Five years ago tomorrow, I arrived in New Albany to help out at the Gazette while a search was conducted for a new publisher. My job description at the time was “roving publisher,” meaning I was to go where I was needed to fill in when a vacancy occurred in the company, which owned more than 50 newspapers.
New Albany was to be a three-month gig. I was to get things running as smoothly as possible for a new publisher, and then move on to do the same thing in another community. But I took a liking to the Gazette and the town, and accepted an offer from the company to give up nomadic life and make New Albany home. (The next assignment would have been in New Mexico, as it turned out.)
A lot has happened in five years. I was thinking about that last week as I was hearing from a number of you about how much you enjoy New Albany Magazine, which just completed its third year of publication with the spring/summer issue. Most cities our size don’t have a glossy city magazine, but New Albany Magazine continues to grow in advertiser and reader support.
We took a chance on starting it after Explore Magazine – our annual guide of places to see, things to do and where to eat – proved so successful. Next month we will publish our fifth edition, which was started with the help of local businesses, Baptist Memorial Hospital, and other groups who believed New Albany needed a quality, glossy product for marketing the area. Today it’s regarded as the best in the state.
The success of these what we call “niche” publications prompted us to add glossy high-school sports previews showcasing all of the sports (and all of the students who play them) in our city and county schools, as well as guides to the Union County Fair and Tallahatchie RiverFest.
A lot of change has occurred in the newspaper, too. Even the ownership has changed. Last October, Journal Inc., which publishes the daily newspaper in Tupelo as well as more than a dozen other smaller newspapers, purchased the Gazette.
With local Mississippi ownership, the pace of change has accelerated. The Gazette has expanded, increasing by more than 50 percent its space for news and sports stories and photographs. The number of pages in each issue has increased and many more of them are being printed in full color.
You have responded by making the Gazette one of the fastest-growing newspapers in the region. Circulation has increased by 16 percent just since January.
The success of a business, the Gazette included, can be traced to its people. We are fortunate to have a talented, community-minded staff: Lynn West, David Johnson, Angie Barmer, Donica Phifer and Dennis Clayton in the newsroom; Michelle Hill and Dennis in advertising; Ian McKee in graphics and technology, and Ginger Baranski, our office manager.
They work hard to make the Gazette worthy of your support. And their work and the progress the Gazette has made over the past five years remind me how lucky I was when my family and I decided to make New Albany our home.
T. Wayne Mitchell, Gazette publisher, can be reached at 662-534-6321.