My dream was always to be a writer. That’s all I have ever wanted my whole life and The Mississippi Press was a huge part of my writing career. From sitting on my granddaddy’s lap and listening to him read and laugh about what the Old Crab had to say that day, to being in the newsroom right before the paper went to print and listening to the brainstorming of what that dadburn little crustacean would say the next day. It was so much fun and I loved every second of it.
I have seen some things over the years. I’ve interviewed everyone from preschoolers to former presidents. I was peed on by a baby alligator while holding it for a close-up shot. Got a sloppy, wet kiss from a Katrina-rescued dolphin. And held rehabilitating snakes, hawks, large spiders, and other critters, some endangered. And the flights. There were so many flights. I’ve been in baby whirlybirds over the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. I hung out of the side door of a military helicopter while photographing the 2010 BP Oil Spill in the Mississippi Sound. I even went up twice with the Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, also known as the Hurricane Hunters.
My most memorable aviation trip though was the Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight I went on in September 2011. We left at 5 a.m. from the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport with a plane full of Gulf Coast veterans and community members headed to Washington, D.C. I was loaded down with three bags full of laptops, camera equipment, chargers, and power cords galore. I was dreading our arrival because in the days following 9-11 airport travel was a nightmare. I must have looked distressed thinking about the security screening and having to explain what was in each bag when three World War II vets snuck up behind me and told me not to worry. They each grabbed a bag and dragged me through the airport. A fourth rolled up in a wheelchair and said, “Come on girlie. You’re with us and we don’t stop.”
It was a crazy trip. Those vets were fast, zipping from monument to monument. I finally sat down to download my camera and start sending photos and story snippets to the office in Pascagoula and caught glimpses of a line of heroes marching up a hill to the Lincoln Memorial. I didn’t have time to really think about where I was or even what I was doing. At one point, I must have looked hungry because a vet handed me a vanilla protein drink, a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips, and a honey and lemon cough drop. It was a weird combination, but I remember being grateful because I was starving.
Back in Mississippi, we landed in Gulfport and I headed to the Pascagoula office on Convent Street to finish up everything for the next day’s edition. I finally made it home to Ocean Springs at about 2 a.m. My mom stayed with my children while I was gone and spent the night at my house. I was too wired to sleep and too tired to eat so I just talked with her most of the night telling her stories of everyone I’d met and all I had witnessed. The next morning was business as usual with the kids off to school and the paper in the driveway with all the stories and photographs I had gathered the exhausting day before—it wasn’t glamorous, but it was a blast. My mom was amazed because everything I had told her about just mere hours before was right there in print and miraculously laying in my driveway.
Sadly, those larger-than-life, color photo, driveway-landing, print publications are ending all across the country. The Mississippi Press will no longer publish a print edition after Feb. 26, and although it’s disheartening, it’s OK.
I remember sometime in 2008, the higher-ups at The Mississippi Press were trying desperately to figure out exactly how the internet—social media in particular—would fit in the world of newspaper print publication. The Mississippi Press had a website, but we really didn’t know what to do with it. The publisher at the time called a meeting with the employees of The Mississippi Press and its sister paper the Press-Register and told us the internet was just “a passing fad” and not to worry it would die out in two years, tops. I remember personally thinking—yeah right. That was the first time I actually laughed out loud about the internet. And I remember a former Pascagoula councilman asked me at the time if I was concerned about the effects the World Wide Web, Facebook, and Twitter would have on newspapers. He said why would anyone continue to subscribe when you can read it on your phone? I had just bought my very first iPhone and thoughts of writing stories on it were already dancing in my head.
Nonetheless, I still remember the actual answer my 2008 self gave him.
Newspapers will always be around in some form and capacity. Newspapers were here before radio and television and evolved with progress. It will be the same at some point and even though we have no idea what lies ahead—it’s going to be great.
He smiled at me and said, “That’s a lot of optimism, and I really hope you’re right, but do you think you’ll still have a job in 15 years?”
And so The Mississippi Press that I knew and loved is gone, but thankfully, I was right. I do still have a job because Our Mississippi Home became what The Mississippi Press could not—the good news that people want to know and read right at their fingertips.
We have the most amazing writers at Our Mississippi Home taking newspaper reporting to the next level and a lot of them worked at one time or another at The Mississippi Press. We are telling stories about you, your families, your neighbors, and all of the successes throughout the Magnolia State.
So join us on our social media platforms and sign up for our newsletter because you don’t want to miss a single good thing. There’s a lot more to be told. Everyone has an amazing story to tell and at Our Mississippi Home, we can’t wait to tell yours.
So hold tight and get your tissues ready. For the next few days, former Mississippi Press journalists will be telling stories from the good ole days at the press. The old girl has had a wild ride and we are about to tell you all about it. And you might even get a visit from that dadburn Old Crab.