Here’s something a lot of people won’t believe: There really wasn’t a firm plan in place for The McDuffie Mirror when we started in July of 2003.
Well, that’s not completely true. There was a plan. It called for The Mirror to be like many other run-of-the-mill community papers – a little crime coverage blended with a couple of smiles from the community and a dash of whatever someone thought to send in.
We just didn’t follow it.
We wanted to be different. We wanted to stand out. We wanted to be better.
And we succeeded.
In the span of just a couple of years, we built a community newspaper that was not only the best in McDuffie County (by far), but one of the best in Georgia and the Southeast. From weddings to school activities to nursing home events to the fatal car accident over the weekend, we worked hard to include every aspect of Thomson, Dearing and McDuffie County. We reflected, reacted and pro-acted our community week-in, week-out.
It was chaotic, stressful and required brutally long hours. We sweated. We bled. We hurt. We cried.
But we had a great time doing it.
Some of my most treasured memories revolve around The Mirror, its offices and staff. I’ve forged life-long friendships with many of the people I worked with and am so very grateful for the experience I gained and the love we received from our community.
Now, it ends like this. This was never in the plans – if it was, we probably would have ignored that directive, too.
So today, please allow me a little twist on Shakespeare: I come to praise The Mirror, not to bury it.
And there has been much to praise over the years.
Among the things that stick out in my mind as some of our best work and accomplishments over the years:
• We brought Thomson, Briarwood and Warren County football (and eventually baseball) to the world through a partnership with WTHO and an Internet streaming service. I can never express how gratifying it was to hear of soldiers deployed in Iraq who could still get a dose of home every Friday night.
• I am proud of the great sense of community service we brought to the county. The Mirror (again, through a partnership with WTHO) was instrumental in starting regular public forums with elected officials and people running for office.
• We made people the focus of stories instead of incidents, accidents or activities. We went beyond the what and where, and even past the who. We focused on the “why” and “how.” Why was it special that Zach Washington busted his rear on the THS baseball field each week? What was it like for Tina Miner to live through a tornado? We didn’t just write articles. We told stories.
I hope that each staff member I had the honor of working with will hold their head high this week and every week hereafter. The work each of them did improved our community, and that is often all that can be asked for in both a career and a life here on Earth: You should always leave the place better than you found it. I firmly believe we did that for McDuffie County.
I do have one message for the community: If there is one thing I’ve learned from the last decade, it is up to you to hold your newspaper to whatever standard you choose.
During my time at The Mirror, I was fortunate to be surrounded by like-minded journalists and staff members who believed that our newspaper was a direct reflection of our community. While we might not be able to affect the outcome of events, it was up to us to tell those stories in a timely, accurate and fair manner. We steered away from sensationalism and half-truths while embracing a higher standard in ethics, reporting, photography, community involvement and final product.
That is what I hope will remain as the legacy for The Mirror: We gave McDuffie Countians not only a better newspaper, but the expectation of a better newspaper.
Rest in deep peace, my dear friend. You deserved much better, but I gave you my best.