Every time I walk into the offices of the Clarion-Ledger in downtown Jackson, I’m reminded of a picture of my friend David Hampton, a longtime editorialist for the newspaper, sitting underneath the large display of the First Amendment on the lobby wall – “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”
I was there again last Thursday visiting with editor Sam Hall and interim publisher Genia Lovett. It was the first of several stops on my latest tour of Mississippi newspapers with Mississippi Press Association Executive Director Layne Bruce and Dr. Will Norton, dean of the Meek School of Journalism at Ole Miss.
We left Jackson and headed to Flowood for a brief visit with Steven Watson at The Rankin Record where I was pleased to discover an old friend of mine, Jeff Horton, featured with his family on the front page of the paper.
Steven was busy preparing for a move of the newspaper office to a new location down Lakeland Drive and getting organized at the paper for the start of the school year.
We next traveled south to Brookhaven where we stuffed ourselves at Poppa’s Fish House before dropping in on Luke Horton, the relatively new publisher of the Daily Leader. It was my first visit to the Leader since my friend Bill Jacobs, who served as publisher for decades, sold it to Boone Newspapers. The offices were as nice as ever (possibly the nicest I’ve seen short of Stephanie Patton’s Leland Progress) and that extended to the press room where the bright red News King press was immaculate.
From there it was back to Jackson where we visited the Mississippi Business Journal on North Congress Street just behind the governor’s mansion. Publisher Alan Turner turned the tables on us. We thought we were coming to ask him questions, and he sat us down and conducted print and video interviews with us for this week’s MBJ. It was a fun visit with lots of insight from Alan on happenings in Downtown Jackson and the many events hosted by the newspaper.
We coaxed David Hampton to meet us for dinner that night at Saltine, a trendy seafood restaurant in the old Duling School building in Fondren. The food was almost as good as the company. I would definitely return.
Friday morning we headed east with our first stop at The Scott County Times. I had been to Forest many times and always enjoy the colorfully painted chickens on many street corners promoting the biggest industry in town. I’ve never forgotten a visit with Sid Salter when he was publisher there and him explaining that the unmistakable smell in the air all over town is the aroma of money.
We visited with Brent Maze at his cozy Newton County Appeal office in downtown Newton. I appreciated that throughout our conversation, the bell on the front door continuously rang from readers coming in to pick up a copy of the latest edition.
We concluded our tour in Meridian at The Star where publisher Tim Holder told us business was “booming” and was excited about the newspaper’s future in Mississippi’s sixth largest city.
We couldn’t resist lunch at Weidmann’s before leaving town for a taste of their famous fried green tomatoes with 1870’s sauce. It didn’t let us down, nor did each of the newspapers we visited that continue to tell Mississippi’s story better than anyone.