Tapping into the local debate

In the days before commenting on websites, Facebook and other social-media platforms, Mountain Xpress got readers talking each week. Every issue featured two, three and sometimes four commentaries, often from wildly different worldviews. The Aug. 31, 1994, Xpress featured four, including the first “Gospel According to Jerry [Sternberg].”

Readers reacted strongly to Sternberg’s support for tough discipline and Owen High School Principal Fred Ivey, who had been fired for such actions as allegedly punching a student. One reader accused Sternberg of taking “a cheap shot” at the boys who had been involved in the central incident, although another concluded, “Mr. Sternberg is entitled to his opinion.”

In the ensuing weeks, the letters kept coming. In the Sept. 14 issue, local activist Monroe Gilmour took Sternberg to task, accusing him of bravado and being misinformed and asking if he knew about efforts by the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council to investigate what had been happening at Owen. On Sept. 21, a Black Mountain resident wrote, “Sternberg [has] subjected Mountain Xpress readers to a warped, moralistic reminiscence of a father who believed that if one beating was good, two were better.” And the week following, another reader wrote, “Mr. Sternberg’s father must have hit him on the wrong end a few times in that old woodshed.”

Some other topics that Xpress commentators covered generated lots of feedback: Meredith Hunt’s anti-abortion crusade, the UNC Asheville development of Chestnut Ridge and the economic benefits of tourism. As a policy, Xpress remained committed to including views that might seem anathema to fellow locals, though.

By the way, Sternberg still writes for Xpress.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.