“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”—Alphonse Karr, French critic, journalist, and novelist.
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More years ago than I care to remember, a young newspaper writer and photographer sat down to pen his weekly column about being named the paper’s new publisher. Although he had about five years of community newspaper experience under his belt plus seven months at this newspaper, this charge would be his first as a publisher.
That column began, “I’m ready for you, world … is the world ready for me,” sings Kermit the Frog in The Muppet Movie as he heads for California and Hollywood. Being charged with the responsibility of publishing summons me to ask myself, ‘Are you ready?’ The answer to that lies in the fact that here I am writing this column to answer my questions as much as to answer yours.”
“There will be nothing new at your newspaper,” he continued, “other than a new publisher. And since I am neither new to the paper nor the community, the only thing new will be my face in the publisher’s office.” He espoused some basic principles, which he believed to be the foundation of community newspapers. Things like a common interest in the hopes, the fears, the happiness, and the sadness of the community. “Reporting the news, good and bad, fully and objectively, is any newspaper’s highest task and to that end, we fully subscribe.”
“In today’s economy,” he added, “The shopper wants the most for their spending dollar, the merchant wants the best coverage for his or her advertising dollar, and we intend to help both of them achieve just that. There will be no changes there.” He also touched on supporting the local community by shopping at home. “We are all in this together and if the businesses can’t make a profit, they can’t support the community with the product or service you seek.”
Concluding by quoting successful newspaper entrepreneur Carmage Walls, he wrote, “Mr. Walls once said something to the effect that newspapers are owned by the people they serve. The stockholders are merely temporary custodians.” Nothing could be truer; this is your newspaper. Let us know what you want. That will never change.”
Some 30-plus years and a resume of publishing stints later, he was crafting another “I’m the new publisher” column at the same newspaper. This time he wrote, “A line in Ben Kweller’s tune ‘Full Circle’ allows as how the singer is ‘… havin’ fun sittin’ shotgun ’cause I’ve come full circle.’ I can’t escape the music of this business. I’ve left a couple of times not so much by choice, but more so by following my muse. And once again, she has tiptoed up and tapped me on the shoulder while softly crooning her hypnotic song, ‘I’m baaack.'”
And now here I am this week, a few years following those words, once again writing an “I’m the new publisher” column at the very same publication in Center, Texas. This time comes at a period in life when almost everyone in my circle is doing retirement things. However, the Moser Community Media folks who I have known almost all my newspaper life offered me the opportunity to follow the publisher and ad director team of Mike and Stephanie Elswick at The Light and Champion. My response was they will be a very tough act to follow, but I will give it my best.
While I acknowledge the products and methods have changed since I drafted my “no changes” missive decades ago, the mission of community newspapers has not. They may look different, feel different, and in some cases arrive in your home by different means, but they still serve the same community role. The same philosophies I held then remain true today.
The old saying, “the more the things change, the more they stay the same,” comes to mind this time around. Perhaps that has been used as song lyrics as well, but I didn’t research it. We’ll save that for another column.
In the meantime, come see us at The Light and Champion. The coffee is on and that will not change either.
(Newspaper clipping at top of the page: The Center, Texas, East Texas Light, now The Light and Champion, November 11, 1980.)
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