So we’ve cleared Thanksgiving and have rounded the corner towards Christmas. If Thanksgiving was a bit of a downer given this COVID-19 stuff, just wait until Christmas.

I had Thanksgiving off this year but will be working Christmas. It’s not a big deal. I chose to become a broadcaster/journalist and I knew going into it that the world doesn’t stop on a holiday.

News happens and somebody’s got to report it, so it may as well be me.

At least I don’t have to get up at 3:30 in the morning as I did for 31 years while in radio. Sleeping until 6:30 each morning seems like an eternity.

It was a great joy to visit the home of Mike McDougald on Tuesday afternoon when the Christmas in Rome committee presented the grand marshal’s plaque to Mike.

Jerry Rucker and the Rev. Carey Ingram represented the committee, which used to hold a nice breakfast at Coosa Country Club each year to reveal the grand marshal.

COVID-19 busted that event up this year.

Visiting with Mike for a few minutes is always a joy. He rescued me from the radio armpit of Georgia, Columbus, in the spring of 1984.

I recall coming to Rome for the interview, which was held on the second floor of the Harvey Given building on East Sixth Avenue. I thought it went pretty well and, when it was over, I took a stroll down Broad Street with my good friend and former college dormitory buddy Floyd Farless.

I think what really sold me on Rome was the downtown district, which was just beginning to turn its renaissance corner at the time. We stopped for lunch outside Marlin’s Ye Olde World Sandwich Shoppe.

That was back before the sidewalk cafes and Marlin’s staff had set up outside and was offering lemonade and other goodies.

Mind you it wasn’t Toomer’s Corner lemonade, but it was pretty darned good. The atmosphere was wonderful and when Mike offered me the job as news director at WRGA and WQTU, I didn’t have to think twice.

Floyd’s parents wouldn’t have me live anywhere but with them when I moved to Rome. The only caveat was that I had to make the trip to Cave Spring to get jugs and jugs of that delicious Cave Spring cave water.

Mrs. Farless was willing to bathe in city water, but when it came time to make her tea, it had to be Cave Spring water.

That provided a great intro to the community of Cave Spring. To describe Cave Spring as a quaint, sleepy little village in 1984 would have been the understatement of the day.

I think it has taken Cave Spring a little longer to get things hopping, but there is no question that the city is a jewel in Floyd County’s cap.

Mike and Leeta McDougald were the kind of bosses who took an FCC licensure-mandate to serve the public interest quite literally. Very few radio stations did, and in my opinion very few do today.

You can’t serve the public interest properly via satellite and computer.

Remember the bed races that started out behind the levee each year, then moved up to the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds? They were fun but, believe me, highly competitive events that raised money for Project CURE.

Heritage Holidays and the John Wisdom Wagon Train were another project Mike and his wife helped start. The Heritage Holidays were spread over a couple of weekends and incorporated the Chiaha Harvest Fair to help bring attention to all things Rome. It was great while it lasted.

The wagon train, led by Billy Puryear right up until last year, was another great event that brought out-of-towners to Rome for the weekend.

The Redmond Regional Medical Center Heart of the Community Awards program was another project the McDougalds embraced early on and helped grow into a gold-standard event for Rome, recognizing unsung heroes across the community.

I’m extremely grateful to be able to call Mike McDougald, and Leeta, friends and so glad Mike is being honored as grand marshal.

I’m also thankful for Charlotte Atkins, the editor of the Rome News-Tribune, who recruited me to the newspaper in 2009.

It was not a spur of the moment decision to leave radio and join the print side of the industry. The negotiations took more than six months, but I’ve enjoyed my 11 years here, and 37 years in Rome.

I will confess to you that I wasn’t always thinking about the impact of the internet and social media at the time. Both have greatly changed the world of journalism, not always in a positive way.

The internet made things even more immediate and social media took that to a new level.

I have written here before, encouraging people to be very careful about trusting information that is spewed out across social media. All we need consider is the hubbub of alleged, and actual, foreign influence during the last two elections.

I hope I’m preaching to the choir here. We work very hard at the Rome News-Tribune to make sure that you get ACCURATE news in as timely as manner as possible. Some days we do better than others, but it’s not for a lack of effort, or desire.

Service to the community is what it’s always about!

Associate Editor and business columnist Doug Walker is always looking for news and tips about area businesses. To contact Doug, email him at or call 706-290-5272.

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