Partnership is key to newspaper’s role

Published 7:00am Sunday, November 17, 2013

Over the last few weeks, I have described the welcome we have received since making Brookhaven our home. That welcome continues, and Barbara and I appreciate all of you reaching out to us.

We have closed on our new home and have local contractor Hugh Mathis and his mighty crew painting and hammering away. We hope to be in and unpacked in time to set up our Christmas tree and enjoy this wonderful time of the year with our older son and his fiancé and younger son and daughter-in- law.

Many of you have asked about my newspaper career and any plans I may have for changing or improving The Daily Leader. My career is easy to talk about, and I can assure you it has been great fun and interesting. Changing and improving The Daily Leader is, while a good question, much tougher to respond to.

For more than 131 years this newspaper has provided a road map and served as a mirror of Brookhaven and southwestern Mississippi. We employ and have provided opportunities for many individuals and families during those years. We plan to continue this tradition.

Many of you have commented this week about my column last week that talked about how “a newspaper needs its community and a community needs its newspaper.”

Looking back on my newspaper career, I have experienced many examples of what I will describe as a partnership between a newspaper and its community. That partnership requires compassion, honest and open communication, trust and support from both.

Readers want good local coverage of news and events important to them. Rachel Eide and her news staff work hard each and every day to provide you with as complete a report as possible. Your part in that partnership can be to tell us the stories you want to see.

As a paperboy in my hometown, I had the good fortune to deliver a daily paper to almost all of my neighbors. Many times, while going door to door to collect 35 cents, I would be asked if I could ask the editor to write a story about a person or neighborhood event. Since I knew the editor wanted me to relay that message, and that my customer would ask him if I did, I always did. He always wrote that story. There’s that partnership.

I assure you that throughout my career I have remembered that important lesson, and I have always tried to write that story. One of my favorite comments to news editors and reporters is as follows: “If someone feels strongly enough to call or bring us a story or idea, then we certainly should feel as strongly about getting it in the paper.”

There’s that partnership.

A personal example of community trust came for me when my family and I visited with family friends serving as missionaries in Peru. We all enjoyed that trip and the opportunity to see a wonderful country and beautiful people.

Now here’s how trust works in that partnership.

I wrote a story about our trip and included a sidebar (that’s a box inside the story that gives a bit more information). The sidebar explained that our friends needed donations to secure New Testaments to leave behind with some of the native tribes they were visiting. Each villager cherished the opportunity to have his or her personal New Testament. My community trusted the newspaper and me enough to donate monies to make a large purchase.

I am sure that across the 131 years of service, the compassion of the families that have published The Leader, there have been many similar stories. My experience is just one way a newspaper can partner with its community to make a better quality of life for all. There are many others. You can help us as we attempt to improve your newspaper.

To make this partnership work, in this rapidly changing technological world of instant communications, we need support from local businesses that want to advertise. The Daily Leader needs readers and subscribers that will read and recommend stories. We need civic leaders, church and social groups, government and education officials, and YOU to remain a successful and vital partnership.

Our entire staff of dedicated employees stands ready to deliver our contribution to the partnership. One-hundred thirty-one years of community support indicate to me that you stand ready, also.

My career has been made much more rewarding because of the avenue of community service.

How to change and improve an already great community newspaper …

Well, that will be determined by that PARTNERSHIP!

Otis Raybon is the publisher of The Daily Leader. Contact him at otis.raybon@dailyleader.com or (601) 833-6961.