Frances Hairston: Hometown newspapers, a rare thing


Frances Hairston



Columbus is proud of its downtown and is always trying to support the various businesses. One of these businesses, located right on Main Street, is sometimes taken for granted, The Commercial Dispatch. I want people to be aware of what we have in our local newspaper and to appreciate the work that is involved in getting the paper out to the subscribers.


Recently, I toured The Dispatch with the Noxubee County Garden Club. Dispatch advertising director Beth Proffitt gave us a thorough tour beginning with the women at the front desk all through the building to the back area where the delivery people pick up the papers to deliver to your door.


We met reporters in the newsroom and talked a long time with Slim Smith and pelted him with many questions. We learned how the newspaper is laid out and the important part each person plays. Getting everyone down the steep steps into the basement was worth it when we saw the huge printing press whirling out not only printed pages but the completely folded newspaper. The Dispatch also prints the Starkville edition of The Dispatch, Columbus Air Force Base's Silver Wings and publishes Catfish Alley magazine.



We need to appreciate what we have in our local paper. Family-owned papers are nearing extinction in these modern times. The paper is 135 years, and Birney Imes is the third generation to run the paper; his son Peter, Dispatch general manager, is the fourth.


Syndicated newspapers are becoming the norm. We cannot get the interpretation of a local reporter who has just attended a school board meeting from reading a syndicated paper. How else will we know what is going on the community? The reporter -- and by extension his newspaper -- helps to keep the local boards such as city hall, supervisors, and visitors bureau accountable to the public.


Where else can we see our children's names on the honor roll or see their pictures pertaining to school activities or see Luisa Porter's pictures of local events? The sports section does a great job of relating the different sports from college to high school to Little League scores.


The paper gives an accounting of our lives from birth announcements, marriages, to funeral announcements. Jan Swoope does a remarkable job of keeping us up with local events of music, art, lectures and much more. I look forward to reading Rufus Ward's local history column each Sunday to learn something more about Lowndes County.


A growing trend is to read the newspaper online. Personally, I like to hold my paper in my hand. I like to cut out articles and circle things that are important. Sometimes, I want to send an article to a friend. How will we know what specials are offered in the grocery store each week?


The Dispatch is printed six days a week and is on the street by 11:00 a.m. in contrast to a large newspaper like The Birmingham News which is printed only three days a week. I receive my paper by 3:00 p.m. in Crawford.


Be proud of our local paper. Take the tour to find out what all is involved in its preparation so you can appreciate what we have. Support your local newspaper.




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