My life has been intertwined with newspapers for as long as I can remember.
As a little boy, I loved retrieving the newspaper from the bright-orange box at the end of the driveway and looking at the pictures. I was especially excited when my dad, a police officer, was mentioned or pictured in the paper, and I still remember the first time – in the second grade, after winning a spelling bee – that I saw my own name in print. It was exhilarating.
I caught the reporting bug shortly thereafter, and I loved to hold mock interviews with my grandparents after school. In about the fourth grade, I founded my own newspaper at my church. It was called Kids R Us and focused on my friends and our adventures. I think it ran for an issue or two, and I remember designing it in Microsoft Word and even selling ads for it.
In 2005, at the age of 15, I accepted my first newspaper job as a community correspondent for The Daily Leader newspaper in my hometown of Brookhaven, Mississippi. For the next six years, I wrote a weekly column covering the goings-on of my small community, East Lincoln, and I dutifully covered every church potluck dinner, school reunion and new resident I could find.
When I wasn’t reporting live from my neck of the woods, I was in the paper’s newsroom typing obituaries, reviewing copy, answering phones and, eventually, writing stories ranging from the latest antics of the local legislative delegation to a bank robber on a bicycle. (Yes, the “Bicycle Bandit” was eventually caught, but not before I filed several stories on the topic.)
I fell in love with newspapers during that time, and I also learned their importance. Newspapers are more than ink on paper; they tell a community’s good news, help neighbors connect with one another and serve as a watchdog for local governments. They provide an incredibly valuable public service.
Those six years of on-the-job training provided me with a first-class education in journalism and reinforced my passion for writing and telling stories. My early experiences in a newsroom also opened an avalanche of professional opportunities for me, and, in 2010, I was recruited to Hattiesburg as the new editor-in-chief of William Carey University’s student newspaper, The Cobbler.
I was involved with Carey’s newspaper for another six years, including three as editor and three as adviser, and my work in its pages landed me my first full-time job as Carey’s marketing specialist. My career detoured into public relations and marketing for a few years, but the desire to return to my first love of newspapers was never far away.
So, I was thrilled when David Gustafson asked me to be the new managing editor of HubCitySPOKES and to help mold the pages of this newspaper and of Signature Magazine. You may have heard that newspapers are a dying breed, but I submit the paper you are reading now as evidence contrary to that opinion. The PineBelt NEWS is a strong, community-based newspaper, and David and his team have positioned it for long-term success in a challenging media landscape.
Our community needs, and deserves, a community newspaper, and The PineBelt NEWS is glad to be yours. I ask that you support our work, buy advertising for your businesses, encourage your friends to subscribe, and, most importantly, share your stories with us. We are looking forward to a bright future, and we know we can depend on our community.