Imagining a New Rocky Mount Telegram – Part 1

Woman reading newspaper in a gold room. Francesco Nétti (Italian artist, 1832- 1894).

I intended to major in journalism. It never worked out. It didn’t help that my junior year in high school I was turned down for a staff position on the Evanstonian, the school paper. Miss Stephens, the sponsor for the paper told me my grades weren’t quite good enough, and for my sake, all the extra work on the newspaper wasn’t a good idea. I was crushed. Undeterred, I left for the University of Kentucky to major in journalism. I got side-tracked by the head of the Sociology Department, who was also my freshman college advisor, a wonderful old gentleman, who reeled in many a student to his discipline, including me.

Though I grew up reading the Chicago Tribune, my real education in the newspaper business began in my first life living in Cadiz, Kentucky reading The Cadiz Record.  In those days, a southern local newspaper printed the names of those who were visiting in town, details of the brides wedding dress, and what the high school football team ate for breakfast on the morning of the game. It was all wonderful. My only working experience for a newspaper was on a newly launched weekly in Oldham County, Kentucky called, The Country Gentleman. It was a two-woman operation: Maggie wrote the copy, I sold the advertising.

You and I could have a rousing discussion on what in the hell has happened to the newspaper business, but instead, I recommend you read My Paper Chase – The stories of Vanished Times by Harold Evans. You won’t put it down. Evans became the editor for the Sunday Times and The Times of London, and among other things in a long illustrious career was a book publisher acquiring the memoirs of people like Colin Powell, Marlon Brando, Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. My Paper Chase is a poignant reminder of all that newspapers once were, and all they could be again.

Which brings me to The Rocky Mount Telegram. I have spoken several times in jest to my writing group about staging a coup and taking the paper over because I think we are uniquely qualified to make some needed improvements. Unfortunately, the writing group that could bring different skills to this endeavor, seem otherwise, occupied. It’s a shame!

So it is up to me to state my case. In light of the revitalization going on in the Rocky Mount area, we need a newspaper that carries the flag for the community with renewed energy and enthusiasm. The new mission statement for the paper should be SAYING YES TO ROCKY MOUNT AND THE AREA EVERY DAY!  In imagining this new version of the Telegram, I’d like to fill it with columns that return once again to featuring our own local news…. forget reading about the teacher of the year in Wake Forest and other fillers that leave us drumming our fingers in frustration on the breakfast room table. After all, we have our own great teachers to write about. I’ll explain more tomorrow.









3 thoughts on “Imagining a New Rocky Mount Telegram – Part 1

  1. Journalism students in our public schools could be involved. When I was in school, we had a newspaper, “The Blackbird.” Like your newspaper when you grew up, our students had a column in the “Telegram” that reported on our comings and goings. It was fun to read about “us”.

    POLLY WARNER 252-451-0431


  2. Great writing. We cancelled our paper many times. Have not had a subscription to the RM paper in a few years. Would much rather read the Nashville Graphic. Many still love to pick up the daily or weekly paper and become engrossed in the words written about local happenings in and around our community. Thank you!




  3. Hi, Stepheny. My dream when I was growing up here in Rocky Mount was to be Lois Lane. I was fortunate enough to be on the staff of The Gryphon, the student newspaper of Rocky Mount (Senior) High School, for two years. The skills I learned there from Mrs. Rosa Leonard helped me through two years on the staff of the Seahawk, UNCW’s school newspaper, three years on the Telegram staff in the 1990s, and two years on the East Carolinian during graduate school. I left journalism for good after graduate school because I was convinced it is a dying industry, though many habits remain from my time in that career. There are a lot of challenges newspapers face, in this area particularly. I am looking forward to hearing your ideas and hoping that the Telegram heads are reading as well. We need to get you a column there!


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