February 20, 2013 - If you've every wondered about the value of community newspapers such as The Oxford Leader, there's a prime example of why we're necessary on Page 1.
I'm referring to the story about James Amato, owner of Midwest Auction Galleries in Oxford Township, being arrested Feb. 12 for allegedly transporting and selling stolen goods – specifically a Korean historical artifact that was allegedly illegally obtained by a U.S. Marine back in 1951 – and making false statements to federal authorities.
The story may be news to you, but it wasn't news to me – or to anyone else who faithfully reads the Leader.
That's because back in July 2010, I penned a story about this when the federal investigation was in its initial stages.
You see I was searching the internet for tidbits about Oxford and its people, as a I frequently do, when all of the sudden, I saw an item in an independent daily newspaper in South Korea called The Hankyoreh.
I read the story, called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to confirm there was an investigation, then interviewed the auction house owner, who was more than willing to talk to me at the time.
Next thing you know, I had an interesting local story with an international angle and it was all reported on the Leader's front page.
I don't recall seeing this story anywhere else back then, except in Korea and Oxford.
Fast-forward to February 2013 and Amato's arrest was reported in all the major daily newspapers, on TV news station websites and even in specialized publications like Crain's Detroit Business.
And the only reason it was out there was because ICE issued a press release. There was no journalist initiative here.
Most of what I read was simply a regurgitation of the press release. It seems like nobody – except for me – bothered to get a copy of the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court, which contained much more detail and made for a better story.
This brings up something that really irked me.
ICE seemed to issue the press release to all the major media outlets, but not the local media, namely the Leader.
In the past, I've received a ton of useless press releases from ICE. They're useless to me in the sense they contained information about crimes and arrests that didn't occur in Oxford or involve anyone from Oxford.
For instance, in April 2011, ICE sent me a press release regarding a bunch of airline employees who were busted as part of an international drug-smuggling ring. It had absolutely nothing to do with Oxford – I checked.
But something happens right in my own backyard involving the owner of a local business and ICE doesn't bother to notify me. I talked to an ICE spokesman and he couldn't understand why we didn't receive a release because the newspaper's e-mail address is in their database.
Oh well, I guess I can't get too upset with ICE because it's a branch of the federal government, which is not exactly well-known for being efficient or helpful.
Can't wait for that "free" health care to really kick in. Better start pricing coffins now.
There, I've vented and feel better.
In the end, I'm just glad I had the story first in 2010 and that I was able to inform local readers about it way before anyone got handcuffs slapped on them.
I'm glad to see Oxford Village is planning to bring the farmers market back to downtown's northwest quadrant.
I'm also glad to see that officials are soliciting input from the surrounding merchants so as to alleviate any potential negative impact the market may have on their sales or operations.
That being said, I completely agree with Councilpersons Elgin Nichols and Sue Bossardet, along with Beadifferent co-owner Mary Lou Bielak, about the type of merchandise that should be sold at this market.
To me, a farmers market should only sell fresh fruits and vegetables, plants and flowers, baked goods (love those pasties and Amish bread), natural products such as honey, and other forms of Mother Nature's bounty.
I don't want to see folks selling items such as clothing, jewelry, toys, etc. That's not a farmers market. That's a flea market and it has no place in downtown Oxford because A) it's really tacky and B) it competes with local merchants who pay property taxes.
A farmers market should complement existing local businesses, not compete with them or distract from them.
It should help attract folks to the downtown area, so hopefully, they'll decide to explore everything those brick-and-mortar stores have to offer.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.