Gerber: Times Free Press has new face on the right

Clint Cooper found his way into journalism by way of Engel Stadium.

The summer after he graduated from Brainerd High School, he had the perfect job for a teenage boy -- scoreboard operator for the Chattanooga Lookouts. While doing that job, sports writers for both the Chattanooga Free Press and the Chattanooga Times asked him if he'd like to cover some games.

"I did, and I liked it, and I kept doing it," Cooper said. "It seems kind of simplistic, but that's how it happened."

Cooper started working part time in the sports department of the Free Press at age 18 while he was a communications major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He became an intern, and in 1980 was hired as a full-time reporter covering high school sports.

He later became an editor supervising a staff of more than 20. When the Times and Free Press merged in 1999, he went back to reporting and, over the years, covered both news and feature stories. His most recent assignment was covering faith.

Cooper said he'd always loved English and writing, so working as a reporter was a natural fit.

"I was not one of those people who hated doing research papers. I actually liked it," he said.

That trait will serve him well in his new role as Free Press page editor, which he assumed Monday.

Cooper describes himself as a fiscal and social conservative. He'll respect the tradition of the Free Press page, but he'll be his own person, too. (Read his introductory column on page F5.)

And he'll be a good balance on issues to Pam Sohn, editor of the liberal Times page.

The Times Free Press is unique among American newspapers in publishing two editorial pages, the left-leaning Times page and the conservative Free Press page. When the two newspapers merged, many readers did not believe the new paper would keep two editorial pages for very long. But 15 years later, we've still got two pages, and we're still offering opinions from both sides of the political aisle.

It's a nice symmetry that, while Cooper has a background with the Free Press, Sohn was a reporter and editor at the Chattanooga Times before the merger.

Cooper is a strong conservative who is passionate about this community. He is also a humble, honest, hardworking man and will be outstanding in his new role.

Having lived in Chattanooga his whole life, he understands the city and the region, the neighborhoods and the people, both conservative and liberal.

He should; he's one of us.

Alison Gerber is the editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at