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Opinion

Losing Laurel


  • By Clay Neely
  • |
  • May. 04, 2021 - 4:36 PM

Losing Laurel

Clay Neely is co-publisher and managing editor of The Newnan Times-Herald. He can be reached at clay@newnan.com

Last Friday, we had to say goodbye to one of our best young reporters.

Laurel Huster will soon be Laurel Clark, as she and her fiancé prepare for their wedding in a few weeks and a subsequent move to Athens, Georgia.

We’re really going to miss her. Not only did she possess an incredible work ethic, but also a tremendous knowledge of the people of our community.

Whenever a story opportunity came up, Laurel would be the first to reply-all to the email, “I’ll take it!”

As an editor, that kind of enthusiasm will get you spoiled pretty quick.

No matter what the subject matter, Laurel never passed on a story. Maybe she saw it as an opportunity to develop.

Each summer, The Newnan Times-Herald usually gets an intern through the Georgia Press Association. We appreciate the extra help, and the student gets a chance to learn how a community newspaper works.

Laurel was one of those students. Coming to us from Mercer, she was a Northgate graduate with deep roots in our community. She was a natural fit and probably one of our best interns.

In fact, we kept an available reporter position open for the duration of her senior year, just so we’d have room for her when she graduated. In our mind, it made more sense to work a little harder, short staffed for a few semesters, than to let her get away to another paper.

Truth be told, in this profession, you can make more money doing just about anything else. Papa John’s is offering a $1,000 signing bonus for new employees.

It’s hard to compete with that.

But Laurel, like most other reporters, has a love for community and for understanding the people behind it. When you live in a county as special as ours, there's a seemingly endless supply of good-news opportunities. She always had time to run down a story.

She also tackled the school board and city council stories without missing a beat. I never had a single complaint about her writing or her personality.

Laurel reminds me of why I love our newspaper and why I cringe when people refer to us as “the media,” which always conveys images of outsiders swooping into foreign territory to sniff out a sensational story that fits their brand.

Good community reporters, like Laurel, want the truth, but they also treat people with respect. Unlike “big media” folks, you can find us at the grocery store, the gym, the coffee shop or church.

In short, a good community reporter is an ambassador for the newspaper.

So when we learned she would be relocating to Athens, the pressure was on to find a suitable replacement. Not an easy task, as most employers would attest to in this current climate.

In the aftermath of the tornado, a young reporter reached out to us about the open position. I asked if he’d be willing to come give us a hand as we dealt with the fallout from the storm.

Despite an hour-long commute from Hampton, Joe Adgie jumped at the chance to come help us and turned out nearly a dozen great stories that week.

His immediate enthusiasm and willingness to tackle new stories endeared him to the rest of the staff, who were knee-deep in their own tornado coverage stories.

After we sent out a story pitch, Joe replied, “I’m on it.”

That’s when I knew things were going to be OK. Joe “On It” Adgie has a good ring to it.

Last Friday, we celebrated Laurel and wished her the best in her next chapter with some strawberry cake and a few parting gifts. It was bittersweet, but we’re all grateful for the time she spent here.

No matter where she goes, Laurel's work ethic and personality will provide limitless opportunities. We’ll certainly miss her.

In an economic landscape that has employers scrambling to fill positions, we’re extremely fortunate to have people who are willing to work hard and remain passionate about the community we serve.

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Clay Neely is co-publisher and managing editor of The Newnan Times-Herald. He can be reached at clay@newnan.com