As I attempt to review everything that happened during the year 2008, both personally and with the newspaper, I am almost overwhelmed. Lots of things have taken place, some good, some not so good, but all-in-all, when you put them together, they form a pretty dad-gummed good year.
With no apologies to some certain folks (and they know who they are) I started writing this column during 2008. A couple of events caused me to start thinking about it, none of which many people would probably be interested in, but I’ll share them anyway.
Prior to my column, The New Albany Gazette carried the staff-written weekly news release sent out by then-U.S. Congressman Roger Wicker. All Congressmen’s staffs put out these weekly publications, hoping newspapers will print all the positive information they contain as they tout their bosses accomplishments in the House of Representatives.
Although I never determined how popular or unpopular the Wicker column was, I have heard from several of his supporters who complain I have not treated him well in my column. Nevertheless, I cancelled his column because he suddenly became a candidate for office and in the interest of fairness, had his column continued, I would have been duty-bound to allow his opponent to write one too.
At the same time, we were running a purchased column written by Sid Salter of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger whose political leanings are extremely transparent and whose column is pretty much carried by any and every newspaper who can afford the small fee charged and that needs space to be filled. Salter is quoted a lot because what he writes is seen a lot. His view of Jackson is more than a little cockeyed more than I find appropriate, so his column fell by the wayside too.
Contrary to the opinions and beliefs of some of my detractors in New Albany, I actually have been writing columns, off and on, for many years. My first regular column started appearing in the Sunday morning edition of a daily newspaper of which I was the publisher back in 1980. That column continued until 1985 after winning awards from the Associated Press Managing Editors Association and the Press Association of that state.
All this time, I was also writing editorials, along with my editors at the time, some also winning awards from my peers. However, never at any time would I write a column designed to win such awards. The majority of the time, the columns were about local events, local officials and their activities, so outside of the city and county, not too many folks were interested or inclined to lavish great awards on a column filled with information of interest to such a limited audience. But that’s what a newspaper column should be. Local.
So when faced with the hole in the page left by the absence of then-Congressman Roger Wicker and the Clarion-Ledger’s Sid Salter, I started writing about local things. As a result, during 2008, I managed to touch more than just a few nerves with my observations about exactly how public officials were conducting themselves and the public’s business.
One such public official publicly referred to me as a liar, among other names and aspersions and had his remarks made a part of the official minutes of a Board of Alderman’s meeting. He then made certain that the Tupelo throw-away publication published his remarks. Those remarks were the basis for the birth of Ol’ Slither. I’ve had a couple of calls from relatives of the public official who made the remarks that sired Ol’ Slither, urging me to drop him from his home in the lower right corner of my column. According to them Ol’ Slither is “unprofessional” and “silly.” Neither were this official’s remarks and Ol’ Slither is apparently doing his job of reminding him of his unprofessional behavior
At the same time, there have been some rewarding moments as readers have called and written to share their concerns over issues about which I have written or to confirm conclusions I had made in some situation from which I had received nothing but harsh references from our elected officials. Reader response, good or bad, is what it’s all about.
Anytime anyone expresses an opinion about anything, particularly in the case of a column, the intent is to get others, not necessarily to agree with the opinion, but to start the process of thinking. Once thinking begins, opinions are formed and then the hope is that action will follow.
Corrupt officials and those who continually do not represent the people are afraid of a thinking constituency and horrified at the thought of the voters taking action on their own. The good ole’ boys want to stay in control, they don’t want you to think, they don’t want you to take any action, they want you to continue to blindly accept what they give you.
If you want to leave everything alone and continue the status quo, then you will not enjoy reading this column.. Our cities and county have lots of work to do and my goal is to see that we do things legally and for all the people’s benefit.
The Lord willing, this column will continue in 2009.