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Steve Mullen: A new chapter and verse, in Oxford




The move is decidedly Mississippian, done in a Mississippi way: Boxes and belongings lashed to the back of a borrowed pickup snaking down two-lane highways, passing Una and Egypt and Okolona, dodging slow-moving tractors and roadkill. 


We''re getting movers for the bigger stuff. I declared myself officially too old to drag another couch up and down another flight of stairs. But we''ve launched the advance parties, hauling the can''t-do-without items, the toothbrushes and underwear and TVs. 


We''re used to this. Such is the journeyman''s life of the newspaperman. My first job was at a scrappy little startup flyer in Oxford. Then on to The Oxford Eagle. Then, on to Jackson and The Clarion-Ledger. Then a stint in California, and The Bakersfield Californian. Then, back to Mississippi, as managing editor at The Dispatch. Along the way I gathered up a wife, two kids, and an ever-growing truckload of junk. (Maybe two truckloads. Yikes.) 


Now, off again, back to Oxford, this time out of newspapers for an editing job at Ole Miss, my alma mater. I get to walk through the Grove every day to work, plus dibs on half-price football tickets. Nirvana. 


Still, I''ll miss the daily news grind, and our daily news meetings at The Dispatch, where reporters and editors get together to hash out our coverage plans. Journalists are a cynical bunch. We have to cover the crime stories -- it''s our unfortunate duty to report the "bad" news. But contrary to what many might think, most of our conversations are spent on how we can lift up our neighbors, not tear them down. The Dispatch is a true community newspaper. We want local names, local faces, in the paper. We want to report good deeds. Day after day, we want to represent and reflect the community. 


We want to tell your story. Each article, each photo, is a piece of a larger, patchwork. A community newspaper is forever creating this quilt, equal parts epic and pastoral -- the story of the community. Good ones, like The Dispatch, tell this story for hundreds of years. 


I''m proud to have played a tiny role in that, helping our talented reporters and photographers tell what some have called the community''s "Master Narrative." I''m also proud of this newspaper''s daily editorials, which I helped write. They were sometimes critical, sometimes cheeky, but always meant to spur conversation, and make Columbus a better place. I''m proud to have worked with a publisher who thinks this is important work -- perhaps The Dispatch''s most important role. 


A wise man said that history doesn''t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes. As we barrel through Pontotoc in this little pickup, toward Highway 6 and Lafayette County, we''re writing our own poem as we go. We''re about to rhyme with Oxford again, a place we have called home before. 


So this is goodbye to Columbus, a sweet stanza in our life''s poem. Or is it? It is too lyrical a place to never return.



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