Gerber: Fangs bared in Best Town smackdown

Competitors head toward the Market Street Bridge during the RiverRocks canoe and kayak races in 2013.
photo Alison Gerber is editor and director of content for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. She joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2003 and has served as assistant metro editor, metro editor and managing editor. She has been editor of the newspaper since 2011. Prior to joining the Times Free Press, Gerber was a reporter in Florida. She covered city hall, crime and education at the Naples Daily News and the Fort Myers News-Press. She is married with a 9-year-old daughter. When Gerber is not in the newsroom, she spends her time cooking, gardening and running with her dog. Reach her at or @aligerb or 423-757-6408.

So things got kinda ugly in the Chattanooga vs. Boone and the Chattanooga vs. Port Angeles contest.

In the grand scheme of things, the Outside magazine contest for the Best Town Ever wasn't that important. In the news last week, more candidates jumped into the 2016 presidential race, parts of the Patriot Act expired, and it was revealed that the Obama administration expanded the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance of American citizens.

Important stuff for sure.

Yet everywhere I turned, people were talking about how their city was gonna take down Boone and bury Port Angeles. Well, that and Caitlyn Jenner.

In case you were in Siberia last week and missed all the hubbub, here's a quick catch-up: Chattanooga defeated Boone, N.C., in the March Madness-style tournament's semifinals and then battled Port Angeles, Wash., in the title match. Chattanooga won the title, based on online voting, in 2011, and getting it back seemed a matter of civic pride for many Chattanoogans, who took to social media to talk up their town and plead for votes.

But the competition turned sour after Boone supporters launched a campaign under the hashtag #ABC -- Anyone But Chattanooga. It seems some (or all) Boone residents were offended by a column published at Columnist Jay Greeson wrote a typically Greeson shoot-from-the-lip piece May 22 about why Chattanooga is better than Boone.

A sampling of his comments that some Boonies thought were overly snarky:

"... To think that Boone would deserve to beat us is staggeringly simplistic."

"When it comes to outdoor distinction, we do not need to belittle ourselves in a Twitter battle with the likes of Boone, N.C. for crying out loud. That would be like Meryl Streep begging for social media support against Kim Kardashian ..."

A Boone-supporting blogger, James Chatham of The Daily Wit, shot back with a defense of Boone and a snippy critique of Chattanooga, a city he says he's never visited.

"Aside from a name that sounds like phlegm discharge, it is also the birthplace of the tow truck," he wrote.

He refers to Greeson's column this way: "... A scathing article was written about Boone in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, a newspaper that evidently chose its name by letting its interns pick their four favorite words ..."

And he ends his column this way: "We have a population of around 17,000, roughly one tenth the size of Chattanooga. This means a city a fraction of your size is giving you a run for your money (prompting more than one article in your local newspaper) and I think that's hilarious."

The badmouthing didn't stop there. There were accusations that Port Angeles used "robo-voting" after it pulled in 8,000 votes in one hour. And supporters of each town bickered for days. West Coasters claimed Chattanooga is still a polluted factory town and that you can't catch halibut here. Chattanoogans set the record straight, pointing out that the Volkswagen plant is LEED certified. Oh, and some even offered that you can catch catfish here.

Meanwhile, while this online smackdown wore on, Outside magazine likely saw views of its website,, climb higher than Donald Trump's hair in a stiff breeze.

All the online bickering and social media campaigning and newspaper stories certainly helped give publicity to Chattanooga, Boone and Port Angeles. It also gave a bunch of free marketing and advertising to Outside magazine (which is a fine publication) and sent tons of traffic to its website. A savvy, if a little gimmicky, move in the era of digital media.


In other news, Chattanoogans are Riverbending this weekend. If you haven't already done so, check out for all things Riverbend. You'll find stories on the headliners, behind-the-scenes write-ups and videos on the festival, a full lineup schedule, Picks of the Day and Spotify playlists of the acts from reporters Barry Courter and Casey Phillips, photo slideshows of the artists and daily photo updates from the festival, both by our photographers and submitted by readers.

Alison Gerber is editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at or (423) 757-6408 and @aligerb.