Editorial: Brandi Owczarz

A couple of months ago, I went to my doctor due to some extreme pain issues in the chest area. Because of all the stress I incur with this job, I knew without a shadow of a doubt I was having a heart attack, or I had developed some kind of deadly illness where I would have to immediately update my will and tell my family how much I loved them.

After blood work and all the other types of tests that doctor’s seem to enjoy performing, my doctor looked me straight in the eyes and in words similar to these, said, “Brandi, there’s nothing wrong with you but the fact that you’re fat. You got fat fast and you need to lose weight. Stick to 1200 calories a day and start working out.”

My doctor was calling me out on the fact that, in the year since I had taken this job, I had gained 45 pounds, and he wasn’t mincing words. I remember thinking at the time that there is no way I’ll start dieting now, with the holidays beginning, but that would be a great New Year’s resolution.

Fast forward to the week after Christmas and I’m honestly not feeling the resolution of losing weight at all. For starters, I work a lot of hours a week. As a matter of fact, after I work some days from 7:30 a.m. until 8 or 9 p.m., I’ll go home and write until 12 or 1 a.m. I am, at best, a workaholic. When you work the type of hours I work, fast food becomes your best friend, sitting behind a desk all day becomes the status quo, and when you’re as old as I am, you gain weight. Apparently, 45 pounds in one year’s time.

While I admit that I should really be more concerned about my health, I have decided that resolutions are important, and I have a few I’d like to accomplish in 2017 that have nothing to do with my health, but everything to do with this paper.

Continue to overcome our past: When I first took this job, there was so much work that needed to be done. There was a lot of in-house drama in the staff of the Calhoun Times and people who weren’t really committed to the Times but were committed to a paycheck. There were stories being written from Facebook and social media sources. There were multiple arrests on the cover for the same crimes over and over and over again. And, my pet peeve, there was always at least one, if not two or more, staff reports on the cover. Disclaimer: when you see staff reports, you are looking at a story that someone outside the office sent you, like a press report.

The paper had gone through editor after editor after editor for about 10 years before I came on the scene; Sports Editor Alex has reported to six editors in his five years here. It’s difficult for a small town paper to grow and put out news when there’s a constant change in this spot.

I remember making a list of things I wanted to see for the paper when I took over, and great strides were made in 2016 to address these things, the biggest being staff. There was a shake-up in editorial resulting in Sports Editor Alex and I putting out the paper twice each week for five months by ourselves. It was worth it, though, because it brought us Tyler. I make no bones about it, Tyler has been the best hire ever: he’s eager, energetic, wants to learn and wants to work. He never says “no” to any request I make of him; no job is too menial for him to do, which is a huge deal. Previous staff brought egos to the table and felt some jobs were beneath them. My thought is, if it’s something the boss (in this case, me) will do, then it’s something any of the staff can do. Tyler works well between news and sports and is a huge help for Alex and myself.

It always takes a while to get a groove going when there’s staffing changes, but Tyler has jumped right in and does whatever we need to get the paper out. I notice that we are beginning to hit deadlines earlier and things have generally fallen into a routine. This is great going into 2017; it gives us the opportunity to slowly make improvements that will be easy for us to produce, and easy for our readers to digest.

To prove how on track we are, one of the more gratifying moments of 2016 took place one short month ago, when I was awarded the Print Media Beacon Award by the Georgia School Boards Association, recognizing our support of public education in Georgia by reporting unbiased news on our local schools, a nomination that came from the Calhoun City School System. While the award has my name on it, it is really an award that the Calhoun Times won, because we are the true definition of a team; one person’s achievement is due to the whole staff and one person’s failure is accepted by all of us.

We have a solid staff in place now, one that is committed to Calhoun-Gordon County and producing accurate news to our readers.

Did Someone Say Sports: Another topic we have been discussing around the newsroom is sports, and how to get more sports in our paper. Sports Editor Alex does an awesome job covering our local high schools, but now that we have Tyler, we are looking at ways to utilize him to get more middle school and even rec league coverage in our paper. While we are still too small of a staff to have a reporter at middle school and rec league sporting events, it will be easier now to get updates and make sure our younger sports stars get the recognition they deserve.

More news: 2016 was a year rich in local news. As I was going through 2016 papers this week trying to put together the Year in Review, the review story kept getting longer and longer, until I had to break it up into a four-part series. I was at a disadvantage this time last year because I began this job half-way through 2015, but honestly, there really wasn’t a lot for me to pick and choose from news-wise at the end of 2015 in our papers from that time period. This year, I’ve had to cut stories out of the Year in Review because there was so much news. And honestly, it drives me crazy that there is still news we miss! My goal in 2017 is to raise the bar even higher and put out even more news stories. I want to step-up our coverage of our local government; you think the end of 2016 was newsworthy with the Calhoun City Council? Wait until 2017.

Our staff understands that to get more news, we have to be out in the community more, attending more meetings, being more nosy, and we are in the planning phases of making that happen.

More social media presence: You know how I always knock all news social media? Yeah, it’s one of those things I can’t stand, but unfortunately, the times we live in dictate more technology and more social media presence. Other than Ryleigh Ledford (and the Times is a huge fan of Ryleigh), we have what looks to be the largest Facebook following in Gordon County, sitting at close to 18,000 likes. As a matter of fact, posting stories from our website to our Facebook page is the most popular avenue we use to put news out; some stories we have put on Facebook reach more than 100,000 people. That’s huge in such a small town. The staff is discussing ways to utilize our Facebook page to better benefit driving news in Gordon County. Facebook Live anyone? And, we’ve recently set up an Instagram account. We will be publishing to it soon.

2017 looks to be a huge and promising year for the Calhoun Times, and for news in Gordon County in general. And you never know, by the end of the year, there might be a healthier Brandi bringing the news to you, but please don’t hold me to that particular resolution.

Brandi Moorehead-Owczarz is Calhoun born and raised and loves bringing the news to her beloved community as the managing editor of the Calhoun Times. You can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/brandi.owczarz or on Instagram by searching brandiowczarz1.