Buzzworm news briefs

The MAIN thing

“With corporate media consolidation leading to less local news and a rising tide of Kobe Bryant and Laci Peterson ‘info-tainment,’ local communities are hungry for alternative media strategies,” proclaims Wally Bowen, founder and executive director of the Mountain Area Information Network, an Asheville-based nonprofit Internet-service provider.

Earlier this month, Bowen traveled to the Declarations of Media Independence Summit in San Francisco, where MAIN was featured as a successful model of an independent, grassroots media outlet using both Internet and broadcast technologies.

Sponsored by the Action Coalition of Media Education (the broadest media coalition in the country, says Bowen), the summit was designed to provide tools and strategies for countering the trend toward a monopolized corporate media system.

The event, notes Bowen, was fueled by the national media-reform movement that’s been under way for more than a year now, “sparked by the FCC’s new rules … (passed in June of 2003), which would have allowed for even more media consolidation and cross ownership.”

Although the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals eventually halted implementation of the new rules until the FCC can better justify them, Bowen maintains that the existing FCC rules have already allowed such extreme consolidation that halting them now “is a little bit like closing the barn door after the cow’s already gotten out.”

In his presentation at the summit, titled “Reclaiming the Public Square,” Bowen recounted how MAIN grew from a dial-up Internet-access provider in 1996 to the multifaceted media network it is today.

MAIN provides high-speed Internet access (in Yancey, Mitchell and Madison counties); dial-up access in 14 WNC counties; the Blue Ridge Web Market (an e-commerce portal for local small businesses); hosted Web sites; and a home page offering news, a community calendar, link directories and entertainment reviews. The site also includes such interactive features as “freecycling” (a place to post unwanted items) and online forums on political and cultural topics.

In addition, the nonprofit created CarolinaHoy.org (a news-and-educational Web site for Spanish-speaking area residents) and recently launched a low-power FM radio station, WPVM 103.5 (“The Progressive Voice of the Mountains”).

Revenues from the high-speed Internet service and Web hosting finance most of MAIN’s operations, says Bowen. And because the group is a nonprofit, it can keep its rates low.

“That was what blew people away out there,” notes Bowen. “The fact that you don’t have to always have your hands out for grants and donations to survive — that there’s a business model for doing this.”

He adds: “The message that I brought is that here’s a way to give folks in your community the option of keeping their Internet dollars in the local community to support independent media, instead of sending those Internet dollars to Bill Gates or AOL.”

For more information about MAIN, visit www.main.nc.us.

— Lisa Watters

Volunteering overseas

“The toughest job you’ll ever love,” is a frequent catchphrase used by the Peace Corps.

“Tough,” in that volunteers have to: undergo eight-to-12 weeks of intensive language, cultural and technical training; make a 27-month time commitment; live at the same standard of living as their counterparts in their host country; and at the end of a couple years’ effort, receive just over $6,000 toward their transition to life back home.

On the other hand, volunteers also get to make a difference in other people’s lives, live in another culture, learn a new language, and walk away with experiences and skills they can draw on for the rest of their lives.

If you want to learn more, Peace Corps recruiters and returned volunteers Robyn Mofsowitz and Brianna Fischer will be in Asheville Thursday, July 22 through Saturday, July 24 to share information about the Peace Corps experience. Mofsowitz was a volunteer in the Kingdom of Tonga, in the South Pacific, and Fischer served in West Africa’s Ivory Coast.

Catch the Peace Corps group on Thursday, 6 p.m. at Pack Memorial Library (67 Haywood St.) or on either Friday or Saturday, Noon-5 p.m. at Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe (55 Haywood St.)

For more information, call (800) 424-8580 or visit www.peacecorps.gov

— Lisa Watters

From Switzerland to Sand Hill

Gov. Mike Easley dropped out of the sky for an hour on Tuesday, July 13 to hold a runway-side press conference at the offices of Advantage West, located at the Asheville Regional Airport. He announced that Jacob Holm Industries will build a new manufacturing plant near the intersection of Sand Hill and Sardis Roads, in Enka. The $40 million plant will manufacture specialty hydro-entangled non-woven roll goods — think baby wipes — and will be the largest such facility in the world.

The state and county won a bidding war with other candidate sites (including Henderson County) by kicking in a $200 thousand grant from the One North Carolina Fund and $1.1 million in Buncombe County property-tax abeyance.

The manufacturing process requires highly trained workers, and should add 70 employ people. As part of the negotiations that captured the site-selection prize, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College agreed to create a targeted job-training program for prospective employees.

Feedstock for the process includes polyester and rayon, the latter being a forest-derived fiber. Company spokesman Michael Norboge told Xpress that sources for the material will include North and South Carolina, Alabama and Louisiana.

The company has “requested a water-line size that will deliver at least 10,000 gallons per hour, 24 hours per day, seven days a week,” according to Dave Porter, director of the economic development program at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. This usage fits the Water Authority’s definition of a “mid-size” user, according to Porter, although with few remaining large industrial users on the system, the company will rank among the Water Authority’s larger users.

According to Stan Boyd, director of engineering services for the Municipal Sewerage District, “The plant will adhere to our pretreatment requirements, and we don’t anticipate any negative impact on the wastewater stream.” He characterized the impact as positive. “More revenue,” was his upbeat assessment.

Jobs at the plant will average $35,000 per year, according to officials, with starting pay for production workers pegged at $10-12 per hour.

For more information on employment check out www.jacobholm.com or contact the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce (828) 258-6101.

— Cecil Bothwell

NPR’s Bob Edwards stops in Asheville

Fans of NPR’s Bob Edwards, take note: The venerable newsman will be in Asheville on Wednesday, July 21, for a 7:30 p.m. program focusing on Edward R. Murrow.

The broadcast pioneer is the subject of Edwards’ new book, Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism (Wiley & Sons).

With the help of historic audio clips, Edwards will highlight the major stories Murrow covered: the Blitz, bombing raids over Berlin, the liberation of Buchenwald and red-baiting by Sen. Joe McCarthy, plus the ups and downs of Murrow’s career at CBS.

Edwards has had his own career ups and downs as well. After 25 years of hosting Morning Edition, the smooth-voiced baritone made his own news back in April when he lost his hosting position with the network. During the Asheville event, Edwards will reflect on his own career and talk about his new role as a senior correspondent for NPR News.

A question-and-answer session and book signing will follow. Proceeds from the evening’s event will benefit the WCQS Capital Campaign.

Tickets are $5. Twenty-five dollars secures a ticket, plus a place in the book-signing line and an advance copy of Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism.

For tickets, call Asheville Community Theatre at 254-1320 ext. 1.

— Tracy Rose

Bizworm

Not your average hostel

Among the latest additions to downtown Asheville’s ever-changing scene is Arthaus, run by Rupa Vickers.

“We’re called the Arthaus ’cause we have art all over the place. Everything from handmade T-shirts that are very cool to paintings all over the place,” she notes. Vickers also built — by hand — a beautiful private bungalow, called Heaven, in the hostel’s back yard.

Vickers wants people to rethink their image of hostels. “You hear horror stories of people going to Greece and they stay in, like, a huge concrete building or something and the beds are covered with bugs.” Arthaus’s in-house massage service, yoga and dance workshops, weekly movie nights, and make-your-own pancake breakfasts paint a wholly different picture.

At the same time, Arthaus is considerably less expensive than a typical downtown-Asheville hotel. Weekday rates are only $22 a night ($24 on weekends). But price, says Vickers, isn’t everything.

“It’s not about being less expensive. You have a certain budget and you wanna come to Asheville, and if you parlay your money into a hotel suite, you might not have as much money to use in other ways — like going to a really awesome concert and hearing some of the amazing musicians around here.”

Reservations can be made online (www.hostels.com) or by phone (225-3278).

— Jason Lauritzen

Man’s Ruin is boy’s friend

Anyone who’s dealt with cancer knows what a financial (as well as emotional and physical) drain the disease can be. Amid the considerable stresses of dealing with the disease, the out-of-pocket costs and time lost from work can pose a daunting challenge for patients and caregivers alike.

That’s where Tina Tribbey — whose 14-year-old son Anthony has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — has found herself. Anthony, who’s in stage IV of the disease (when the cancer has found its way into the bone marrow), has completed four months of a 14-month course of chemotherapy.

But a few weeks ago, some unexpected allies stepped up to the plate. Zoe DiMiceli, co-owner of Man’s Ruin Tattoo & Piercing, has been a customer of Cell One (where Tina works) for the last several years.

“When she first heard [about Anthony], she immediately came to me and said she wanted to help,” Tina explains.

Man’s Ruin (857 Merrimon Ave. in Asheville) is selling raffle tickets ($1 apiece) to raise funds for the Anthony Tribbey Benefit Fund. Raffle prizes include a beautiful rocking chair (donated by Penland’s Furniture), a slew of certificates for tattoo and piercing services, jewelry, T-shirts and mugs bearing the Man’s Ruin logo, and more. The drawing will take place Monday, Aug. 2 (though ticket holders don’t need to be present to win).

The staff at Man’s Ruin, says Tina, “have been awesome. They have done everything they possibly can — and they’re creating new ideas every day.

“I was kind of taken back at first,” she reveals. “I really didn’t know how to accept a lot of things, and Zoe and the crew down there have just made me realize that this is part of life, and we’re going to deal with this — and we’re going to help you. It was kind of like they took us under their wing and decided they were our family and that they were going to look out for us.”

For more information, call Man’s Ruin at 253-6660 or Tina Tribbey at 252-2355.

— Lisa Watters

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