To breakfast in Jackson

I was having second thoughts about the whole thing at 3:15 in the morning Saturday, when I quietly got out of bed and headed toward the shower.

Why had I agreed to drive to Jackson in time for a breakfast meeting of the Mississippi Press Association when I could be curled up in bed?
I had perked up a little by the time I got in the car and headed down Highway 30 West. But I only met two cars by the time I passed through Oxford, and only a half-dozen more by the time I turned onto Interstate 55 just north of Grenada.
Driving through the state at that hour is a reminder of how rural a state we really are. Even on the interstate, there were few cars until I reached the outskirts of Jackson. I managed to make the drive without getting sleepy, which, because I don’t drink coffee, I thought was an accomplishment. (As I’ve gotten older, the definition of what constitutes “an accomplishment” has slid a little.)
But by 2 p.m. when I headed back to New Albany, there were other accomplishments. The Gazette and its staff had won nine awards in the advertising competition of the state press contest. That (or was it the hearty breakfast and even bigger lunch?) was putting a lot of stress on the buttons of my shirt.
Four of the awards were for Explore magazine, the annual tourism and community guide we created last June. We took a chance on starting it, but we thought the community needed a book outlining things to see and do in town, both for residents and visitors. We thought it also could be used for marketing the community. (We want to make sure that when businesses and industries are considering New Albany, that they know it would be a good place for their employees to live.)
Explore was judged the best magazine produced in the state among non-daily newspapers in our category. The award is a tribute to the teamwork between our editorial, advertising and advertising graphics staffs, who worked hard to make it successful.
Explore also was recognized for the Silver Dollar Award, given for the best new revenue idea among all non-daily newspapers.
Our advertising sales representatives, Jennifer Jones and Matt Bishop, and ad graphics designer Ian McKee were recognized for several award-winning ads in both the magazine and the Gazette throughout the year.
The last award, one of the top awards given each year, isn’t really for selling or designing an ad or magazine. It’s for quality of printing, and the Gazette received first place among all non-daily newspapers.
It’s really an honor for two long-time members of the Gazette team, Mike Foster, production manager, who has been at the paper 25 years, and Chris Knox, with 15 years.
Day after day, they quietly show that it’s not the newness of the equipment (the Gazette’s press has been running more than 30 years), but the quality and work ethic of the people that make a difference.
A  management guru once told me the secret to being a newspaper publisher was to get good people and get out of the way.
I’m pretty good at that. Well, maybe not the second part.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at