Back in the spring of 2003, I read where a new, community-oriented newspaper was coming to town. The McDuffie Mirror would focus on the people of McDuffie County and the wonderful things they were involved in. The piece even mentioned that The Mirror would solicit writings from the general public.
Being one that always enjoyed writing, and a sports lover, I offered my services. I was thinking that I could come up with an occasional article of interest or maybe even cover a ballgame or two. I was told to get in touch with one Jason Smith to arrange this.
Now I had heard of Jason Smith but did not know him personally. I went to see him one day in his new office thinking he might throw me a bone or two if and when his staff might become overloaded. I was not pretending to be a professional journalist by any stretch of the imagination.
I don't know if Jason was ready for me or if he blurted it on a whim, but he said, "I want you to write a sports column of opinion for me every week."
"Every week?" was my puzzled reply to Jason.
To say that I was not quite prepared for such a task was an understatement. I told Jason that I was an opinionated person and without him saying it, I sensed that maybe he had already heard that somewhere. My fear was not in forming a weekly opinion but in getting it down in black and white so that it made sense to readers.
Jason was literally on fire with excitement about getting the paper started and was very encouraging about me being a part of it. "We will make this paper something that everybody in this county will be proud of," Jason said.
If there was ever any doubt about that, we can look back over the 73 months of this newspaper's existence. Jason had a vision in his mind and, by gosh, he fulfilled it. The McDuffie Mirror is indeed a newspaper that we are all proud of.
Any newspaper worth its ink has to cover the good, the bad, and the ugly. To do otherwise would not enhance its legitimacy among the public. Jason knew that but had enough sense to know that he was not the editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution or The New York Times.
We are a small community where everybody knows everybody or at least knows somebody that knows everyone. Jason focused on the good and while not hiding the bad and the ugly; he had the ability and wisdom to handle it with grace. In essence, he could get the stories out without totally embarrassing folks.
Jason Smith despises sensationalism. He headlined the good news and kept the routine fender benders on the back pages so as not to turn them into 20 car train wrecks. He was the epitome of the small-town newspaper editor. When out-of-towners read his paper, they didn't get the idea they were in Dodge City or Tombstone.
We will miss Jason's talent. His way was an art, not a science. We were fortunate to have an artist like Jason painting us a beautiful sunset while a tornado might be lurking. I wish Jason the best in his future endeavors.