Every year, the 236 members of the Georgia General Assembly gather in Atlanta, and more often than not, one legislative initiative or another will draw the ire of Georgia citizens, here and elsewhere around the state.

Sadly, most of that frustration surfaces only after the legislature has taken action on whatever issue had captured the public imagination. And perhaps even more sadly, any number of fingers get pointed at local media, with people wondering why they hadn’t seen anything reported about the issue at hand.

Almost invariably, though, people like me — and my counterparts at other media outlets — will be able to point to any number of news stories, not to mention editorials, about the issue.

The plain truth is that when it comes to the state legislature, most people aren’t paying all that much attention. Often, that means laws get passed that maybe wouldn’t have if folks had taken time to read the always-extensive media coverage of the legislature and had then gotten in touch with their legislator and other influential members of the General Assembly.

With this year’s legislative session set to begin on Jan. 13, I’m taking a moment to suggest that paying attention to what will be going on in Atlanta might be just a bit more important than focusing on the next episode of “Duck Dynasty” or “Downtown Abbey.”

Before the session begins, please take a moment to become familiar with the legislature’s website, http://www.legis.ga.gov. There, you’ll find contact information for all legislators, live and archived video from many legislative proceedings, a listing of bills under consideration, and the status of those bills, including how lawmakers voted.

As far as media coverage is concerned, in addition to our own local coverage of this area’s legislators, the Athens Banner-Herald and OnlineAthens.com will feature reporting from the Capitol by veteran Morris News Service political reporter Walter Jones.

INFLUENTIAL COLUMNISTS, AND MORE: Two Athens Banner-Herald editorial-page columnists — although that’s not their day job — have been named among the state’s most influential or notable citizens in Georgia Trend magazine’s annual listing.

Dink NeSmith, president and co-owner of Community Newspapers, Inc., which publishes 25 newspapers in three states — Georgia, Florida and North Carolina — was named to the magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential Georgians. In addition to his newspaper work, NeSmith serves as a member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. NeSmith’s columns appear on Saturdays.

Another columnist who appears regularly in the Banner-Herald, and in other newspapers around the state, was also recognized by Georgia Trend. Dick Yarbrough, an enthusiastic supporter of the University of Georgia, was listed among a number of notable Georgians.

The Georgia Trend list of the state’s 100 Most Influential Georgians also included a number of other Athenians, or people with strong ties to the Athens area. New UGA President Jere Morehead is listed, as are University of North Georgia President Bonita Jacobs, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black of Commerce, former Athens-Clarke County commissioner and now south Georgia U.S. Rep. John Barrow, and Athens native Michael Thurmond, now serving as superintendent of DeKalb County schools.

In addition to Yarbrough, other notable Georgians with local and area connections recognized by Georgia Trend are Jennifer Frum, UGA’s vice president for service and outreach; UGA marine sciences professor Samantha Joye, Athens writer Terry Kay and Piedmont College professor and author Barbara Brown Taylor.