This is it. My final farewell in ink and on newsprint after a 50-year career in the newspaper business.
I have experienced a blessed career starting as a photo/journalist in the Army stationed in Korea then selling advertising for the ETSU student newspaper while finishing my journalism degree. I am not going to list my resume but I have been in the industry all over the country. Very few people have had the opportunity of these lifetime experiences. But this one is my saddest with the official close of our printed edition of the Johnson City News & Neighbor.
Over the past 26 years we have had some terrific and talented professionals working with us including my wife Judy, and son, Jeff. When we started we decided to cover only the good news in our communities and fill the paper full of local faces. It worked and readers enjoyed the positive events and human interest feature stories. I would guess we have photographed at least half our population over the last 1,266 editions. And we couldn’t have done it without the support of our great advertising customers who have continued their marketing message into 30,000 reader homes each week. In reviewing the latest circulation numbers of the major daily newspapers in Tennessee, it looks like our home delivered paper has the largest circulation in the state! After today, we don’t.
We had a record business year in 2019 with a large number of weekly insert advertising customers, many who started with us in the early years. Then COVID hit in 2020. We didn’t realize what immediate affect it would have on us and the newspaper industry.
Insert customer cancellations started to come in almost weekly. The retail and just about every business was turned upside down. As an essential business we had to keep publishing.
On top of trying to survive COVID issues, politics came to visit increasing fuel prices adding even more expense for our insert customer’s shipping and printing costs. Newsprint costs soared with supply chain issues halting customers from knowing if they would have the products to advertise. It was impossible for businesses to continue to print our most profitable inserts. They stopped nationwide and switched to technology advertising. The results of COVID are still being felt in our community with empty locations and businesses still closing.
Daily and weekly newspapers are closing every week and it won’t stop.
I feel like our newspaper has played an important role in growing our great communities. We covered stories of nearly every non-profit event in town which had been neglected for years and our historic black community.
In some issues we published over 200 people photos. Churches all over town put their members’ photos on their bulletin boards.
Our paper was also the first to publish photos of local high school athletes signing their exciting college sports scholarship papers. Now, most other media outlets cover these events. We were also honored by local business leaders and Johnson City Chamber officials to publish the chamber’s 100th anniversary edition. It was a 68-page July 2015 edition and still available online to review.
We also had the opportunity to publish unique and award-winning feature stories. Readers traveled along with Dustin Jackson as he traversed the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia sending us weekly emails of his trail adventures. We celebrated with him on his six-month 2,190-mile hike finishing in Georgia with a front page story.
My high school classmate, Greg Shay and wife, Vicki, sent us weekly emails and photos we published showcasing their around-the- world cruise in their sailboat, the Erin-Brie.
In 2004 we featured a series of stories of the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition. As the western division president of my old company headquartered in Sturgis, South Dakota, I had traveled almost in Lewis and Clark’s footprints throughout South and North Dakota and Montana where we owned newspapers. It was exciting for me to share those experiences with our readers.
Our communities offered hundreds of other wonderful feature stories to publish over the years.
Our talented journalists’, graphic artists’, photographers’, work is chronicled on our walls showcasing hundreds of award plaques along with six general excellence awards from our industry leaders. We also have four State of Tennessee Proclamations honoring our news coverage in Johnson City along with numerous community awards. We actually have no wall space left to hang our awards from the last five years. Our people are winners.
The party is not over. We have new opportunities for the Johnson City News & Neighbor within our technology efforts which I will leave to the experts but will allow me to continue a weekly column of wit and witless wisdom.
Thank you readers for your kind words over the years and hope you enjoyed my columns.