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Editorial: The Times has worked to enrich the community for 75 years
HISTORYtimes building 2021
The Times building at 345 Green St. in Gainesville. - photo by Shannon Casas

On Jan. 26, 1947, the first issue of what was then called The Gainesville Daily Times came off the press.

Today, 75 years later, the legacy started by Charles and Lessie Smithgall continues in a world that needs watchdogs and facts maybe now more than ever.

When the growing Times newspaper staff relocated to Green Street in 1970, a plaque was installed that still adorns the exterior stone walls: “Guided by the constitutional principle of the public’s right to know, we dedicate this building to the continued enlightenment and freedom of the people of North Georgia.”

Generations of reporters have worked to make those words true. 

In fact, not long after the paper started, the editor at the time learned city commissioners were meeting in secret. The paper was instrumental in bringing that to an end.

The newspaper was in the thick of things as plans were laid for Lake Lanier. The paper supported its formation and also worked to inform people of its ramifications, including the federal government taking property to establish the lake. Decades later it was in the center of the world as 1996 Summer Olympics rowing and paddling events took place at the lake.

The Times has also championed causes throughout the years, including pushing for planning and zoning regulations when there were none, supporting the Community Chest, now United Way, and highlighting the need for a hospital before Hall County Hospital — now Northeast Georgia Medical Center — was developed. 

The paper also supported the development of tourist opportunities in the mountains, including Unicoi State Park, and campaigned heavily for Interstate 85 to come near Gainesville and later for a four-lane connection to that interstate, which became Interstate 985.

And while it served readers with the news they needed, The Times also provided advertising and marketing opportunities for local businesses that were not otherwise available, helping to author success stories through generations.

About The Times' editorials

This opinion piece is developed by Times leadership, including General Manager Norman Baggs and Editor in Chief Shannon Casas, to address issues that matter to our local readers and foster healthy debate and discussion on those issues. All local readers are welcome to respond with letters to the editor of 500 words or less emailed to letters@gainesvilletimes.com. Please include your name and city of residence. The Times also has an advisory panel that meets monthly. Anyone interested in joining the panel can apply by emailing the following to letters@gainesvilletimes.com:

■ Name

■ Political leaning

■ Community involvement and/or issues important to you

■ 200 words or less describing your opinion about the newspaper’s role in the community.

Much has changed since those earlier days, but The Times news staff in more recent years has continued a focus on government accountability and highlighting the issues our community faces. Reporters have followed major shakeups in local government, such as when three Hall County administrators were ousted in 2011 as new commissioners came on board.

In 2014, The Times shined a light on the severe lack of foster homes and other supports for children in foster care. Affordable housing continues to be an issue for many in Hall County, and The Times investigated this issue in a series published in 2016 and continues to examine ways to report this problem.

And staff continue following the story of a nitrogen leak that killed six a year ago at a local poultry plant. The tragedy garnered significant coverage from this paper, along with other media outlets, and long after national outfits moved on from the story, The Times continues tracking related lawsuits and other impacts of the tragedy.

Whether major stories or the now seemingly everyday update on the latest development, The Times continues to believe the residents of Hall County and Northeast Georgia have a right to know what’s happening here. We’re privileged to fill that role. We know many communities in Georgia and elsewhere unfortunately don’t have the same access to local news that our region does.

The news industry worldwide has transformed, as delivery methods have shifted to digital — with an app notification or email newsletter putting news in your hands almost instantly — while many, including The Times, still work to maintain legacy print products for loyal customers.

The Times celebrates 75 years

What: Join Times Editor Shannon Casas and former Editor Johnny Vardeman for a virtual discussion of the past, present and future of The Times.

When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26 

Where: Zoom; register at www.gainesvilletimes.com/virtualevents

Traditional revenue streams have eroded and forced tough course changes in order to enable the work of journalism to continue to flourish.

For 75 years the success of The Times has been a direct result of the efforts of hundreds of loyal and dedicated employees. Those same traits can be found in today’s staff, working to conquer these new challenges. 

And those residents who have supported the work and continue to subscribe help make it all possible.

We’d like to offer our thanks.

  • To those who have sent us a news tip: Thank you for sharing in our efforts to inform the public. You are often our best resource.

  • To those who have called our office asking for the score of the game: Thank you for making us your go-to source of information.

  • To those who have taken the time to write us a letter to the editor: Thank you for adding to the dialogue on important issues our community and country face.

  • To those who have bemoaned the reduction in days that we print: Thank you for finding value in the format where it all began for The Times. And thank you for sticking with us as we adapt to the world around us in ways that ensure we’re here to keep bringing you honestly local news.

  • And to all of those who continue reading The Times and gainesvilletimes.com, supporting us with your subscription, thank you. We’ll continue doing our best to serve you.

Delivering the news might have changed dramatically in recent years, but The Times remains committed to the ideals we started with: the public’s right to know and the continued enlightenment and freedom of the people of North Georgia. We believe Gainesville and Hall County are better for it.