By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal
Once in a while, usually while I’m rushing to my next interview, I run into somebody I wish I had time to visit with properly.
About a week ago I was standing outside First Baptist Church in Okolona. It was miserably hot and I was shielding my eyes and talking on my cell phone with photographer Todd Sherman.
I was trying to map out the rest of my day in Monroe and Chickasaw counties. When I ended the call I noticed a little woman sweeping the stone steps leading up to the church. Her broom was worn to a nub and she was working her way down, one row at a time.
“Sparrows,” she said, pointing with the broom into the high eaves that covered her in shadow.
She’s getting up in years, but Janette Wise is a Daily Journal reader from way back. Her daddy took the paper, when he could afford it. Her momma used to show the kids the pictures and read the captions to them.
Our area is filled with long-time readers like Wise. I enjoyed hearing how her daddy planted beans amid the vines of the melons, and how she and her siblings helped around the farm.
Some of Wise’s people are buried in the Brewer Cemetery, including a brother she lost in World War II. She used to sew at a clothing factory, now she cleans up around the church. Sunday mornings she worships at the Church of Christ.
I asked Wise what she liked best about our paper.
“Oh, what’s her name? Criss?” she said, meaning, of course, Leslie Criss. Then, “the man in Oxford,” meaning Errol Castens. She also misses Phyllis Harper.
It tickled Wise no end when I told her that Leslie Criss would hear her compliments that very day.
Local, country stories are what Wise likes best. She’s enjoyed reading about the black bears.
It’s sometimes easy for me to look past the readers, to get so immersed in the process, focusing on subjects and stories, that I overlook the most crucial component.
In the midst of my work I’m so deeply involved in interviews and composing copy that I don’t always get a sense of what the average reader thinks and feels.
It is, perhaps, a forgivable transgression, but it should also be a teachable moment.
Talking to Wise I started mentally scrolling back through the archives of my copy, and I don’t think she would have liked everything I pulled up.
It’s impossible to please everybody. Any journalist doing his job is bound to offend someone once in a while, or write something that simply doesn’t suit someone’s taste.
As I continue here at the Daily Journal, I’ll replay that conversation with Janette Wise. She was as sweet as she could be, and I’ll think of her often as I consider what readers think of my work.
Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org