Thursday, April 5, 2012
From sad to glad
I went from being stunned and saddened Monday of last week to being extremely happy on Friday – all concerning the same topic.
First, I received word March 26 that the Laurel Leader-Call was closing.
I did a double-take and a triple-take when I opened the e-mail. Then my eyes started watering and I was sick at my stomach.
I was fortunate to be the publisher of the Leader-Call for two years (1999-2001). My family has many great memories of the fine city and its people.
The newspaper has a rich tradition. It was founded August 11, 1911, as the Laurel Daily Argus, and later changed its name to the Laurel Daily Leader, and then in 1930, to the Laurel Leader-Call.
It was purchased by a subsidiary of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., an Alabama-based media company, in 1999.
When I was leading an outstanding and dedicated staff at the Leader-Call, it was a seven-day-a-week newspaper. Six months ago CNHI reduced publication to four days – Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.
Thursday, March 29, the last edition of the Leader-Call was published. Eighteen employees, a few of who worked at the newspaper when I was there, were suddenly without jobs. One of those, Bert Miller, a very special lady I might add, had worked at the Leader-Call for 65 years.
I found out via Facebook from another long-time employee, Jean Prine, that lots of folks from the community visited the newspaper office Thursday with thanks and well wishes. Many even wanted their last editions signed – many by Ms. Bert.
I wish I could have been there.
I won’t comment much on the reason for the closing itself, except to say that large corporate groups like CNHI operate differently. I worked with many good folks in the company and learned a great deal in my two years at Laurel, but left its employment abruptly not knowing what was next for me. As it turned out, next was a blessing – Holly Springs and The South Reporter.
All week, no matter where I was and what I was doing, a part of my mind was on the Leader-Call and its employees and the city, which deserves a good community newspaper.
Friday afternoon, my prayers, and those of lots of other people, were answered.
I received an e-mail saying that Wyatt Emmerich was starting a new paper in Laurel, to be called The Chronicle. Plans are for it to publish three days a week initially – Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
It was also announced that he would be hiring all 18 employees of the former Leader-Call.
I shouted “hallelujah.” It was wonderful news.
Before leaving the office that afternoon, I telephoned Wyatt and got his voice mail. I left him a message filled with “thank yous.”
The president of Emmerich Newspapers and a regular columnist in The South Reporter knows how to operate successful community newspapers. His company publishes 25, primarily in Mississippi. He is a third generation Emmerich publisher.
The Leader-Call, in name, is gone. But I believe the best newspaper days in Laurel are yet to come.
Again, thank you, Wyatt.
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