Sunday, August 30, 2009

30 AUG 09: She's Going WEAR

Sooner or later, Lee County simply must improve its road signs. Most of the Lee Road markers are NOT at intersections, and they're a mix of numbers instead of names. In some neighborhoods, the directions to some addresses probably double as the combination of locks.

Following a tricky set of directions led me to a farewell event in Lee County Saturday night. It was a going-away party for Laurie Bernstein, who left WTVM news Friday. Local TV viewers who turned to her after Bonnie Bernstein vanished from ESPN may be in a funk for weeks.

We caught Laurie Bernstein preparing margaritas for guests at her farewell party. But no, we did NOT drink any alcoholic beverages. We might have lost our way on the winding roads of Lee County, wound up out of gas in downtown Smiths Station -- and sit there stuck until the Sunday church services ended.

Laurie Bernstein (NOT related to Bonnie) came to Columbus two years ago, after working behind the scenes at one of the big TV stations in Washington. So perhaps it was no surprise when she became WTVM's "Political Reporter." Does that also explain why John McCain and Barack Obama avoided Columbus during last year's campaign?

Even though her title was Political Reporter, I saw NO local politicians at Laurie Bernstein's farewell party. Then-Mayor Bob Poydasheff showed up at the send-off for Ashley Nix three years ago [28 May 06]. But then again, this party was well outside Columbus - and Poydasheff was in an election year.

Another distinction Laurie Bernstein gained was being the only Jewish journalist in Columbus. She's moving on only three weeks before Rosh Hashanah - which means local rabbis might want to mail greeting cards to all the newsrooms in towns, reminding them there WILL be Rosh Hashanah.

People at the party stopped to watch live reports from a new WTVM reporter. Laura Ann Sills lived up to her promise, and walked on fiery coals at the "Midnight Express" Run in midtown Columbus. In fact, it looked so easy that we may have found a new attraction for the Greater Columbus Fair.

But back to Laurie Bernstein: she's moving from Columbus to Pensacola, Florida. She'll report for that city's big TV station, WEAR - and we sincerely hope the experience and the Gulf Coast humidity doesn't WEAR her out.

I've been to Pensacola a few times for church conventions, so I can give Laurie Bernstein a couple of tips on the territory....

+ The city itself is OK, but the real action is in a town across the bridge on the way to the beach. Gulf Breeze is famous for UFO sightings - which the police tend to miss, because they're too busy stopping speeders heading for the beach.

+ Pensacola Beach has some nice beachfront hotels. In fact, I had a first-floor room one year - and knew I was secure, because I shared the hotel with a police convention. Well, until the late-night parties started down the hallway from me....

+ Don't even think about trying to make some clever fast money from Pensacola's name. People there were ripping off Pepsi-Cola advertisements in T-shirts years ago.

So who will replace Laurie Bernstein at WTVM? Several sources tell your blog Roslyn Giles will be on the air this coming week -- changing stations after years at WRBL. Giles follows a path taken in recent years by Semone Doughton and Cheryl Morgan. Hmmmm -- Now I'm wondering when Phil Scoggins's current contract runs out.

With best wishes for all, let's check other weekend headlines:

+ Supporters of Mark MacPhail and Troy Davis held separate events at the Government Center. Davis was convicted of killing Columbus native MacPhail in Savannah 20 years ago. The Georgia NAACP claims seven of nine witnesses who accused Davis have recanted - so why didn't the other two show up at the pro-MacPhail event? Are they in hiding, to protect them from new evidence?

(NAACP leaders told the Ledger-Enquirer they would pray for the families of both Mark MacPhail and Troy Davis during the evening at Greater Shady Grove Baptist Church -- yet a sign outside the church said "NAACP Musical." I'm going to assume one of the songs was NOT "He Had It Comin'" from "Chicago.")

+ The bluegrass group Rhonda Vincent and The Rage performed at the Phenix City Amphitheatre. I keep waiting for a concert promoter to do the logical thing, and combine this group with Rage Against the Machine.

+ Northside knocked off Jordan 25-18 in high school football in overtime. The game was postponed a day and moved to A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium, because a bank of lights failed at Kinnett Stadium. Uh-oh -- Kinnett "upgrades" are part of the Muscogee County school sales tax project list. The anonymous conspiracy letters should be in the mail by Tuesday.

+ Instant Message to the new Cluckers Restaurant on First Avenue: Wow - I didn't think it was possible! I really can trade cash for Cluckers.

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