Derby Publications has hired Jeff Keeling to fill the newly created position of associate editor for both the Johnson City News & Neighbor and The Business Journal of Tri-Cities, TN/VA. Keeling’s byline has frequently appeared in both publications as a contributor. Beginning the first week in November, he will join the editorial staff full time.
“I have wanted to bring Jeff on board for some time,” said Scott Robertson, editor. “His talent, work ethic, and knowledge of both Washington County and Johnson City in general and of the regional business community make him a perfect fit in our company as we continue to expand our news and editorial coverage.”
Keeling said he is excited about returning to journalism, particularly with this company. “I look forward to upholding the role of a journalist, including holding our leaders accountable, in a way that exhibits fairness and graciousness without providing a free pass,” he said. “I still believe fair, substantive local reporting is an important element of a healthy community in a free and open society.
Writing for News & Neighbor, said Keeling, will offer him the opportunity to cover a dynamic community that is ripe with great stories. “I believe our community is at a critically important time in its development. The metro area has tremendous potential to not just maintain but enhance its excellent quality of life, and to attract and retain the kinds of people, jobs and investment that can create a foundation for sustainable growth and development stretching forward for several decades. I’m excited about covering the private-sector activities and policymaking that are going to determine the success of those efforts.”
Keeling comes to Derby Publishing from the Washington County Economic Development Council, where he has served as marketing and community relations director since January 2012. He said his experience in that position will help him in his new role.
“I have an increased appreciation for the hard work our high-quality public servants do,” said Keeling. “I know a bit more about policy, strategy and those sorts of important organizational duties. I have a greater understanding of the further strides our communities need to make in insisting that public service employment be merit-based and that our local public-sector institutions develop or increase a focus on efficiency, customer service and excellence.”
All that having been said, by returning to journalism, Keeling is returning to his true calling. Bill Derby, publisher, said, “We are fortunate to have a person of Jeff Keeling’s caliber joining our team. When Jeff was on Dan Eldridge’s staff as communications director for the county, I was impressed with the volumes of information our newspaper received about county programs and what was coming up. I had never seen that before. Jeff played a very important part in helping us report on the tornadoes that struck in our part of the lower county. We knew what we were receiving was accurate.
“When I interviewed Jeff I could see the ink running through his blood and his passion for writing,” said Derby. “He will be a real asset for both the paper and the Business Journal.”
Keeling said he has enjoyed his work in the public sector, but admitted he has missed journalism, “I love to work at constructing clear, concise written work on deadline while trying to be evocative and accurate with both facts and truth,” said Keeling. “What I probably have missed the most, though, is the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people around our wonderful community, spend a little time talking with them about their particular passion, expertise or story, and convey that to the readership in a captivating and easy-to-understand way.”
Robertson said that aside from Keeling’s impressive credentials as a journalist, what impressed him most was the fact that Keeling truly loves and cares about the community in which he lives.
Said Keeling, “I am five minutes from the solitude of a trail run in the woods behind ETSU, 20 minutes from the Appalachian Trail, and constantly in the midst of immensely talented musicians and yarn-spinners. I belong to a wonderful faith family, in which my brothers and sisters challenge me to put that faith into action in our community. I never grow tired of driving over the Interstate 26 rises between Boones Creek and State of Franklin Road, or Roan Street and Watauga Avenue, and soaking up an eyeful of our beautiful Southern Appalachians. I could talk about this indefinitely, but I mentioned being concise earlier.”
A Washington state native, Keeling has been a Johnson City resident since 1989. He settled here one year after taking a reporting job at the Kingsport Times-News following graduation from Western Washington University in 1988.
Following a stint in graduate school at ETSU, he worked at the Johnson City Press from 1992-1999, during which time he met (1994) and married (1996) his wife, Angela, and began raising his kids, Zach and Sydney, who are now 23 and 20.
Jeff took an offer to work at the Johnson City Housing Authority, leaving the Press (for the first time) in August 1999. He served as resident services director at JCHA until January 2007, when he returned to the Press. He was business editor there until September 2010, when he became the first ever (and to date the only) communications and community relations director for Washington County, a job envisioned by then-newly elected Mayor Dan Eldridge.
The Washington County Commission eliminated that position in September 2011. Keeling spent four months at Eastern Eight Community Development Corporation before taking an offer to become marketing and community relations director for the Washington County Economic Development Council.
“By bringing Jeff Keeling on board, we are making a very clear statement about News & Neighbor’s commitment to expanding our news and editorial coverage,” said Robertson. “We began that expansion earlier this year and have already received many positive comments from readers as well as recognition in the form of national awards. Now we are taking the next step by hiring one of the best journalists this region has to offer.”
News & Neighbor names Jeff Keeling