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Column: Don't let this community's tragedies define it in 2019 or new year
Shannon Casas high res

Each year, I compile a list of The Times’ most popular stories — those that have been clicked the most on gainesvilletimes.com. Each year, it’s a list full of crime and tragedy, and I hope there’s a bright spot among the top 10.

This year, the only story that might be considered bright is the appearance of a local man on ABC’s “The Bachelorette.” 

But we didn’t know then how Luke Parker would be portrayed to the nation — as a two-faced villain twisted by his conservative faith.

That’s not exactly a bright spot.

The only brightness I can see in the list comes just below the top 10 most-clicked stories — in this community’s reaction to the No. 2 most-clicked story: the death of Hall County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Blane Dixon.

The outpouring of support financially and otherwise was astounding. It felt overwhelming to track, but we tried. And the funeral procession was well-attended and the streets lined with those offering support

The pain is still there. 

But it seems we sometimes let tragedies define this community. Many worry they are not safe in the place they call home. 

Yes, these incidents make the headlines — and clearly these incidents are more read than anything else reported in the newspaper.

But there’s so much good that happens here as well — and is also reported in the newspaper. 

Like the Chick-fil-A employee who saved a choking child in June. The teen jumped into action to cut a seat belt and free the child.

Or the surrogate who carried and delivered babies for a European couple

There were local residents who had more positive experiences in the TV spotlight: Flowery Branch’s Andrew Jannakos, who competed on NBC’s “The Voice,” and Gainesville’s Dhruv Gaur, whose message of support to host Alex Trebek went viral.

And there’s Callie Truelove, who’s sharing her experience with Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder, with a wider audience thanks in part to the actor who portrayed Peter on “The Brady Bunch.” 

Our journalists shared the stories of businesses opening, like a unique mushroom farm on Athens Highway. 

And of course there are the new restaurants, good news to anyone who likes to eat. 

Inked Pig opened near the start of the year in midtown. The new Waffle House on Thompson Bridge Road opened. Hopscotch opened on the square. That long-promised Golden Corral opened, too. Finally.

Myriad other stories published in the newspaper over the past year. Stories of new development and changing plans, investigations into government employees not acting as they should, elections of new city officials and the performance of local schools.

The Times is here to tell the stories of this place we call home. 

Whether you want us to investigate wrongdoing, highlight a local accomplishment or simply report what goes on, we welcome tips at news@gainesvilletimes.com.

Let’s hope we have plenty of positive stories to tell in 2020. Maybe even a few of them can break into the top 10 most clicked of the year.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. You can hear her most weeks on the Inside The Times podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

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