The Meridian Star published a series of columns not long ago to introduce you to our journalists.
We shared our personal stories, writing about why we made our career choices, our reasons for sticking with them, the satisfaction of serving this community and our gratefulness for people willing to share their stories with us and the world around them.
We wanted to put faces with the bylines and credits so you might recognize us as your neighbors, the people you see in church, in the grocery store and at many community events around Meridian and East Mississippi.
It seems worthwhile to recall some of them now as we observe National Newspaper Week, Oct. 7-13.
You met people such as news editor Bill Graham, the son of an educator, who attended Meridian schools before moving away. He wrote about being humbled by a “Rock Star” award given to him by students of West Hills Elementary School for reading to them. You might recognize Bill, walking into the crowds with his camera and talking with kids during festivals and parades.
You read about special sections editor Ida Brown, who you likely already knew. She has spent all her life and journalism career in Meridian and has told many stories, with a range from untimely tragic deaths to peak life celebrations. With 35 years in this business, she likely has typed your name or the name of someone you know.
You met news assistant/reporter Cheryl Owens, the daughter of an East Mississippi pastor who is following in her grandmother’s footsteps by working at The Star. One of the kindest people you will meet, Cheryl spreads good news in her Neighbors column, writes about community fundraising events and introduces you to the Golden Apple Teacher of the Month winners.
You met Paula Merritt, who wrote about her childhood love for photography in Newton County and the memory of her father taking her to camera stores and eventually purchasing her first Canon camera in Meridian. For more than 30 years, you’ve seen her walking the sidelines of athletic events or wading through the debris of storms to chronicle the triumphs and tragedies of East Mississippi.
You met Helen Reynolds, a Meridian native who has worked at The Star for more than 25 years and who spoke to the many changes over those years. She wrote for many journalists when she talked about her motivation: “I love that I get the chance to create something different every time I come to work. Knowing that thousands of people see what I create motivates me to do my best.” She shares design duties with Becky Prince, who has lived in this area most of her life with newspaper roots that go just as deep.
You met sports editor Drew Kerekes and his sports department partner, Elton Hayes, whose passion for sports brought them to the newsroom, but these days they will you tell you that meeting and writing about people, especially those with uplifting stories to tell, gives them greatest satisfaction.
You met Whitney Downard, who relocated more than 1,100 miles to begin her journalism career in Meridian. She’s told you about mental health patients who wind up in jail because there’s nowhere else to go, excessive delays in Lauderdale County’s criminal justice system, an impossibly complicated healthcare system, the massive expense to correct Meridian’s Environmental Protection Agency violations and hundreds of other stories on her way to becoming The 2017 Associated Press News Editor’s Mississippi Newsperson of the Year. You, also, may have seen her performing in Meridian Little Theatre or cleaning up a neglected cemetery.
More recently reporter Bianca Moorman moved to Meridian from Virginia to launch her career by keeping you informed about our schools.
Many others inside and outside our building help tell the story of this community and keep watch on how the government spends your money and does your business. All of the above do this through odd hours and modest pay because of the sense of purpose and the satisfaction it gives us from serving a community.
These have not been easy times for journalists, who face a range of challenges ranging from political beratement, to resistance to open government, to an apathetic public and sometimes to a real threat to their safety.
Those challenges and more make a relevant theme for this year’s National Newspaper Week, “Journalism Matters: Now More Than Ever.”
We thank you for recognizing the value in purchasing The Meridian Star, whether it’s for our government watchdog reporting, digital breaking news, information about this community’s people, schools, businesses, sports teams, worship sites and the arts or whether it’s for commentary, comic strips, advice columns, puzzles and TV schedules.
Those journalists/neighbors behind The Star appreciate you spending time with us, but mostly we thank you for caring about this community.