Gail Crutchfield: Difficult to say goodbye to The Press

Mar. 11, 2013 @ 10:40 AM

This will be my last column as a member of The Mountain Press staff. I am leaving the paper and the state to return to my hometown to take a communications and marketing position at a two-year college there.

I’m excited about returning home to my family and about a new challenge in a related field. We on the journalism side sometimes jokingly refer to marketing as the dark side. It’s a joke most likely reciprocated in the other direction.

I have loved my time here at The Mountain Press and in Sevier County. When I moved here in October 2006 I was welcomed with open arms. I was able to be a part of the community through the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, and I learned a lot about the county by participating in the Leadership Sevier’s Leadership Tomorrow program.

Through all of those venues I’ve met some wonderful people whom I hope to see again on visits to the Smoky Mountains and with whom I will keep in contact. There’s no way to name them all, but I would like to express my thanks to my current co-workers and former co-workers over these last six years.

Editor Stan Voit is the person who brought me to The Mountain Press. I can’t thank him enough for the opportunity he gave me. I was able to do things and meet people I never would have elsewhere.

Stan is one of the most patient, honorable and fair journalists I know. He takes a lot of flak as an editor and handles it with a grace and calm I don’t think I could ever manage. You may not always agree with him, but know he does everything with a sense of fairness and never with the intent to harm.

Publisher Jana Thomasson is the best publisher I’ve ever worked with. There are many publishers who micro-manage to a point that it creates tension and discord, but Jana trusts in the experience and knowledge of her staff. She steps in when needed, but always with a professionalism that is appreciated.

I’ve been blessed to work with two wonderful photographers during my career with small-town newspapers, and Curt Habraken is one of them. It’s a tough job for a one-person photo department and Curt handles it very well and creates art that in some cases makes our stories almost unnecessary. It was always fun to go on a shoot with him and watch as he considers the best shot. He was also a pretty good reporter back-up, thinking of questions I didn’t know to ask.

Another one-man team in our newsroom is Jason Davis. I don’t know how he manages to try and cover all county sports without going crazy. He does have help from correspondents, but still a lot of it falls on his shoulders. With the plethora of spring sports coming up, it wouldn’t hurt to help him out and call in or email scores and statistics for your school teams.

Our newsroom staff, current and former, has been some of the best to work with over the years. I’ve missed Derek Hodges and Lynn Brownell in the newsroom since they left. Derek is one of the most talented writers I’ve worked with, and Lynn was always a pleasure. I always admired her ability to handle phone calls from irate readers without getting worked up in the process.

As the crime reporter, Jeff Farrell doesn’t have the warm and fuzzy assignments I enjoyed writing. You may not always like to hear Jeff calling, but know that he always gives everyone on both sides of a story an opportunity to speak. Not every reporter will do that and it’s something everyone should appreciate.

I haven’t known Kenneth Burns and Robbie Hargett long, but both have impressed me. Kenneth is the experienced one of the pair, while Robbie is right out of college, but both have proven to be valuable to the newsroom and will continue to do so.

There are many more people I would like to mention, but there’s just not enough room. The advertising staff, production and circulation crews have all been wonderful to work with. It will be hard to say goodbye on Thursday.

— Gail Crutchfield is the community news editor of The Mountain Press. Call 428-0748, ext. 212,  e-mail to, or on Twitter @GailMtnPress.