‘Goodbye’ just not enough
For those who have not heard, this will be my final column as Managing Editor of the Oxford Eagle. On the same day news broke of Hugh Freeze resigning, I was offered and accepted the position of Editor of the Vicksburg Post. It wasn’t an easy decision because I love living and working in Oxford, but Vicksburg is three hours closer to the Mississippi Coast where my aging parents live and ultimately family won out.
So where do you begin when saying “goodbye” doesn’t seem appropriate? How about at the beginning?
I do know that the hardest part about coming to Oxford on that Sunday afternoon in June 2015 was trying to get to the Oxford Eagle office on the Square. I got lost and had to call former publisher Tim Phillips three times because of the one-way streets. But when I sat down with Tim and former editor Don Whitten at Old Venice and discussed the position of Managing Editor, I felt a sense of excitement and eagerness to get back in the newspaper game.
At the time I interviewed with Tim and Don, I was working fulltime in asset protection for Walmart in Pass Christian, Mississippi, catching shoplifters and writing Sports stories on the side for the Sun Herald. A year earlier, I was laid off as Editor due to budget cuts at a newspaper in Laurel that was in the midst of a newspaper war and my future as a journalist sure seemed in doubt. At 50, I was forced to move back home with my parents and grabbed the only fulltime job I could find. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong whatsoever working an honest job at Walmart, but the only job I had ever known for 25 years was journalism and newspapers. So when I got that call from Don one evening while watching a potential shoplifter on my shift, I was incredibly interested in coming to Oxford for an interview.
After supper and a great meeting with Tim and Don, I left Old Venice and walked around the Square for the first time. I had driven through Oxford a couple times in my travels around the state as a Sports Editor passing through to cover a ballgame some place and even made the trek over from Cleveland while a student at Delta State once, but I had never really seen Oxford until that evening. The Square on a Sunday evening just after the Ole Miss students had left for the summer was of course very quiet and peaceful. The sun was setting just right as the glow was bouncing off the courthouse and my mind began to wander as I walked the same streets as Faulkner, Morris and Grisham. I was hooked on Oxford’s allure.
The next morning, I went back to the Eagle office and showed Don that I could actually paginate some pages and I recall Tim running into the newsroom looking for a camera to shoot a photo of the first wreck at the brand new Highway 6 and Jackson Avenue interchange. By 10 a.m., I felt at home and was offered the job by lunchtime. It didn’t take me but a few minutes to accept.
I was back in the newspaper business and soon was finding my way around Oxford — and the Square.
It didn’t take long to also find out what’s great (Double Decker Festival, the Grove, Game Day weekend) and not so great (parking, traffic and affordable housing) about the LOU community. Along the way, I’ve made some incredible memories and what I hope are life-long friends in the two short years I’ve been here. I was here for the tail end of the Eagle on the Square and the birth of the Eagle at a new, state-of-the-art facility on Highway 30 (you should come see it if you haven’t.)
During my two years, I’m proud to say the Eagle has carried on their tradition of providing award-winning community journalism as evidence by capturing consecutive General Excellence awards from the Mississippi Press Association. And as the Eagle approaches its 150th anniversary, I know it is stronger than ever and guided by an incredible staff that I hope the community continues to support.
I thank all of you whose path I may have crossed over the last couple of years, but I especially thank those people who gave a veteran newspaper guy another shot at getting back in the game. I will never forget you and be forever grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Eagle and this incredible community.
Rob Sigler is managing editor of The Oxford EAGLE. Contact him at email@example.com