News Obits School/Sports Community Opinion

— So, how will the big newspaper merger in northwest Arkansas affect the Gentry and Decatur papers? That’s a question I’ve heard from a number of readers over the past week.

And the answer is - not a lot. Though newspaper staff members on Oct. 26 received the required notices that their job positions with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette would be terminated on or about Saturday, on Tuesday our local staff received word we were being rehired by the new company, Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC.

I must admit that word of being rehired to continue doing what we have been doing - namely, reporting on the news and events of the Gentry and Decatur area - was a welcome announcement to our local staff of three. We do feel for those employees who - through no fault of their own - were not rehired.

Berta Ownbey will continue to take phone calls and help customers with subscriptions and classified ads at our office on Mondays and Fridays.

Janelle Jessen will continue covering news and events in Decatur.

I will continue covering Gentry news, editing stories and building the Gentry and Decatur newspapers.

John Dilmore will continue as publisher for the westside newspapers - the Decatur Herald, Gentry Courier-Journal, Gravette News Herald and Siloam Springs Herald-Leader.

One change is that Kent Marts, longtime editor of The Benton County Daily Record, is now the editor of the morethan-a-dozen weekly newspapers in the new company - including the westside papers mentioned above. As such, he will oversee the news gathering and news content of all the weekly papers.

This, too, is not really new, because Marts was already working with local managing editors to help them improve the news content and layout of their papers. He has been of great assistance to me in improving the layout and design of the Gentry and Decatur newspapers and has always been someone to turn to for answers and guidance when questions arose. In his new position, he will be able to devote even more time to help the weekly newspapers be the best they can be.

A little background on Kent: His mother, Patricia Guthary Marts, grew up in Gentry (and subscribes to this newspaper); his maternal grandparents were Andy and Margie Guthary, who both taught generations of students in Gentry and the surround areas. Another connection: Berta Ownbey and Kent’s father, Don Marts, attended the College of the Ozarks together.

I expect there will be some changes as the new company hones its operations and works to build and improve all the company newspapers, but the Decatur Herald and the Gentry Courier-Journal will continue doing what they have been doing - reporting on the local news and events in Gentry, Decatur and the surrounding areas. The changes that do come, I expect, will be changes to make each newspaper a better product - something I also long to do.

As always, we welcome and invite comments, suggestions and submissions from our readers. It is not humanly possible for Janelle or I to attend every meeting and event in our coverage area. We do the best we can to cover all we can, but we always appreciate the letters, e-mails, phone calls, photos and tips our readers provide. It helps make our community newspapers truly community newspapers and it makes our jobs easier. Please keep things coming. We will do our best to get items in the paper in a timely fashion.

I also wish to take this opportunity to thank our readers and the members of the Gentry and Decatur communities for all their help and cooperation with our newspapers andstaff. You have made our jobs both possible and enjoyable. We look forward to continuing to serve you, as your truly local newspaper, in the years to come.

Carrying a big stick

Some of you may have been wondering about the big stick I carried to the Gentry football game on Friday night, so perhaps I owe a brief explanation.

Yes, I did have a tilting fluid-head camera mount fastened to the top of a big walking stick - something which seemed a bit surprising to other photographers with their telescoping aluminum monopods. But why would I make such a concoction and then show up with it at a football game? My answer is quite simple.

Some years ago, I spent a good amount of money on a tripod with that same tilting fluid head. It worked great - until the one plastic piece connecting the head to the tripod broke. Being a conservative-type fellow who doesn’t just throw worthless junk away when there might be a possible use for it down the road, I saved the pieces and parts, trying to figure out how to repair it and avoid spending more good money to buy another good tripod.

Well, it occurred to me how often I used that tripod as a walking stick when hiking to a rugged location to photograph deer or other natural scenes. In fact, when it broke and I quit carrying it, I missed it and picked up a sturdy Arkansas walking stick at a Game and Fish Commission museum.

Then the thought came to me. I could use the walking stick as a monopod to help steady my camera when shooting longer exposures or with a telephoto lens. For 27 cents, I bought the bolt to combine the tilting fluid-head camera mount with my native Arkansas walking stick, and the end result was pleasing - at least after I cut down the stick to bring my camera to eye level. The monopod was sturdier than most store-bought varieties and absorbed vibration rather than amplifying it like aluminum monopods tend to do. And the best part was that it didn’t cost me much.

Yes, I carried it to the football game because I was using a manual Nikon telephoto lens on a Konica-Minolta digital camera - something else I was able to do by ordering an inexpensive part all the way from China.

And my walking stick worked well as a monopod. I was indeed pleased with my concoction. It worked so well at the football game that I’m anxious to try it afield with one or more of my old film cameras.

When I put the two parts together in the garage last week, Mrs. Griz asked me if I was going to engrave my name on my new monopod.

I told her, “What for? No one else has one like this!”

In addition to aiding me when hiking in the woods or taking photographs, my new monopod, I suppose, could have a political purpose as well - one steeped in American history.

Teddy Roosevelt, a lover of the outdoors and the president credited with the establishment of numerous national parks and monuments, once said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”

Yes, I prefer not to raise my voice and I do hope to go far with my walking-stick monopod, even if it does look a bit unusual to those not as conservatively minded as I.

Opinion, Pages 9 on 11/04/2009

Print Headline: Griz Bear Comments Changes at the Newspaper and Carrying a Big Stick

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