Dwight Sparks will be missed by readers, staff

Published 10:33 am Thursday, June 7, 2018

I’ll say it up front.

I’m no Dwight Sparks.

Readers are, no doubt, accustomed to looking to this space in the newspaper and reading about Dwight’s travels, his boys, his grandchildren, his weeds, the latest movie he’s seen, and occasionally, his thoughts on this spinning world we live in.

He even had the guts to pick a political candidate or two.

But Dwight is no longer here – at the newspaper – that is. He’s a free man. He can weed the pastures, watch a Western, read a book whenever he chooses (with his wife’s blessings, of course). And with their close family full of children and grandchildren scattered all over the country, there will surely be a lot of travel.

Some 33 years ago, Dwight moved to Mocksville and became publisher and editor of the Enterprise Record and Clemmons Courier. He turned the newspaper around – made it a real newspaper – complete with an editorial page, local writers and cartoons.

He believed in journalism, and the value of journalists. It was his opinion that a beginning journalist should earn as much as a beginning teacher. And he did his best to live up to that opinion.

A couple of years after Dwight became publisher, I applied for a job.

He hired me.

During the 31 years I had Dwight as a boss, I think there were some 177 legitimate times that he could have fired me.

But he didn’t.

He was brash and opinionated back in the day. I didn’t like it, and way too often, couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I’m a master of four-letter words, and used them way too often. I’m a master of bad attitudes, and copped them way too often.

It doesn’t matter now which one of us was right on those times we clashed. Looking back, we were both usually right. There’s always two sides to every argument, and both usually carry some weight. We both cared about the newspapers, and that’s what mattered the most.

Dwight learned to appreciate that. I did, too.

While we all have flaws, Dwight is by far the most  versatile newspaper man I have ever seen.

He can cover a meeting and put out a front page story within minutes. He can sit with a grieving family and put out a story about their loved one that they would cherish. In other words, he could write. And write well.

I like to think that I can do those things, too.

That’s where the comparison to me and Dwight ends.

Dwight is the last of a retiring breed in the newspaper business – a publisher with a journalism background. Nowadays, the business minds tend to run newspapers. I’m not sure if that’s an improvement or not, but that’s for another story.

It’s that journalism background that brings up one of my favorite stories about Dwight. Our newest owners have a great advertising promotion program, but it requires all hands on deck for a couple of weeks.

A leader comes in to coordinate the program, and all of our advertising sales representatives have to be there to make calls to potential customers. The publisher – Dwight – had to be there as well.

Dwight took to the phones like a natural, getting a “yes” and then another, and another. That company trainer was amazed at his results. “And he’s from news,” she quipped. I think he’s the only publisher trained on the news side of journalism she had ever dealt with.

To top that off, Dwight adjusted to whatever was thrown at him from a couple of sets of owners in recent years. And he made a great buffer between his staff and the corporate world.

At least for a while, my musings will be filling this space. Although Dwight set a good example, like I said before, I’m no Dwight Sparks.

And besides that, I don’t know as many big words as Dwight. You may not understand what I write, but you shouldn’t need a dictionary.

– Mike Barnhardt