A note from our publisher

By DAVID GUSTAFSON,

It’s no secret that Benjamin Franklin wore a lot of different hats back in the day. In addition to being a statesman and an author and a scientist and an inventor, Mr. Franklin was also a proud newspaperman.

In fact, he was only 23 years old when he purchased his first newspaper – a struggling twice-weekly publication in Philadelphia with an unusual name: The Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences: and Pennsylvania Gazette.

Franklin’s first move was to shorten the name of the newspaper to simply The Pennsylvania Gazette and then he set out to fix and improve his new investment.

He overhauled the design. Changed the typeface. Added more news. Replaced the staff.  He even moved the newspaper office down the street to a space that better fit their needs.

In short, he did many of the same types of things I did with The Lamar Times and The Petal News when I took the helm here nearly a decade ago.

In many ways, the newspaper business hasn’t changed a bit in the nearly 300 years since Ben Franklin’s first issue of The Gazette rolled off the press.

In order to survive – and thrive – community newspapers like ours must be able to adapt and make changes when necessary.

During the course of the last several years, we have done that a number of times for a variety of reasons  – including in 2013 when we launched The Hattiesburg Post.

Simply put, we saw a need and an opportunity to fill it.

Being able to add Hattiesburg to our existing coverage areas of Petal and Lamar County made perfect sense and our efforts have been well-received by faithful newspaper readers seeking to fill a void caused by the slow-and-steady destruction of the once-mighty daily newspaper.

Carmage Walls, a legendary Texas newspaperman whose commentary on the responsiblities of newspapers like ours has been widely circulated for years, knew famously that a newspaper has the ability to be “the greatest force for good or evil in a community.”

We hope we have succeeded in fulfilling the “good” side of that equation over the years.

Which brings us to today and the debut of the new community newspaper you’re now holding in your hands,  The PineBelt NEWS – the result of an official merger of our three award-winning publications: The Hattiesburg Post, The Lamar Times, and The Petal News.

While we have always viewed ourselves internally as one newspaper, having three separate titles has had its own unique set of challenges for everything from distribution to simply covering the news.

Merging the three newspapers makes sense on all fronts and our entire team is excited about the change.

To be perfectly clear, the only thing changing is the newspaper’s name. Our focus will not change. We still believe in the importance of community journalism and our steady growth in readership tells me we’re on the right path.

We’re keeping our weekly publication schedule for now and we will maintain our core coverage and distribution area of Lamar County, Hattiesburg, and Petal with equal amounts of coverage for each area.

In recent years, we have become one of the most-decorated newspaper operations in the entire state of Mississippi and beyond that, I feel like we have restored some much-needed confidence in the future of newspapers here in the Pine Belt.

With the now-combined strength of our three newspapers, the entire staff of The PineBelt NEWS has a renewed energy to publish the very-best community newspaper that the Pine Belt deserves.

The lineage of this newspaper dates back more than 100 years to the very first issue of The Purvis Booster, a weekly newspaper that first rolled off the presses back in 1914.

In the years since, a number of wildly talented men and women have given their blood, sweat, and tears to make these newspapers what they are today and I could not be more proud to have played a small role in their continued success.

We hope you will share our excitement about the newly-chartered path ahead of us.

We won’t let you down.

David Gustafson is the not-so-mild-mannered editor and publisher of the NEW PineBelt NEWS.