So, here we are 25 years later. On Wednesday, Feb. 10, 1993, the first edition of The Fayette Citizen arrived in thousands of mailboxes.
My first opinion column was titled, “Let the rollercoaster ride begin.” A quarter century later, I can say we’ve come a ways together, ups and downs.
Big picture: Bill Clinton had just become president, Zell Miller was in his third year as the governor of Georgia, the future founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, was 8 years old, and Amazon was still a big river in South America. Email was still new. Apple was … Apple, though a lot smaller and iffier. The first internet browser was developed, and a year later the White House launched its first website. (Three years later, in November 1996, we launched ours as thecitizennews.com, among the first news websites in Georgia.)
One weekly newspaper, The Fayette Sun, had just gone out of business, and our fledgling company moved into its vacant offices in Fayetteville — along with several former Sun employees — and we’ve been here ever since.
Of that first group that produced that first paper, two are still here: Diann Cupertino and I. Kathy Hasse joined us later in our first year and took over the bookkeeping; she still is keeping us on track.
Here’s what I wrote on the occasion of our 20th year:
The title atop the column in this space … was, “The rollercoaster ride begins.”
It was my first column in the first issue of this newspaper — Feb. 10, 1993.
Most of the names on that first masthead are gone, including one signally important one — Dave Hamrick, the first managing editor of what was then called The Fayette Citizen.
He died in 2002 at age 51 as he was playing soccer in a local over-40 league, after getting the paper out earlier that Tuesday. After getting the paper out.
… I miss him to this day. He shaped the news coverage of this paper from its first edition all the way through the terrible days of September 2001. Every story on the first front page is written by him.
First I worked for him in the 1980s at the old Fayette Sun. Then, after the Sun folded in January 1993, and some of its veterans came together to raise up a new paper, he worked for me.
But that was a technicality — Dave was a man of singular integrity, and he covered and wrote about the news from that solid foundation.
Here are excerpts from my first column on this page as editor and publisher 25 years ago :
“It’s a scary, fun, nerve-wracking, exhilarating rollercoaster, this business of starting up a new newspaper in a competitive — and critically literate — market. From an idea in a few people’s heads to the paper you’re holding in your hands, this enterprise is less than a month old.
“… We’re trusting that you will ride with us through the initial bumps and that you will share our hopes for a professional, competently produced local paper that will remain relevant to life as you live it in Fayette County.
“… We will provide perspective on local government actions that will affect you, your children and your property. We expect to encourage responsible citizenship among our readers and responsive service from our public officials. Such encouragement might take the form of applause at times, of criticism at others. In all cases we stand accountable to you, our readers.
“… If you think we are missing the point on some issue, write me and tell your side. I want to hear you, and I suspect some other folks might find what you have to say to be interesting as well. I hope that … you will give us a shot at informing you, engaging you, even surprising you.”
… Dave Hamrick also had a column on the same page of that inaugural issue. The title of Dave’s column was, “Let’s have fun along the way.” He did, and we have. Let’s keep having fun a while longer.
Fast-forward to 2018 and our latest fun project is live-streaming video, implemented by the creative brains of this operation, Joyce Beverly, also publisher of Fayette Woman Magazine. Check out The Citizen Facebook page to see what we are up to lately.
[Cal Beverly is editor and publisher of The Citizen.]