Sunday column: You Tube hasn’t been kind to Lee County

The Internet hasn’t been what I’d call terribly kind to Sanford and Lee County over the past 14 months — in other words, ever since I got here.
Of course, I’m referring to videos that have “leaked” onto YouTube.com since I’ve been here — one showing high school students at Lee County High School staging “brawls” in the boys’ restrooms and other, more recent video allegedly shot by police officers during one of the county’s largest drug busts in history. I promise, I had nothing to do with either of them.
In fact, that first video was my introduction to covering Lee County Schools, and let’s just say I didn’t get off on the right foot with this community. I’ll always remember sitting in on my first (and last) meeting of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors and hearing from a city councilman that the newspaper published that story to make the school district and the community look bad … not because it was “news,” mind you.
It was at that moment that I began to wonder what I got myself into, as to me, it was a big deal that students were beating each other up (whether playfully or maliciously, it didn’t matter) and putting it online for the whole world to see.
But don’t think I harbor any ill will or deep-down animosity toward the aforementioned councilman … we get along just fine. And as for the Chamber, well, anybody who knows me knows I love the Chamber, and for obvious reasons.
Needless to say, the YouTube brawls were not great publicity for the community. Neither was the recent video of the drug bust, which lawyers are currently using to try to get a dismissal of charges
against the men involved in the bust, because the video was never entered into evidence.
I’m not pretending to know every tiny detail of the case, but if this doesn’t go to trial because of a silly video, then that’s just an abomination of justice.
But it shows the power of the Internet. One click of the “video upload” button, and lives can be changed forever. Unfortunately, the face of a community can be changed as well.
If you visit YouTube today and search “Sanford NC” in the “search” box, a vast array of videos will appear, many of which were actually created by me and the staff at The Herald — including Bill Clinton’s visit, local political debates, reporter Gordon Anderson getting
tasered and reporter Jonathan Owens downing a four-pound hamburger in 29 minutes.
Fun stuff.
Beyond that, there isn’t a ton about Sanford that would actually attract somebody here, and I assure you, people who are looking to move to this area look at sites like YouTube to see what it looks
like. Aside from an unintentionally hilarious pro-wrestling video shot in Sanford, a minute of video shot driving down U.S. 1 (riveting), clips of high school marching bands, video from Temple Theatre
performances and a few more interesting videos scattered throughout, there’s nothing really on there that screams “Come to Sanford!”
Now do a search for “Southern Pines NC,” and you’ll find videos from local photographers who’ve put up slideshows depicting the area’s beauty. If you can filter past all the Chatham County meeting and Kay Hagan campaigning videos, a search for “Pittsboro NC” reveals some
telling clips of life there.
Sanford and Lee County lack a true “tourism” department, and there just aren’t enough people out there telling the world that this isn’t a bad place to live at all.
We’re much more than a giant drug bust. We’re much more than high school boys getting their noses busted on campus. We’re much more than wrasslin’.
We’re a community with a great location, friendly people, solid schools, lots of greenspace and plenty of natural beauty. Let’s start getting that out there.
I’m not saying everybody pick up a video camera and start downloading images of trees. But c’mon … there has to be a few of you eager to show off what our area has to offer.
I know I’ve done my part by uploading the cheeseburger video.

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6 thoughts on “Sunday column: You Tube hasn’t been kind to Lee County

  1. If we ever get in the moving mode, Sanford would be on our SHORT LIST as a GREAT place to live.

    We have visited Sanford a couple of times since Jennifer and you moved there. It is a a super place to visit, the folks in Sanford are first class.

  2. Another point — when people Google Sanford, they also find our local bloggers who are talking about the things that we like about Sanford and what we’re doing while we’re out and about town! I know I get hits from all over the world from people who do searches with “Sanford NC” as one of the criteria – as well as those who google the Temple Theater, Davison’s Steaks, and a ton of other Sanford specific topics. And when they get to my site, they link to the other local bloggers I have in my blog roll. I know that must be the same for all of us!

    So, we can be good ambassadors by talking about events and downtown and the countryside – things that people who are wondering about Sanford as a place to live or visit and what the people here are like! The more local bloggers we get that provide a good view of Sanford from a citizen’s perspective, the better the picture will be for those who google us! What better way for someone who is curious to hear what it is like to enjoy Sanford than straight from the horse’s mouth?

  3. It is a shame that I have to go to YouTube to find videos of City Council meetings… why aren’t they posted directly on the City’s webpage? I think this just shows that the City does not yet understand the power of the internet + video. Maybe that’s why we don’t have a .. “a true ‘tourism’ department”

  4. This is a good point, and exactly what I thought about when I saw the same story about the “drug bust video” on WRAL last night 😦

    It’s too bad that we don’t have a concerted official effort to get content out there, but there is definitely an opportunity for folks to take quick videos of hikes to Endor Furnace, walks around historic areas, kayaking on local rivers, etc.

    I agree that sites like YouTube offer an excellent marketing opportunity. I’ve tried to promote Sanford on the City-Data forums, via the Wikipedia entry, various blogs, and other sites. But perhaps this is another venue we should leverage.

    Al

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