Sam Jones retires as NTH publisher
by W. Winston Skinner
Sam Jones, who oversaw the transformation of The Newnan Times-Herald from a bi-weekly to a daily newspaper, is retiring today.
Jones came to the Times-Herald as publisher on Nov. 1, 1996. After almost a year of preparation, the newspaper began publishing as a daily on Oct. 1, 1997.
Jones said he has “no specific plans” as he leaves the Jefferson Street offices of the newspaper today.
“I want to enjoy family, do some traveling and not have to face newspaper deadlines after 43 years,” he said.
A native of the Gordon County town of Resaca, Jones graduated from Calhoun High School and then attended the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia – graduating in 1966 with a bachelor of arts in journalism.
“That was about the time of the Vietnam War,” Jones said.
He joined the U.S. Air Force and served four years. He was stationed at Moody Air Force Base and at two different bases in Japan.
After leaving the Air Force, Jones took a job as a reporter at the Tallahassee Democrat in November 1970.
In May 1973, Jones arrived at work early one morning to learn there had been a murder incident at a farmhouse near Donalsonville in Seminole County in south Georgia. He was the person in the newsroom with the best knowledge of south Georgia, so he went to Donalsonville and covered the first two days of the Alday murders.
Three escapees from a Maryland prison and the teenage brother of one of the men had killed five members of the Alday family. Mary Alday, wife of one of those found dead, was missing when Jones headed for Donalsonville. She was later found dead several miles away.
“There were no cell phones in those days,” Jones recalled. The Seminole County sheriff had a car phone and offered it to the reporters gathered near the rural farmhouse. A wire service reporter got the phone first and then stalled – clearly trying to get an exclusive by shutting out the others.
Jones hopped in his car and drove to a fish camp where he used the phone to call in his story in time for the next edition of the Democrat.
Jones was later named assistant city editor at the Tallahassee newspaper before becoming the managing editor of North Fulton Today in Roswell/ Alpharetta. The Today paper was one of a group of five-day-a-week papers owned by Otis Brumby of the Marietta Daily Journal.
Jones became managing editor of the Marietta Daily Journal in 1976.
In 1978, he moved to Columbus, where he was news editor of the Columbus Enquirer. At that time, Columbus still had two newspapers – the morning Enquirer and the afternoon Ledger. Jones was city editor for the Ledger for a time and was assistant managing editor “when they began to merge the newsrooms” to create a single publication, he said.
Looking back on his career, Jones spoke of his involvement in the combining of the morning and afternoon papers in Columbus and his work in bringing the Times-Herald to a daily format as high points.
Jones reflected on the changes that technology – cell phones and other computer technology, in particular – have made in how newspapers are written, edited and published during his years in the industry.
He recalled how covering storms has always presented challenges – particularly in the pre-cell phone days when there might be no telephones working and electrical service could be interrupted. It could be particularly difficult “when you had storm stories on a deadline,” Jones said.
Elections also can be challenging to cover – with returns often coming in too late for the morning newspaper.
Jones and his wife, Betty, have been married 46 years. They have three grown children – Holly, Jeff and Jennifer. Jones said they also have two young grandchildren “we want to see more often.”