Change we can all believe in

Published 12:04 am Saturday, February 7, 2009

One year ago this month, I came to Demopolis as the sports editor of a five-day-a-week newspaper.

It seemed like a pretty good situation at the time, and I was excited to be in it. There was that initial adjustment period.

I had to get accustomed to a new job, a new town, new people, daily deadlines. It wasn’t easy. But I gradually adjusted.

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Then, it started happening. Change.

In March, we brought in a new managing editor. That was the first major alteration to my new landscape.

In June, we brought in a new publisher — Jason Cannon —and with him, a new advertising manager, Tiffany Cannon. In July, we said goodbye to our old editor and, as of Aug. 1, I became the longest-tenured member of The Demopolis Times editorial staff. Just more than five months into what I consider my rookie year, I was suddenly the veteran on Demopolis’ newspaper staff.

About two weeks later, we welcomed David Snow. One month later, we said goodbye to the aforementioned “new managing editor.” He was with us less than six months. The guy who was supposed to be the face of news in Demopolis didn’t stay for half a calendar year. It was at that point that I started to think about all of the murmurs I had ignored upon arriving in Demopolis: “The Demopolis Times has a revolving door.” “The Demopolis Times doesn’t care about Demopolis.”

Initially, these statements really bothered me. But, suddenly, it became apparent that, at the very least, those perceptions were merited.

There were other changes along the way. There was the arrival of the Blackbelt Gazette. There was the launching of a new Web site. There was the acquisition of reporter John Few. But it still felt like, as a staff, we were playing someone else’s game.

Then came the big change. We were suddenly no longer a five-day-a-week paper. We had gone back to being a twice-weekly product with a whole new look. On the surface, that might seem like regression to some.

But it certainly didn’t feel that way. For one thing, we had heard repeatedly from people in the county that the Times was a better publication when it came out twice a week. But more than anything, it felt like somebody had hit the reset button for us.

We — a staff whose abilities and commitment to the community had been masked by its predecessors — finally had the opportunity to succeed or fail on our own. And for us, failure is no option.

We are a group that has the community and its wants at heart. We are invested not only in the product we release, but also in the people who read it.

So after spending one year in Demopolis, hearing countless and often justified grievances and watching more than a dozen people clean out their desks, I finally rest well at night having embraced a change that the community can honestly believe in.

Jeremy D. Smith is sports editor for the Demopolis Times.