I started this writing roughly 25 years ago in Osceola, Ark. at the weekly Osceola Times. At that time the newspaper there and Blytheville were owned by Park Communications-Rust now owns those newspaper properties.
Park bought the newspaper from a group that included Phil Mullins. Mr. Mullins wrote a column called "Moonbeams." It was a takeoff of the old Moon Mullins cartoon character and a nickname that had been attached to Mr. Mullins.
Park had owned the company for a couple of years by the time we arrived in Osceola. As I walked the streets and got to know folks there most all of them spoke about the column. They missed the column and reading about their friends escapades. Although they also said some folks had been known to cross the street to avoid running into Mr. Mullins. Imagine that.
I dug out some old copies of the newspaper and read "Moonbeams." The column was mostly about people Mr. Mullins had encountered during the week or things that had come his way. The column was about putting names in the newspaper for something other than crime or court news or the traditional birth, wedding and obituary announcements.
So I started writing. I tried to keep the subject light, most of the time. Occassionally, the column strayed into politics but hopefully that didn't happen too often for those who didn't care for that sort of thing. The intent was always to have folks laugh at themselves
A few times I got a little too close and like the preacher accused of stepping on toes crossed the line a couple of times. I've made apologies when necessary and when I knew about going too far. If I missed an apology along the way please accept this as correcting the slight.
I didn't write about the women too much because I usually ended up, well, going too far. I've apologized to many more women than I have men over the years. Should have learned my lesson the first time I wrote about being at a big fancy do in Osceola but discovered the dust-covered mantle which was so out of place with everything else. My first, and last, attempt at critiquing anyone's housecleaning or that of their housekeeper.
I learned about "chimney corner scriptures" from a little series we did for a long time about biblical topics. By the way, those are scriptures that folks will quote but can never recite the chapter and verse because no such accreditation exists. Made a lot of new friends with that little series of questions and learned a few things, too.
I was in a conference recently in with a dozen or so newspaper people, one of whom described the local newspaper's role as a community's "first citizen."
On the surface that might sound a little pretentious and pompous. However, his point is that the newspaper has a responsibility to its community. I think it's a takeoff from Benjamin Franklin's quote, "It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority."
The DDD has a long, and I dare say proud, history of being its community's first citizen. That groundwork was laid by the Stapleton family who served this area so well for so many years. Economics in the business, just like many others, are such that it is tough for stand-alone enterprises to survive. In the case of newspapers economic survival means continuing that role as the community "first citizen."
The DDD had the good fortune to be acquired by the Rust family of Cape Girardeau. Gary Rust, when he interviewed me the very first time back in December 1991 said he had three things he practiced as a guide-serve the community, put out a good newspaper and take care of our people.
I've thought about those three criteria many times over the years and done my best to follow those words over the last 20-plus years. I've also tried to make sure the DDD was the first citizen of its part of the world.
There's another old adage that's been in the space before that says, "Don't start an argument with a man that buys ink by the barrel." Whenever someone brings that up I point out that we no longer buy ink by the barrel; we now buy it by the tanker truck load.
There have been times over the years when this hasn't been a fun job. No one likes reading bad news and since we're all human, and we killed the last perfect person that was ever on this earth, we're going to mess up from time to time. Those times when a friend had reason to appear in the newspaper in, uh, less than flattering instances, whenever there was a tragedy in the community, or news that was going to reflect poorly on the community come to mind as examples.
The news is what it is and we've tried to be fair. In my mind I think we achieved that. I can understand how some would see it different and respect that opinion. I cannot think of an instance when we published anything to intentionally harm individual or any of our local institutions.
Who knows what the future holds? This may very well be the last column I write and that's fine, too. There have been times when writing a weekly column was a grind, but overwhelmingly enjoyable and fun most of the time.
Thanks for your friendship and support. We'll still be around and Cape is less than an hour and a-half away and the road goes both ways, so come see us as well.
Bud Hunt is regional vice president, publisher of the Daily Dunklin Democrat, Daily Statesman, Delta News-Citizen, Missourian-News and North Stoddard Countian.