Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

Honoring Mr. Milan

Community columnists help define community newspapers.

I’ve had them in every weekly newspaper I’ve ever published – from the South Fulton News, to the Mantachie News, to the Wren News, to the Bartahatchie News. And, of course, here at The South Reporter we have several community columnists, including Henderson Milan.

Mr. Milan is retiring after 72 years of writing the Holly Springs News. Staff writer Linda Jones did a front page story on him a couple of weeks back. This Friday, April 29, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., the newspaper will host a reception for Mr. Milan at our office, 157 South Center Street. Friends of Mr. Milan are invited to the “come-and-go” event as we honor Mr. Milan for his many years of dedicated service to The South Reporter and our city.

It’s simply amazing – to stop and think that this man has been either hand-writing or typing his column for more than 70 years. He started at age 12. It’s a tremendous accomplishment – one very deserving of more recognition than we can hand out.

And he was still typing it, on a manual typewriter, up until just a few weeks ago. Last year Linda Jones delivered a “new” typewriter to his house, courtesy of the newspaper, when his old one stopped functioning.

I recall going to an American Press Institute (API) seminar back in the early ’80s when I working at The Itawamba County Times in Fulton. I was there with weekly newspaper editors from across the United States.

One of the requirements was to send in copies of the paper ahead of time, so they could be critiqued.

In discussions about the various weekly newspapers during the week-long seminar, some editors didn’t understand the purpose of the community news. Some thought it to be a bit ridiculous. Some even laughed.

I quickly told them that perhaps many items could be left out of the weekly newspaper each week but one of those was not the community news. People want the community news, and they read the community news – every week.

I’ve been screamed at many times in this business, but the loudest was likely when I left out a community writer’s column once at a previous newspaper. And it wasn’t by the columnist. It was one of her many faithful readers.

The community news column is small-town journalism at its best – who visited who, who went on a trip last week, who had a party, who is on the sick list, and which church is having revival this week and so on and so forth. You can’t find that in the big city newspapers anywhere.

Another thing that got some laughs at the API seminar was a picture of a two-headed calf we published in The Itawamba County Times – just another fine example of community journalism – like dead deer and dead snakes and such. One guy even brought a dead armadillo to The Itawamba County Times office once for a photo.

Mr. Milan is a unique individual and his writings in the Holly Springs News the past 72 years are unique, too. They are part of the history of our community, which we record each week in the pages of this newspaper.

Mr. Milan, in my mind, is an institution.

He’s defines everything that’s good when it comes to publishing a community newspaper.

We love him, and we already miss getting his weekly articles, as do his thousands of readers. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Milan.

Please stop by this Friday afternoon and help us honor one of the best community columnists to ever grace the pages of any weekly newspaper anywhere, and more importantly, help us honor one of the finest gentleman in our community – period.

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