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Archived Story

Southerner’s demise serves as wake-up call

Published 8:46am Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I lost a close friend on Friday of last week. Its death wasn’t expected, even though it was over 125 years old.

My old friend wasn’t like you and I….there was no blood coursing through its veins. Rather, it survived by way of ink on paper.

I had heard rumors over the last month or so about the possibility of The Daily Southerner of Tarboro closing. That rumor became reality on Friday when the centuries old publication printed its final edition.

CNHI (Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.) owned The Southerner. Corporate officials had made several tough decisions to keep its Tarboro product alive, to include out-sourcing printing and cutting the number of publication days from five to four. Unfortunately those measures failed to save my old friend.

It was early August, 1979 when I left the comfortable environment of what was then Parker Brothers, Inc., publishers of what is now Roanoke-Chowan Publications (you are currently reading one of RCP’s products). Deborah and I married on Aug. 2 of that year. It was a Thursday. Four days later (Aug. 6), I punched the time clock for the first time at 504 West Wilson Street, home of The Daily Southerner.

My wife and I were both employed at The Southerner. She was a typesetter and graphic designer. I worked in production….handling the editorial darkroom (developing the film shot by the reporters and sports staff) and then heading over to the offset camera room, plate room and then the press. The production crew was headed up by Billy Harrell…he of Edgecombe County, not the one who currently writes sports articles for this newspaper.

As was so often the case, the production crew also served as the inserters after the papers came off the press. That involved inserting, by hand, all the “sales” papers found inside The Southerner.

The Southerner was owned at that time by Sonny Creech. His son, David, served as the General Manager and Sonny’s son-in-law, Buddy Hooks, headed up ad sales. It was one big, happy family. We worked hard, and played hard when the day’s work was done.

It was at The Southerner where I received the opportunity to hone my writing and photo skills. I helped out Mitch Evans, the Sports Editor. It was also where I dropped the “vin” off the end of my God-given name.

Any football fan will know that Kelvin Bryant was a product of Tarboro High School. He signed a scholarship to play football at UNC, and left there for an NFL career with the Washington Redskins.

Mitch let me cover one of Kelvin’s games at UNC (I swallowed my pride as a NC State fan and ventured across West Raleigh’s ditches for Chapel Hill). KB had a big day, rushing for over 150 yards and scoring 3 TDs. I snapped photos and took notes, using that material for a story that published the following Monday in The Southerner. My byline was….Calvin Bryant.

Mitch came to me on Tuesday and said he had fielded a phone call from a reader, inquiring how was it possible for Kelvin Bryant to write his own story and take his own photos while rushing for all those yards and scoring all those touchdowns. From that moment I became Cal Bryant.

I could go on and on about my two-year career at The Daily Southerner. Deborah and I worked with some great people there….some that still remain as friends we stay in touch with.

I was able to keep up with The Southerner and what was happening in Tarboro by visiting their website. I was aware that Mr. Creech had sold the newspaper years ago. Even without that family connection, I hoped the paper would go on….business as usual.

Friday’s news was unsettling…not just because I worked there at one time, but also because we, those of us in the business of publishing community-based newspapers, have watched one of our brethren fall by the wayside.

Deep down, The Southerner’s departure rekindles my desire to ensure that Roanoke-Chowan Publications has a strong heartbeat. Not just for my livelihood, but for the many loyal readers and advertisers that keep our press running.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

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