Community engagement is welcomed

Published 7:17 am Sunday, April 21, 2024

Recent stories have generated considerable community engagement on social media and in person lately. It is fantastic and rewarding to see our readers discuss local stories.

I’ve always believed one of the goals of journalism and writing stories for the newspaper was to open up channels of dialogue within our community. Conversations are one of the best ways to initiate change and stories play a role in couching those conversations. 

Not all discourse has to be about what Brookhaven needs in regards to businesses. It can be as simple as celebrating the fact our tennis teams are some of the best in the state, praying for a little boy who is fighting cancer and asking questions. 

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It is a huge help when community members ask questions. The story about Aldi coming to town and Save-A-Lot closing may not have developed as quickly if there wasn’t community interest in business stories. Over 300 people commented on the Aldi story which was shared on Facebook. 

To me, it is rewarding when I speak to people who tell me they enjoyed reading an article, had questions about a potential story and I’m able to develop relationships through storytelling. My heart cares for my stories and the people involved in them. 

One person stands out specifically. Sharon Hughes, the mother of Zeb Hughes, initially reached out to The Daily Leader after a bill creating the Zeb Hughes Law died in a senate committee. We were able to write a story from her perspective. It was a story that needed to be told. 

Sen. Jason Barrett reported the story with Sharon Hughes helped him gain support for an amendment to an existing bill to get the Zeb Hughes Law to pass. It passed the House again Wednesday and will now go to the Governor’s desk where it may become law after all. 

I’m grateful to Sharon Hughes for a few reasons. Her willingness to speak about the issue was a Godsend. I try to be careful when reaching out to mothers for stories regarding their children because I think of how my mom would like to be treated by a writer. Sharon Hughes helped by answering questions that I imagine were not easy to answer. 

Her story reminded me of why community journalism is needed. With the exception of one legislation round up article published by the Mississippi Free Press in February, no other outlet has covered the Zeb Hughes Law in the legislature. Yet it is a bill which could be a huge help to Mississippi families. 

Sharon Hughes said she plans to advocate and get the word out about the law. She is picking up the torch and continuing to engage others in conversation. I’m not sure how the story would have unfolded if she had not kept the conversation about the bill going. I’m grateful she did. 

I encourage the community to continue to be engaged in the news and the subsequent conversation. It has been a minute since the last letter to the editor. Do not fret, you can always send an email as the letter to the editor to