City, newspaper, family share in rich history

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 18, 2008

There are several landmark events being celebrated locallyduring 2008.

Brookhaven officially kicked off its 150th anniversary lastweek, marking a yearlong celebration of this community’s deephistory. Another landmark event is the celebration of The DAILYLEADER’s 125th year of publication, as well as the 50th year theJacobs family has published the newspaper.

Each one of these birthdays is a significant event – milestonesin this area’s history and ones that our family is very proud tohave been a part. This area has been good to us and we hope we havereturned the favor. The fact that 50 years has passed indicatesmany of you agree.

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It was not easy for my father to pick up his young family andmove to rural Mississippi in the 1950s. It was not with completelyopen arms that some in this community embraced us when he took thereins of one of the two local weekly newspapers then serving thearea. We were outsiders, some thought troublemakers, arriving at avery difficult time in Mississippi history.

His and my mother’s stubborn perseverance in those years sowedthe seeds of success, and their adopted state and community havebeen home ever since.

There are only five family owned daily newspapers left inMississippi and fewer than a couple hundred across the UnitedStates. It is this community’s support that allows that distinctionto continue. We thank you.

Until the mid-1970s, little changed in the technology thatallowed a newspaper to be printed.

Prior to the first typesetting computers we installed at thetime, newspaper production was a long, hard and dirty process.Little had changed since Gutenberg invented the printing press in1450.

Then, when technology started changing, it changed very quickly.We now have high-speed full color presses that consume over 300tons of newsprint each year. Computers have taken over the heavylifting, but it still takes a dedicated and well-educated staff tokeep everything operating efficiently.

In 1958, there were fewer than 15 people on the newspaper staff.Today, we have almost 50 staff members plus another 25 contractnewspaper carriers. One of those staffer who was there in thoseearly days – Bob Ferrell – is still part of our operationtoday.

In 1883 when B.T. Hobbs founded the Leader it was only he andhis wife Lena who edited and hand cranked the press.

What started out as a four-page weekly publication on Feb. 22,1883, has turned into a daily newspaper that averages 14 to 16pages per day and publishes six days a week, as well as an Internetedition that has over 150,000 viewers per month.

The advent of the Internet, however, has changed things for us -some good, some not so good.

The Internet is changing the way we do business, for we have tobe more reactive. A story we might have taken more time to researchand write in the past now must be written more quickly. In thisinstant communication world we live, very rarely do we break a newsstory any more; our stories now are more of a historicalnature.

As the Internet changes the way we do business and the wayreaders receive their news, there are those who think the days ofour industry are numbered, that newspapers are going the way of thedinosaur. In the large metropolitan areas times are tough. But inthe community newspaper business – the small towns across thecountry – that is far from the story.

So as 2008 marks significant milestones, we wish our community a”Happy Birthday” and wonder what things will be like in 2033 whenwe celebrate the 175th, 150th and 75th anniversaries of ourrespective histories.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602,or send e-mail to