Good to be back in the business
No one is more surprised than I am that I am writing this column.
Born to a newspaper family, I grew up in the community newspaper business. One of my very earliest childhood memories is "helping" my father with the job press he ran in the back of his newspaper. I don't recall, but have often been told of the being tucked into a bed made of his overcoat on the sidelines of a local football game after I tired of following him up and down the sidelines on Friday night.
As an adolescent, I swore I would never do this work. As a teen, I began to embrace it.
Daddy was very proud when I chose journalism as a college major and became a fourth-generation practitioner of an often-thankless art. Early on, we agreed -- or at least I decreed and he accepted -- that we were cut from the same cloth and probably would not work well together.
So instead of going home to Elba, I went to Alexander City, then north to Russellville, and in 1990, to Atmore. In 1998, I left the paper. You will recall that was a flood year. Like Brewton, Elba suffered. I spent a few months helping my parents produce a newspaper in one small borrowed room with makeshift tables and hastily purchased computers.
I took a break. Stocked my pantry with homemade jelly, pickles and relish; put up peas and butterbeans; read some good books and got good and bored before accepting a great job opportunity at Jeff Davis Community College. For the past six years, I've had one of the most rewarding jobs for which anyone could hope. I loved working with the students, instructors and the professional staff, and had planned to work there for a very long time.
But. Like The Bear once said, "Momma called." His phone call was from The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Mine also was from Tuscaloosa -- Boone Newspapers, the parent company of The Brewton Standard.
Leaving the college was one of the toughest decisions I've ever made. Susan McBride is an excellent leader; Sherry Martin has been a wonderful boss. Both of them care about employees in ways I hope to emulate.
But as much as I loved working with students, this business is my blood. In the end, I thought about the myriad of materials I've read and the presentations I've given about how students should choose careers and chose to follow sound career advice: Do the work you were born to do.
I love the smell of a building in which monstrous-looking machines marry newsprint and ink. I am awed that a small group of imperfect humans can collect information as varied as classified ads scratched out on the backs of envelopes, barely-legible reporters' notes, emails and phone calls and manage to package it all into a single product delivered to your front yard while you sleep.
I believe that a community newspaper is a public entity in which readers and advertisers are stakeholders. I hope that as a reader, you will take an active role in the newspaper by calling us with news tips and story ideas, letting us know what you like or dislike, what we should change. I believe that strong newspapers make stronger communities, and that that is the business we should be about.
While I have worked almost every day in Brewton for the past six years, I am excited to more formally be a part of a community that possesses tremendous pride and awesome potential, a community people love enough to devote their time, money and talents to improve, and I look forward to working with each of you.