
Life does go on, but for a spouse trying desperately to understand their mate’s anxiety, and yes, even unpredictable mood swings, the journey home can be a difficult road to travel for any couple. Some complete the journey; many don’t. I have had the honor to interview but a few of the millions of men and women who served and did what had to be done while a sometimes complacent society takes the sacrifices of the United States military for granted.
The Rockdale News offered me a breeding ground to mold ideas into a narrative, mature as a writer, and try to do some good in this old world before a religious fanatic or a haranguing politician detonates a nuclear device. It is the veteran who understands the revulsion of war, and it is the veteran who suffers the consequences. I sincerely believe the good folks at the Rockdale News will never truly understand how much they contributed to an opportunity for me and other veterans to say to each other, “Welcome home.”
The Rockdale News is closing the doors, shutting down an honest hard-working network of individuals who worked for their community non-stop to report the news, fairly and openly and professionally. They, too, are the victims of a derisible news medium built around entertainment rather than authentic journalism, a bottom line, and the shabbiness of internet and Facebook newsflash shenanigans.
“We don’t go into journalism to be popular. It is our job to seek the truth and put constant pressure on our leaders until we get answers.” - Helen Thomas –
For the veterans interviewed and for the many stories you published, thank you Michelle, and thank you Rockdale News.
Pete Mecca is a Vietnam veteran, columnist and freelance writer. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or aveteransstory.us.