January 6, 2018 9:59:02 PM
Zack Plair - [email protected]
A fourth generation of the Imes family is taking the reins of The Commercial Dispatch.
Birney Imes III, who has run the newspaper since 1996, announced to Dispatch staff in a company-wide meeting on Friday his son, Dispatch General Manager Peter Imes, will succeed him as publisher effective today.
"It just feels like the right time," Imes III said. "Peter is very active, and very much at home, in every aspect of the business. As a father, and as the third generation of our family to do this, I couldn't be happier about Peter's involvement with The Dispatch."
Imes III, 66, worked his first job at The Dispatch at age 6 as a "Little Merchant" -- delivering papers on foot to 11 homes on Chicksaw Drive where he lived. He spent several summers working for the newspaper, as well as a couple of years in the 1970s as a staff photographer before embarking on a 20-year career as a self-employed commercial photographer.
Imes III will remain involved with Dispatch operations, just in a diminished day-to-day role. He will continue to write his Sunday column "Partial to Home" for the foreseeable future.
Birney Imes Sr. merged the Columbus Commercial and Columbus Dispatch in 1922 to form the then bi-weekly Commercial Dispatch. He expanded it to a daily newspaper on Easter 1926. Today, The Dispatch is the last family owned, independent daily newspaper in Mississippi.
After Imes Sr. died in 1947, his son and namesake, Birney Imes Jr., took over as editor and publisher, running the paper for almost 50 years.
Imes III came on board as an editor in the newsroom in 1996, after his father became ill. He assumed the role of publisher in 1998.
"This probably sounds a little disingenuous, but I never thought I'd end up here at the paper in management," Imes III said. "The work has been challenging, rewarding and never dull. We've been blessed with great people here in the building and a community that supports and generally appreciates what we do."
Peter Imes, 39, moved back to Columbus and joined The Dispatch staff in 2008, following stints in web development in Austin, Texas, and real estate development in Memphis, Tennessee.
A year later, he became the newspaper's operations manager -- overseeing the launch of The Dispatch's current website and spearheading the start of its Starkville print edition. He has served as general manager since 2010.
"When I came to the newspaper, it was during the recession and The Dispatch -- like many businesses then -- was struggling financially," Peter said. "Part of my job was to help get us back to making money. Luckily, we had a great staff who helped make that possible."
Now as publisher, Peter said he plans primarily on "business as usual," leading a continued newsroom focus on "strong, investigative, local reporting."
He said he plans to beef up the newspaper's web presence this year, as well.
"I truly love Columbus, and I love the service a newspaper can be in its community," Peter said. "A local newspaper is the written legacy of a community, and the fact that my family's history is so intertwined in that legacy is humbling. But the idea of where this paper - and this community - can go is invigorating."
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.