By Sabrina Bates
What a journey this has been for me! I’m going into my third week with this two-newspaper venture and I am sure you all have noticed we’ve hit a few bumps along the way. The road is getting smoother, though. Overall logistics are improving and I think we’ve cultivated an amazing team. Our team members bring a variety of talent, experience and passion to the media industry.
If you’ve been following the pages of these newspapers, you’ve probably noticed the variety of voices as well. Each is familiar with the world of journalism and brings their experiences to the table.
There is David Fisher, a staple in local news for four decades. David has covered news stories that range from murder trials to government operations and everything in between. He has a passion for preserving and documenting historical events. As a veteran himself, David’s compassion for people who serve is very evident. He is very polite and easy to work alongside. On a personal level, he and his wife, Diane, are two of the most gracious and kind people I’ve ever met.
Working in tandem with David is Shannon Taylor, a name I’m sure many in Weakley County are familiar with. Shannon is one of those reporters everyday people trust. She is an advocate for those who don’t feel like their voices are ever heard. She has cultivated relationships with community members who won’t hesitate to reach out to her if they are experiencing roadblocks in their lives. Shannon works hard to find out the truth in a situation and protects those who may fear speaking out on their own. There are times those types of situations may never make it to print, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t working to help with whatever situation dropped in her lap.
Helping to lead The Martin Post team is Lorcan McCormick. Lorcan is an aspiring young writer who has experience in playwrights – which may be apparent as one reads his articles that try to paint a picture of the environment he finds himself in when covering news topics. He was a freelance writer for the Dresden Enterprise a couple of years ago. Now that he has taken on the position of Associate Editor, I’ve seen tremendous growth in Lorcan’s writing, news coverage and desire to be a voice for the Martin community. He is eager to establish partnerships and help small businesses grow. He stepped into the middle of an intense time period for the City of Martin when it was working through a budget that called for a property tax rate which would’ve had an impact on numerous households and business owners. When he was faced with things he didn’t understand, he sought counsel from others and asked questions. He continues to grow and learn from others.
Handling the bulk of sports coverage is someone who has been in this industry for nearly 50 years. Jim Steele has helped tell the stories of local athletes, Hall of Famers and coaches throughout the state. It is evident he is passionate about sports. In my personal opinion, he is one of the best sports writers I’ve ever read and we are lucky he is a part of our team.
You’ll also find some different, young voices on the pages of our newspapers. I had the pleasure of knowing Will Spencer’s parents – the late Danny and Sherri. Danny Spencer was a co-owner of Cine Theater and my mom, Miss Pat, was the manager of his video store – Movies to Go. He and Sherri were wonderful, caring and thoughtful people. I see a lot of their spirit in Will, who is a very gifted writer. Will is passionate about arts and entertainment, so you’ll likely see spotlights on plays, artists and events throughout the community. He is also helpful in giving space to our local businesses, something we are ALL passionate about.
Jasmine Williams has been a part of The Enterprise team for seven years. Many will describe her as a sweet, young lady. Those who know her will talk about her passion for the arts. As an artist herself, Jasmine takes her trained eye to the next level, helping to create feature pages, special graphics and photo collages to the pages of our newspapers. Many may not realize it, but when businesses partner with us for advertisements and promotions, those graphics are designed in-house, at no extra charge for advertisers. Jasmine works with our sales representative, Laura Bates, to create the perfect graphic for customers. I’ve seen them work for hours to ensure a customer is satisfied with the final product before it is placed on one of our newspaper pages.
Laura has been on the team for nearly three years, having worked with advertisers in Weakley, Obion and Henry counties for much longer. When she is not handling office tasks, she is working with local business owners to try and get them the most bang for their bucks. Laura is sympathetic to her customers, developing price packages for them that won’t bust their budget. She has been challenged the last three years, attempting to gain advertising support from local businesses throughout the Covid pandemic and after the tornado hit Dresden and now they are all trying to navigate record inflation. With each challenge, she has persevered in her commitments.
Some of you may have had a chance to meet our publisher, Daniel Richardson. Daniel inherited Magic Valley Publishing Co. operations after his dad’s sudden death within the last couple of years. Dennis Richardson was a reporter in Weakley County for many years before branching throughout Northwest Tennessee to build a publishing company. With the creation of The Martin Post, MVP now has 16 newspapers in West and Middle Tennessee. The company owns its own printing plant, API Publishers, in Huntingdon and offers a monthly magazine, Discover, which is distributed statewide. Daniel pays attention to all things media, on local, state, national and global levels. He has incredible ideas for merging print coverage with a digital presence. It is refreshing to see this military veteran and father of four looking to the future. He is always trying to inspire the newspaper teams and actually listens to ideas and gives us some freedom in implementation of those ideas.
Then I guess, there is myself whom I need to introduce. Next year will be my 20-year anniversary in the field of journalism. I started my journey when the former editor of the Weakley County Press, Tracy Sharp, took a chance on me. She had worked for Our Town magazine prior and recalled I had submitted an article when I was a senior at Dresden High School. I was one of the school correspondents for the local newspapers in high school as well. Writing has been my passion since I was a teenager. Tracy and then-sports editor Stephanie Sturgis, taught me most of everything I know about news reporting. Fast-forward nearly 20 years later and many would describe my writing style as a “just-the-facts” type of reporting. I enjoy research and data. I am constantly watching what is going on at state and regional levels, wondering how it impacts households in Weakley County.
I hold the nation’s “fourth estate” in high regard. I believe in the integrity of news reporting, the story-telling aspect that you can’t get from national media outlets and the preservation of local events on our news pages. Newspapers, especially local, community newspapers, are the sources of historical preservation. It pains me to print clarifications and corrections, but they are a must and a big part of taking ownership as a keeper of information. I am a big fan of transparency as well. There are so many times I’ve heard from others that media outlets only report one side. I can assure you when our team of journalists are working on articles, they will reach out to get all sides. When you don’t see the “other side” in a news article, it is because the keeper of that information has chosen not to comment, return phone calls or respond to email correspondence. People have that right, but oftentimes, a lack of transparency may make it seem as if there is something to hide. I’ve said it before, lack of transparency creates a lack of trust.
I can promise you that there is going to be “bad” news; but I can promise there is always going to be “good” news. You’re going to find a combination of all on our news pages. We have an obligation to serve the public. We have an obligation to fight for the voiceless. At the same time, we want to be good stewards of information. We want to shed light on wrong-doings, not for the sake of “likes” or “clicks,” but for the sake of eventually helping to make our communities better. We also want to find the good and spotlight it. In a dream world, I imagine citizens showing up at their city government meetings and getting involved in decisions that impact them. In that dream world, I envision leaders acting in a manner that is truly representative of their people. I also envision educated communities – those who pay attention to all local media outlets to what is going on in the places they live in. I truly believe in the phrase, “all politics is local.” Just imagine how strong Weakley County is when we’re all transparent with one another – at all levels – wrongdoing is weeded out and we have nothing to talk about other than how great our community is. That strength and unity will have some weight when dealing with issues on a state level. One day maybe I’ll see that vision become a reality.
In the meantime, our ears are always open. If you have story ideas, we want to know. If you have grievances, I want to know. If you want us to be a part of something, invite us. If you want to contribute columns, photos, articles, letters to the editor, let me know – we will welcome them. I ask for your patience as we get ready to transition into an office space that will house team members of both of our newspapers in the coming weeks. I thank you for your support and I look forward to growing our presence on a variety of platforms in the weeks and months ahead.