Cage-rattlers, a lifelong career … and a dog named Dinky
The past year has been an amazing one for so many reasons. Coming to the Elizabethton Star as publisher has been a wonderful experience and I am enjoying getting acquainted with so many of you in the community.
Having had the opportunity to be the president of the Tennessee Press Association the past year was also a remarkable opportunity – one I wouldn’t trade for anything.
In early June, I passed the gavel to the new TPA president, Jason Taylor, President of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. During that event – a banquet held during the TPA Summer Convention at Gatlinburg – I thanked my family, TPA staff members, former and current colleagues and other individuals who have helped me along the way.
And I know some of you may think it a bit odd, but I also thanked one final “individual” – a little stray dog named Dinky.
I was a kid – about 13 years old – one hot summer day in my hometown of Princeton, W.Va., when my grandmother and I set out to buy some new ceramic tile for a bathroom we were remodeling. We headed up to Lilly Grove, where the tile warehouse was, a few miles and a winding road from our house.
Driving along, I had my head hanging out the window and I can still remember feeling the hot air hitting my face. No air conditioning in that car. No seat belts, either.
As we started down the hill, I noticed something small and tan on the side of the road. It was moving, but not much.
As we got closer, I could see that it was a little dog. I started hollering for my grandmother to stop the car and when she did – and before she could stop me – I jumped out of the car and ran over to the dog.
He was pitiful. Starved and dehydrated, you could count every rib in the little fellow’s body. He was so small and weak and sad.
It took some fast talking to convince Mama to let me take him home, but she finally gave in. We spent weeks nursing the poor little thing back to health.
He was very sweet, and he wasn’t very big, so I named him Dinky.
Sadly, keeping him wasn’t an option; that was clear from the beginning. So once he had recovered from his ordeal, we needed to find him a new home.
My folks were avid newspaper readers and so it seemed only natural, that in order to let people know we were offering a little dog free to a good home, we should put a notice in the newspaper.
The Princeton Times was the weekly newspaper in our community and it just so happened it was only about four blocks from my house. So I took a Polaroid picture of Dinky and wrote – “Free to a good home, small cream colored male dog. Sweet and friendly. Please call 425-3229.” Article in hand, I headed down to the newspaper office.
Barbara Hawkins was the editor of the paper. She was also an animal lover and a sucker for kids. She ooohed and aaaahed over the dog’s picture and said she would be happy to put it in the paper for me. There was no charge.
That was my first lesson in the power of local newspapers and their ability to reach far into the community; it took less than three days for Dinky to find a new home.
I stayed in touch with Mrs. Hawkins and it became a friendship that evolved into the beginning of my career. She called me four years later and offered me a part-time job – writing engagements and wedding announcements.
I’ll always be grateful to her for being my mentor, my teacher and my friend, and thinking back, I am amazed how a chance meeting led to a lifelong career in the newspaper industry. It is remarkable that something as simple as trying to find a new home for an abandoned dog could set the course for a life.
Nearly four months into my role as publisher here at the Star, I so am grateful to all of you – our readers and our staff here at the paper. I’m grateful for your support, your encouragement and your willingness to share your ideas and information with us.
The spirit of being at a community newspaper is unlike any other experience in the world. It is truly a wonderful adventure.
It takes a variety of individuals to do what we do at the Star. We have people working on the business side of things, in sales, community relations, design, editing, printing, writing, photography and the like. But everything centers around one common goal: we all come together to make certain that you get the best in local news and information.
So with that, I’d like to take a moment and recognize the men and women who devote themselves every day to gathering that news, making sure it’s fair, straightforward and informative.
Let’s call this a “virtual toast.” It would go something like this:
Here’s to the curious ones.
The ones who just can’t get enough answers.
The pains in the butt.
The ones who are continually asking why and when and how and refuse to stop at the surface.
They don’t care what office you hold and they’re not intimidated by how powerful you may think you are.
You can answer them, yell at them, despise or admire them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they have a job to do, and no matter what, they’re going to do it.
They keep the information flowing. They believe passionately in the public’s right to know.
Their words make you sit up and take notice.
And while some may see them as intrusive, we should see them as heroes.
Because those who dare to ask questions of the people, and for the people are just crazy enough to believe what they do matters.
And it does.