MERIDIAN — Tuesday was my first day as the executive editor of The Meridian Star.
Driving up Highway 45 en route from Pensacola, Fla., to Meridian, my thoughts wandered back to 13 years ago when I made the same drive to interview for a reporting position at the Star.
That was in 1999 when I was hired as a general assignment reporter. Since that time I have worked at three newspapers, moving from a reporting position into that of an editor.
I am excited about returning to Meridian and to the Star.
It is a good newspaper with a talented staff, as evidenced by the 11 awards the paper took home in the Mississippi Press Association's annual Better Newspaper Contest for work done in 2011.
And the paper has had a great executive editor in Fredie Carmichael, who I had the pleasure of working with at the Pensacola News Journal until he returned to Meridian in 2006 to lead the newsroom here.
I am sure Fredie will be missed by many. I am equally sure he will do a great job as a regional economic development manager for the Mississippi Development Authority, a position he began work at in May.
I am not Fredie, although we are cut, I think, from the same journalism cloth. We are both passionate about news and probably bleed a little ink.
Each editor has his own way of doing things though and I'm sure there will be some changes I will make. You likely won't notice anything major for the first few weeks.
I want to take time to study the operations in the newsroom, see what is working well and work on those things that need tweaking.
I can tell you what I like, which might give you an indication of the direction I would like to take the paper.
I like hard news and, when it is warranted, in-depth articles that leave readers with an understanding of why and how something came about. More importantly, I want stories that explain the impact an issue we write about will have on you.
I like features that provide insight into our everyday lives.
I think a newspaper should inform readers. I want the Star to be the place to go to find out about local road closings, upcoming events and school activities.
As a former investigative reporter, I believe in the newspaper industry's role in uncovering corruption and exposing injustice.
In short, I want balance. A newspaper is many things to many different people and no matter your taste I want you to find it in the Star.
I like anything local, from sports and business articles, to arts and entertainment.
Our reporters do a tremendous job, but they can't cover every story. And that's where you come in. I would like your help to make this your paper.
If you are at an event and shoot a photo, email it to me with information about those pictured and I will do my best to get it in the paper.
If you have something coming up, let us know. If we can't cover it, we can put it in community happenings, so we can at least inform our readers about it.
If you have a story idea, tell me. I can't promise we will write a story, but if it is newsworthy, I will try my best to make it happen.
If you feel strongly about something, send me a letter to the editor. A popular misconception is that letters need to be insightful, lengthy discourses. Not true. Traffic bothering you or do you want to give someone credit for a job well done? Send me two paragraphs. I'll run it.
Send me a sentence or two and we will print multiple submissions under a heading titled "My Take" or something to that effect.
I would also like to find a couple of local residents interested in writing occasional columns about Meridian and surrounding communities. I can't pay you, but I will give those selected a place to share their views when space allows. Send me a writing sample and we'll chat.
I would also like to ask local church pastors to consider writing sermons for our faith page.
At the last paper I worked at, we ran a weekly "From the Pulpit" sermon. Pastors would take turns writing the sermons, which were appreciated by those unable to attend church for health or other reasons.
I hope I have given you some things to think about. The main thing I want to leave you with is the thought that this is your paper, one dedicated to your community.
Help me help you claim what is rightfully yours.
Executive Editor Michael Stewart can be reached at email@example.com.