Second, in small operations like the weekly newspaper where I learned the business, the title of publisher didn't excuse one from the hard work of unloading the 18-wheelers that delivered the newsprint. On average, a roll weighs between 800 and 900 pounds.
I learned the cost of newsprint writing checks. I learned the weight of newsprint when I let my foot linger in the path of one of those rolls as it rolled off the truck. Both experiences were invaluable lessons. Once printed, that same newsprint takes on a different kind of weight - the weight of history.
When Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., the Alabama-based company that owned the Laurel Leader-Call newspaper decided to fold that venerable old Mississippi daily, they confronted a problem that has been on the rise nationally in the newspaper industry and among libraries, archivists and genealogists. What was to become of more than a century of the history of Jones County and the surrounding region contained in the newspaper's "morgue" of bound volumes?
The paper was founded as the Laurel Daily Argus on Aug. 11, 1911. The paper later changed its name first to the Laurel Daily Leader and finally to the Laurel Leader-Call. In 2007, the paper enjoyed a circulation of 7,819.
In the interest of preserving the newspaper's bound volumes and the community's history, CNHI officials contacted the Mississippi State University Libraries and inquired if that information could be added to MSU's Special Collections - which already contains an extensive collection of the papers of Mississippi journalists like Turner Catledge, Hodding Carter, Erle Johnston, Bill Minor, Oliver Emmerich, Norma Fields, Henry Meyer, Clayton Rand, Hazel Brannon Smith, Ken Toler and Wayne Weidie.
MSU is also the repository of the records of the Mississippi Press Association and an extensive collection of The Clarion-Ledger's bound volumes. MSU Dean of Libraries Frances Coleman has been a driving force behind the building of that Mississippi journalism collection, and authorized the acceptance of the CNHI donation of the collection.
Along with MSU Library colleagues Glen Berry, John Cox and Richard Moore, I went to Laurel to collect the donation. A century of the Laurel daily newspaper's record filled a large 10-wheel truck to two-thirds of capacity - and completely exhausted two white-haired men and two younger co-workers. We all left the Leader-Call building covered in the dust of handling a century of the paper's reporting.
The goal of salvaging those records from the scrap heap is to preserve them, digitize them and one day make them available to the people who need to utilize those records - and none more urgently than the historians, the genealogists, and the education community in the Jones County region. The Magnolia database system quietly funded by the Legislature has provided a framework to build such possibilities.
Time, technology and money led to the records being in peril. Those same influences will ultimately be their salvation.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at 601-507-8004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.