Fielder's Choice

Community journalism

I answered the telephone at the office the other day and the caller said, "Hey, I need to run something in your paper."

It ended up being a classified advertisement. I took the ad and thanked him.

Yet during the conversation and afterwards I kept thinking about what he called The South Reporter ­ "your paper."

Ironically, a few days after that my good friend and mentor in the newspaper business, Rubye Del Harden, forwarded me an article from The Itawamba County Times. It was very well written by Teresa Blake.

The headline read ­ `It's their paper': 75 years later, Delmus Harden's legacy lives on in the pages of the paper he created, but never truly owned."

The feature story was in recognition of the purchase of The Times on June 15,1945, by Delmus Harden and Elzie Wright. Four months later, Harden bought out Wright's portion of the publication and he became the sole owner, publisher and editor.

I didn't know Delmus Harden. But I was blessed to walk into the legacy he created in 1986. His daughter, Rubye Del, hired me to be the sports editor of The Itawamba County Times. I was two years out of college and still learning.

As it turned out, I learned from the best and in the best place as far as community journalism goes.

I found out there's much more to it than putting out a paper each week. It's about community building ­ being a partner in progress.

It's about reporting all the news, whether it's someone who brings in a large watermelon and wants his picture taken or a board of supervisors meeting.

In the feature written by Teresa Blake, she interviewed Delmus Harden's daughters, Rosa Lee and Rubye Del. They recalled lots of fond memories of their father and the newspaper.

"Once, I was answering the phone on a night when the paper was late coming off the press," Rubye Del Harden said. "Of course, everyone wanted to know when `their' paper would be ready. I turned to Daddy and said, `Don't they know this is your paper?''

His reply, she said, was as definite as a period: "Young lady, it's their paper. Never forget that."

Delmus Harden went on to tell his daughter ­ "If everyone doesn't know it's their paper, we aren't doing a good job of publishing a community newspaper."

I certainly cut my community journalism teeth at The Itawamba County Times. I may have had the title of sports editor initially but I was soon doing it all. That included catching newspapers as they came off the press, selling advertising, covering breaking news stories, and getting involved in community activities and leadership roles.

The Itawamba Times, then under Rubye Del Harden's leadership, groomed me. And from there I became a publisher for the first time at the young age of 28.

From that day, for the past 30 years, I've tried to follow the Delmus Harden textbook, taught to me by his daughter, for successfully running a community newspaper.

For certain, The South Reporter is your newspaper. We're just blessed to be able to pull everything together for you each week.

Holly Springs South Reporter

P.O. Box 278
Holly Springs, MS 38635
PH: (662) 252-4261
FAX: (662) 252-3388

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