published Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Magee: Honest discussion only enlivens spirit of community in place I call home


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Audio clip

David Magee

There’s no place like home.

The saying is trite, no doubt, but for good reason. Few phrases sum up the feeling better when it’s true.

In my first hour of work at a community daily newspaper 24 years ago, I knew I was in the right place. Home, though, is where the heart is, as long as we are using proverbs. And my heart lies in Chattanooga and the Times Free Press specifically, a broad-based forum of information and engagement in the spirit of community.

I think back to a young Adolph Ochs, who moved here in the late 1800s to make his place in the news business despite the fact that Chattanooga was little more than a big mud hole. He bought a small, money-losing paper struggling in a national era of sensational journalism, and quickly turned The Chattanooga Times into a profitable and respected medium by treating readers with respect and giving them useful, in-depth news they could rely upon.

Purchasing The New York Times several years later, Mr. Ochs employed the same style he used in Chattanooga, ushering American journalism into a new era. Years later, when Mr. Ochs’ granddaughter, Ruth Holmberg, was named publisher of The Chattanooga Times in 1964, she became one of the South’s first female publishers. She led the paper over a span of 30 years with the strength of a king by employing the grace of a queen while never losing sight that her calling was to be a voice of the people.

The Free Press forged its own legacy behind the business sense and drive of founder Roy McDonald. The paper built its reputation on connecting with the community. The merger of the two Chattanooga papers a decade ago brought together a diverse group of talented employees and journalists to serve the Scenic City.

The community-forging tradition bred from shared and disseminated information continues today, with the Chattanooga Times Free Press providing readers more valuable content than ever before in an era when many media companies are moving in the opposite direction.

Today, I bring a humble heart and hopes that we can engage in the same healthy spirit of community. Readers should find that the only constant direction I lean is toward a better life for all. I’m smart enough to know that I’m not always right. Not even close. I also know that engagement of the reader is what matters most.

After all, it takes a village.

We are living in interesting times, surrounded daily by change. Some is good, other not so good. Either way, no denying we are in the midst of fast-paced evolution that requires a good road map to reach the best spot.

And sometimes, a laugh along the way makes the journey a bit more tolerable.

Our directions may sometimes diverge. But different paths, I learned long ago, often lead to the same desired place.

My charge is to look, listen and learn, providing as best I can through infused doses of personal insight a reflection of community through discussion of issues big and small, near and dear and far and wide that impact our lives.

Yours can be to let me know when I make a wrong turn.

Experience and history say you will not hesitate.

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