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About Smoke Signals

Smoke Signals newspaper took root more than 48 years ago when Atlanta visionary Tom Cousins created a mountain paradise called Big Canoe.

Cousin’s creation attracted high energy, nature loving professionals who brought their skills and talents to the new community. In the early 1970s these early residents started the neighborly tradition of sharing information about the community and surrounding area through a one-page newsletter they mimeographed and passed around. They named their creation to honor the generations of Native Americans who once called this land home.

In 1989 Smoke Signals editors reached out to Big Canoe’s Home Owners Association (HOA) to manage and support Smoke Signals. With Big Canoe editors and contributors writing all the content, the HOA arranged for the Pickens County Progress to produce Smoke Signals monthly newspaper. The HOA board—true to its promise—provided financial oversight but never interfered with editorial decisions or content.

Since those early days, Smoke Signals has continuously served the Big Canoe community and has expanded its content to Dawson and Pickens counties. The first website——called Smoke Signals Online was introduced in 2000 followed by Smoke Signals Weekly in 2018 and now a brand new expanded website——in 2020.

In 2009, a small group of Big Canoe residents redesigned the newspaper, created an advertising department, expanded distribution, added new articles and reached out to volunteer contributors. More than 55 Big Canoe volunteer contributors and staff work together each month to create a community newspaper that typically includes more than 100 original, local articles. Smoke Signals is totally supported by advertising and receives no outside support. It has always been free.

Since 2015 Smoke Signals Community Services, Inc., a nonprofit 501 c (4) has owned and managed Smoke Signals and related publications/websites formerly owned by Big Canoe’s Home Owners’ Association until the HOA merged with Big Canoe’s POA.

The Smoke Signals brand includes:

  • Smoke Signals, an award-winning monthly print publication with a 20,000 readership across seven counties. A member of the Georgia Press Association since 2009, Smoke Signals received GPA’s Award of Excellence in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.  Professional editors/reporters, expert columnists and contributors generate content that features Big Canoe, Dawson and Pickens counties and north Georgia.
  • Smoke Signals Weekly, a digital edition sent to more than 3,000 online subscribers on Wednesdays. SSW covers timely relevant news, updates and breaking news.
  •, a new website with greatly expanded news coverage leverages the Town News content management platform to bring continuously updated local, state, national, sports and entertainment news to readers. The news feeds are tailored to the interests of north Georgia readers.
  • Big Canoe Directory, an annual publication for the Big Canoe POA featuring information about the community and surrounding areas as well as resident information and local advertising. The directory is only available to Big Canoe property owners but the advertising section is available on

What Smoke Signals looks for . . .

News Section

Barbara Schneider, managing editor

Deadlines average from 15th to 20th of the month

  • Timely, relevant news about North Georgia
  • Compelling feature story ideas
  • Information, trends, changes with the broadest interest that may impact our area

Arts and Entertainment section

Melissa Lowrie, editor,

Average deadline dates run from the 11th through the 17th of the month

  • Shows, including readings, exhibits, plays and concerts
  • Upcoming events/festival
  • Auditions 

Living section

Anita Rosen, editor,

Living section deadlines run from the 5th through the 14th of the month

  • News about Big Canoe clubs, Big Canoe Chapel and social events
  • Lifestyle feature stories
  • Lifestyle columns (e.g., food, health, etc.)

Sports and Outdoors

Melissa Lowrie and Anita Rosen, co-editors

S&O deadlines run from the 2nd through 11th of the month

  • News about Big Canoe and North Georgia sports
  • Columns on sports, pets and gardening
  • New about clubs and committees concerned with outdoors and the environment

Business news

Wayne Tidwell, sr. business writer,

Deadlines average from 15th to 20th of the month

  • New, expanding or changing business
  • New products and/or services
  • Special events and activities

Smoke Signals Weekly

A Wednesday morning online version of Smoke Signals

Barbara Schneider, SSW editor

Deadlines Thursday for the following Wednesday

  • Timely information about local news, activities
  • Local arts, music and theater productions
  • Special cultural and charitable events