An Open Letter to Our Readers

Thursday, November 9, 2017
Ron and Nancy Kemp

By any standard, 46 years is a long time to devote to any career endeavor. With that in mind, it certainly will be an adjustment as Nancy and I conclude almost half a century of a labor of love in community newspapering.

The great bulk of that work has been right here, starting with our acquisition of the Clay County Democrat in 1977, then the purchase of the Piggott Times in 1983 and the subsequent merger of the two publications into the Clay County Times-Democrat in 2011.

At the forefront, as we think back over these many years, is our heartfelt appreciation to the many readers and advertisers who made it all possible. We can never thank you enough for your support. We subscribe to the belief that, whereas there are actual owners of any small-town publication, it really belongs to the entire community. That has been the way we have approached our work over the years – the newspaper is as much yours as it is ours.

Any line of work contains challenges and such is the case with newspapering. In the earlier days, it involved relatively grueling labor in terms of the more rudimentary methods of production. It meant long hours, especially for a young couple trying to make their way in small-town journalism. To give an example, while visiting Nancy’s brother one time at his home in Cincinnati, it hit me that it was the first time we had not been in the newspaper office on a Tuesday production night in 16 years. We had taken long weekends on numerous occasions, but never had been away on deadline day.

Technological improvements over the years made many of the tasks less tedious, but the weekly deadline forever hangs over one’s head. By my calculation, we met 2,414 weekly deadlines during our career in Clay County.

As some of you know, Nancy and I met at a newspaper office -- in Russellville, Ark. We worked there together for several years before moving for a brief period to Wynne. Our final stop on the newspaper road was in Rector, Piggott and Clay County.

After some 20 years of publishing independently, for an equal amount of time we have been associated with the Rust family of newspapers, headquartered in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Ironically, the company’s founder, Gary Rust, has Clay County ties as his father grew up in Rector. Upon my retirement, I was serving as vice president of operations for the company, overseeing newspapers in eight states.

I want to thank the Rust family for the opportunities they have given us during our association. We met many wonderful people and learned much about this exciting and challenging profession.

Our children grew up in the newspaper business, working in the mailroom, taking photos and writing stories. They both are excellent writers and our daughter Ashley has continued the journalism tradition as marketing director of the Arkansas Press Association in Little Rock. Our son Jonathan lives in Jonesboro and is a regional sales manager for Sysco Foods.

Our children spent many a night in the early days sleeping in the office as their parents worked to get out each week’s edition. We worked long hours, but an advantage of publishing a newspaper and having one’s own business is flexibility – we rarely missed any of our children’s activities as they grew up. That is something for which we will forever be thankful.

As with our predecessors in journalism, we are honored to have been a part of this great profession. As some have noted, newspapers are the first draft of history. The names and faces of the community indelibly are registered in the pages of the newspaper. It gives us great pride to look back through our historical files and see the story of our towns. Few professions can be more satisfying in that regard.

While we always strived to be fair and objective in our work, and sometimes have had to record the bad as well as the good, we considered it part of our role to be a “cheerleader” for our communities in trying to help them grow and prosper.

We tried to provide quality products and won numerous statewide awards over the years, including the General Excellence Award for the top small-town weekly newspaper in the state. We both were honored to serve on the Arkansas Press Association Board and I was APA President in 1993. But beyond the awards and honors, we just tried to do our best each week in reflecting the face of the community.

With that in mind, we are certain our outstanding staff will continue in that tradition in the years ahead. We thank them for all their support and the enjoyment we have had in working together. We could share lots of stories about the camaraderie (and fun) of the late-night production sessions as we put the pages together each week.

We know you will continue to support the staff as they push forward with the Clay County Times-Democrat. They need your help in providing news tips and bringing or emailing items to the office. And we know our many loyal advertisers will continue to support YOUR weekly newspaper.

We are happy to report that Nancy and I will continue as editors of Delta Crossroads magazine. Nancy and staff have developed the magazine into an outstanding regional publication. I am looking forward to being more involved in its continuation and development.

In our retirement, we plan to travel extensively in our recreational vehicle and spend time with our granddaughters. We both enjoy seeing new places, meeting unique people and learning more about this great country. But we will continue with our “home base” here, enjoying a more leisurely lifestyle and the many friends we have made over the years.

So, it’s goodbye to 40-and-a-half years of newspapering here. As is often said, it has been quite a ride. The many experiences have been amazing, the people we have met are countless and the satisfactions have been immeasurable. God has really blessed us.

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