October 6, 2021

Oglethorpe County, we can make this happen

           If I’ve learned anything in the past couple of weeks, I have learned that Oglethorpe County wants its newspaper.  And that’s a key reason I am stepping up to help make this happen.  I cannot do this alone.  The Oglethorpe Echo’s future success depends on all of us.

            But first, the people of our community owe a debt of gratitude to Ralph Maxwell and his family.  Since 1956, the Maxwells have provided The Echo as a weekly news and advertising source, plus a forum for the expression of opinions and ideas.  The desire to keep that legacy moving forward is a key reason for my issuing this challenge.

I believe a good newspaper is a community talking to itself.  Oglethorpe County isn’t bashful about exercising the benefits of the First Amendment.  I like that.  In impromptu remarks at Monday night’s county commissioners’ meeting, I said that I want this on my tombstone: “At least the old fool was fair.”  We won’t always agree, but I intend to listen.  

So what’s going to happen on Nov. 1?

The Maxwell family has agreed to donate The Echo to a new nonprofit corporation.  I will not own the newspaper.  The Oglethorpe Echo Legacy Inc. will.

Initially, I will serve as its chairman of the board.  The governing body will be a diverse board of directors, chosen from Oglethorpe County citizens.  We will all be volunteers.  We plan to appoint a youth board of advisers, too.  If the newspaper’s legacy is to flourish, the collective support and guidance of multiple generations is essential.

            While the new company is going to be a nonprofit corporation, that doesn’t mean The Echo doesn’t have to worry about being a sound business entity.  No, no.  The newspaper, more than ever, will need advertising and readers.  The nonprofit status allows tax-deductible donations to help cover the expenses.  Please read Amy Stone’s column in this edition.

            After my initial talk with Ralph, I wondered how The Echo could fill its news hole.  A call to UGA’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications answered that question.  Dean Charles Davis endorsed the idea of using your newspaper as a laboratory for senior journalism students to gain real-life experience.  Instructor Andy Johnston, a veteran newspaperman, will mentor the student reporters, photographers and graphic artists.  I will serve as an adviser, too.  We’ll still need community volunteers for photos and articles.

            Dozens of you have asked, “How can I help?”  In three words: Subscribe and advertise.  And encourage others to do so as well.  Your word-of-mouth promotion is vital.  Consider yourself on the team.  Teamwork really works.  

            Soon we will announce the formation of Friends of The Echo.  We will be asking for volunteers to help keep office open, answer the telephone and serve as goodwill ambassadors for The Oglethorpe Echo.  Even if you can’t contribute financially, we’ll welcome your donated time and energies.

            The ultimate plan is to have a senior “capstone class” from the Grady College to be assigned to The Echo.  That won’t happen until next semester. In the interim, a team of student interns will form a bridge from Nov. 1 until mid-January 2022.  Be assured there will be some growing pains, so we ask for your patience and understanding.

            Yes, we still have a list of unanswered questions. 

            Stand by.  The answers are forthcoming.

            In the meantime, we heard you.

            You want your newspaper.

            Together, we can make that happen.

            Thank you, Oglethorpe County.