2017-11-04 / Front Page

Taking stock of a lifetime at the CT

An era is coming to an end with Brinn and Linda Clayton’s decision to sell The Courier-Times. That decision didn’t come lightly, as Brinn Clayton explains in the following q&a:
Q: How long have you been involved with the Courier-Times?
A: I have been in and around The Courier-Times all my life. I remember going to the office when it was on Reams Avenue behind Cole's Pharmacy when I was in preschool. The newspaper used an old metal type press to print the issues. The newsprint roll for the press was down in a hole in the floor. When it was running, I was afraid I would fall in and be crushed in the press.
I went to Long Memorial United Methodist Church kindergarten when I was 5. It was in walking distance from the CT's office on Reams avenue. My dad would walk to pick me up and take me back to the office before we went home for lunch.
I used to sit with the paper boys at the Reams avenue office while they were rolling and readying their papers for delivery. I wanted to be a paper boy, but I was too young. They required a paper carrier to be 12 years old before he or she could deliver papers.
In 1973, I was in the fourth grade and ten years old. A route carrier quit and my dad let me start carrying a single copy route that sold newspapers to people working in the businesses on Main Street and down a section of Madison Boulevard. We would pick up our newspapers on Mondays and Thursdays after school at Cole's Pharmacy. When I first started selling the Courier, they were 15 cents apiece. Many of my customers would give me a quarter and tell me to keep the change. When the papers increased to 25 cents, I no longer got that tip.
I used the money I earned to fund my model airplane hobby. I also had to save a portion of the money. I delivered the single copy route until I finished the 9th grade when I was 14 or 15 years old.
The year between my 15th and 16th birthday, I did odd jobs at the CT like painting and yard work.
When I turned 16, I had saved enough money to buy half of my first car, a yellow 1978 Chevy Chevette. I also inherited a home delivery paper route. I took home delivery routes and single copy store routes until I graduated from high school and moved away to college.
During my Junior year at Elon College, I learned how to sell advertising and other jobs at the CT. When I was a Senior, I worked full time selling advertising at the newspaper.
Between college graduation 1985 and 1987, I worked for several other businesses. In 1987, I returned to the CT as associate Publisher and began to learn how to manage the community newspaper business.
In 2000, I became Publisher when my father retired.
Q: How did you and Linda reach the decision to sell?  
A: In 1988, I became a Christian and began to grow in living out my faith in Jesus.  In 2008-2009, I experienced extreme depression and anxiety. During that time, I pursued assistance with this struggle from a Christian counselor and my medical doctors. These professionals assisted me with the wisdom they had gained in their studies and experience. Through their help, I came out of the darkness of depression and anxiety. I had learned to apply biblical truth, my faith, prayer, accountability, medication and exercise to cope with these mental illnesses.
Through this journey, I became interested in reading and learning about how the Gospel of Jesus Christ and biblical principles help people struggling with depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship issues and the like. The more I read the more I was interested.
In the Spring of 2015, Jesus began to lead me to sell the CT and pursue a degree that would allow me to help other people and families that are experiencing struggles similar to mine. Linda and I began the process of discussing and praying about what we should do. In late Spring we put the CT on the market to look for a buyer.
Q: What are your and Linda’s plans for the future?
A: Linda and I are both going through this transition. Linda has just completed homeschooling our son, Nikolay. He graduated last Spring and is currently working a part time job for the Person County Parks and Rec. Linda is expanding her involvement in some ministries here in Roxboro and elsewhere. She is currently serving My Life Matters with a group of fourth grade girls.
I began pursuing a Master of Arts in Christian Martial, Family, and Individual Counseling at Southeaster Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. I am hoping to graduate in Spring of 2020 positive what God will have me do with the degree. I am leaning toward counseling out of an office for individuals and families.
I will also be looking for intermediate part time employment while I finish my degree.
Q: What will you miss most at the Courier-Times?
A: I have worked with many people over the years at the CT. The newspaper industry has changed drastically since I became Assistant Publisher. Technology and economics have made the process of news gathering and selling look totally different today as it did in 1987.
We have had super talented staff over the years. Working at the CT has been like being in a family. As a young man, the men who worked with my Dad had a big impact on my life; Neal Rattican, Winkie Wilkins and Donald Oakley. I learned the basics of newspaper production and management from these men. I have great respect and thanks for them.
During my 17 years of being Publisher and owner of the CT, I have had some really talented people help produce a good community newspaper for Roxboro and Person County. I could not have been as successful with the newspaper without them: Tim Chandler, Sandy Wrenn, Vickie Carver, Denise Reaves, Mark Blalock, Marrianna Compton, Ken Martin, Gail Foushee, Wendy Wrenn, Dawn Rolfe, Brooke McPherson, Tammy Chambers, Pat Crumpton, Bonnie Davis, Grey Lakey, Phyliss Boatwright, Tricia Davis, Teresa Phillips, Kathy Rattican, Susan Allen and the list goes on.
The current staff has been great over the last year since I started school. Their expertise has allowed me to focus on school. They all know their jobs and have pulled together to increase the quality of our news product. Heather Leonard has recently taken over the circulation management and increased our readership. Lea Russell has been managing the advertising sales department since last year and is doing an astounding job. Felicia Holt and Natalie Morrow are recent hires who have excelled in their responsibilities. Carol Garret and Sandra Coghill have been using their skill and talent to design effective advertising and attractive pages. Our news staff, Vickie Berry, Bill Wilcox and Anna Fletcher, are talented writers who put as much effort into understanding the news they report as they do in delivering it in an understandable manner. Kelly Snow, our sports editor, does an outstanding job delivering the sports news of Person County. He has been able to manage the difficult task of being a fair reporter as well as a cheerleader for our beloved sports teams. Aaron Harper, Mark Blalock, Jerry Farmer and Cody Hatcher have done an excellent job getting our newspaper delivered to the post offices and stores for sale.
Q: Any thoughts on Johnny Whitfield’s new role as editor/publisher?
A: We were sad to have Tim Chandler move on to real estate sales. We were blessed to find Johnny Whitfield. I have known Johnny for many years through the North Carolina Press Association. He has led committees and teams in our association to advance the training of newspaper staffs across North Carolina. Johnny is an old school editor and reporter. He knows what news is important.
Johnny has a strength in managing and training the news staff to continue to better their craft.
Johnny has also had experience with the publishing and business end of community newspapers.
I am excited about his new position at the CT. He will not only carry on the important task of producing a valuable community newspaper, he will continue to expand that responsibility.
Q: Your thoughts about the new owners?
A: When a parent sends their child out into the world, they want to know that the people he or she will take over leading them will be careful to expand on the good qualities they have tried to establish in them.
The CT has been in my family for 3 generations or 88 years. Transferring ownership is not a light decision for Linda and me. We want the new owner to be as serious about community journalism and Roxboro and Person County as we have been.
The Adams family has been in the newspaper business for many years as well in Harnet County with the Dunn Daily Record. They have treated their newspaper as not just a business but also a sacred trust of the people of their community.
I have known Bart Adams since 2006 when we both were members of the C12 organization. C12 is an organization of Christian Business owners that gathers monthly to learn how to both apply biblical principles and good practices to their businesses. Since that time we have had contact in other groups as well.
I was thrilled when Bart showed interest in the CT. I am satisfied that The Courier-Times, the organization my grandfather and his partners gave birth to in 1929, will be in responsible hands and will carry on the traditions of responsible news coverage in our community.

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