Being in the media business is like wading through quicksand. Every time you think you’ve found firm ground you start sinking. Not long ago we depended on the newspaper for news, then radio, followed by the three networks, then cable and now the Internet and social media.
There aren’t many constants in the news biz but one of them has been The Dunn Daily Record, thanks to founder Hoover Adams. You probably wouldn’t pick Dunn, N.C., to own a paper but Hoover was born and preferred to live and work his craft here. He died this week, at age 92, but his contribution to journalism won’t pass away for decades. He had “ink in his blood,” a compliment to those who live and breathe print journalism. While Hoover knew and sometimes hobnobbed with the politically powerful, corporate elite and social upper crust his mission was to report the who, what, when, where, why and how of Harnett County.
The Daily Record didn’t care much about what was going on in Iraq, Vietnam, London, Tel Aviv, Washington or even Raleigh, unless it involved a local resident. This newspaper told you everything you needed to know in the community, no matter whether it was a bake sale, a court case or involved a local school, church or business.
Adams knew what few publishers understand today. Readers, viewers, consumers have many choices, so if they are going to choose your media offering it is because you provide something they can’t get anywhere else. Picking up stories from the wire service is relatively cheap and fills up space but people can get the national and state news from television or the Internet. They can only get local news (what surveys say people are most interested in reading) from their local media. The Daily Record is Harnett County all over, from cover to cover, which explains why the circulation and penetration far exceeds most in the state.
This paper doesn’t need big research budgets, focus groups or consultants to figure out what people want to read. Hoover and son Bart got their feedback straight from their readers every day and they listen to what people like and what they want. That’s not to say The Daily Record shies away from taking stands on issues. Hoover Adams loved a good sparring match with Democrats and Republicans alike and treated them pretty much the same.
They will be dissecting and teaching about The Daily Record for decades in journalism classes and hopefully the new generation of journalists will have the same hunger to learn what is going on around them, the same integrity to report the story right and the courage to report the good and the bad.
Hall of Fame accolades are often passed around liberally but Hoover Adams was one of a breed of old-school journalists and publishers who clearly deserve that honor. Perhaps you never read Adam’s daily column, “These Little Things,” but if you did, and most people in Harnett County did, you never knew whether you would come away with a chuckle, a tear, be inspired or perhaps even angry at an injustice. Hoover Adams owned the paper so he could say what he thought, and he did until just a few months before he died. You will be missed, Mr. Publisher.
— Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer and is creator/host of “NC SPIN,” a weekly statewide television discussion of NC issues airing Sundays at 6:30 a.m. on WRAL-TV and at 8:30 a.m. on WRAZ-TV FOX50. Contact him at www.ncspin.com.