I knew at some time in my lifetime I would probably have to write this column, but I really expected it to be under different circumstances. Today’s paper will officially be the last published by our family.
The COVID pandemic finally claimed another victim, your local newspaper. For those who don’t know, advertising is the lifeblood of newspapers like ours and when the economy was shut down and the supply lines were devastated, it took a toll on our advertisers and their ability to run ads with us. In addition, we have been unable to replace employees who have left and we can’t continue under the current conditions.
The Southeast Sun was born on a Thursday in May 1982 and followed by her sister paper, the Daleville Sun-Courier, on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 1986. My father, Howard Quattlebaum, had a vision to provide local news to the area in a way that was sorely lacking at the time, thus The Sun was given birth. He passed away in 2004 and left the reins to my brother Russell and me to carry on. It’s been a wild ride with lots of ups and downs, laughter and tears, and excitement at being the first media source to break a big story.
I will never forget the feeling of awe and pride that first Thursday we published, riding along city streets and seeing those orange bags laying in driveways and on lawns as our very first edition was complete and ready for our readers to devour and be informed of the goings on in our coverage area. Less than a year later we switched to Wednesday delivery at the request of our advertisers.
Over the years we’ve made some wonderful friends, especially among those local merchants who chose to advertise their business in our newspapers so we could provide you, the reader, with local news every week.
You see, publishing the news is not just a job. It’s building a relationship with your community. City hall, schools, commissions, sports, feature stories, obituaries, Fort Rucker, civic clubs, school boards, politics, you name it, we’ve covered it all. And what fun and how interesting it has been. Getting to know the local mayors, councilmen, superintendents, teachers, students, coaches, players, veterans, business people and everyone in between, it’s been a pleasure.
But more than that, it’s been an honor and a privilege to be the news source for our communities. You think you can find out what’s happening on social media, but more times than not, what you read is wrong. That’s one thing we’ve always prided ourselves on, making sure what is written is verified and accurate. As my ace reporter Michelle Mann says, “If my mother tells me she loves me, I need two sources to verify that!” Since we have no one to hand the mantle of news off to, welcome to fake news in our coverage area. Believe about half of what you’ll read on Facebook.
We’ve had some wonderful journalists come through our newsroom and “super” sales people in our advertising department. I’ll put our graphic designers up against anyone and circulation managers who tried to make sure the papers were out on time despite press delays, terrible weather or being shorthanded. Everyone from the front door to the loading dock had a job to do to make this process run smoothly and they’ve all done it well.
I’ll miss being on the sidelines shooting photos, taping city council meetings, basically doing whatever needed to be done when my reporters needed help. I’ll miss working with some awesome employees who have become family, albeit my work family. I love each and every one of them.
I want to give special thanks to Michelle Mann, Debbie Mock, Slayton Shaw, Bill Herrin, Denese Dixon and Angie Mock for hanging in there with us until the end. We’re all exhausted from trying to do more than one job each and we couldn’t have asked for a better crew. A special salute to one of our carriers, Donnie Griswold. Donnie has been with us since September 1983 and has never missed a Wednesday making sure his customers received their paper. We couldn’t have ever asked for a more loyal carrier.
But more importantly than anything, I wouldn’t give anything for the time I’ve worked with my father and brother. This was a family business from the get-go and we’ve tried to continue a family tradition in some aspect with our work family over the years. I’ve worked with Russell for 37 years now and I wouldn’t trade one day of it. He’s not just my brother but also my business partner and it goes without saying we would probably have never been as close or trusting of each other if we hadn’t worked together all these years. God has blessed us richly over the past 40 plus years.
Thank you Enterprise, New Brockton and Daleville, for allowing us to tell your stories. Thank you to all the employees who’ve come through these doors to help us become the trusted news source in these communities. Thank you to the businesses who made it possible for us to publish these papers every week for over 40 years. And thank you Russell, for being my partner. We couldn’t have done it without God’s blessing or each other.