The first editions of The Philadelphian appeared this week, preceded by a press release saying "A community newspaper should tell the happenings of a place, but more than that, serve the readership in a positive, constructive manner." Managing Editor George Yates said in the release, "The City of Philadelphia, the County of Neshoba and all the surrounding communities are ready for a positive voice in news reporting. The Philadelphian will be that voice."
The weekly Democrat quoted all that and more in its Jan. 30 edition, in a story by Managing Editor Debbie Burt Myers. It noted that the other principals of the new corporation, Red Barn Media, which is also an advertising agency, were "all former marketing or advertising executives at Pearl River Resort," the local casino of the Choctaw Tribe. Myers interviewed Yates, who told her, "We're not out to put anybody out of business like some of the rumors out there. We are doing it just to have fun with it."
Perhaps that depends on the definition of "fun." The day after The Philadelphian appeared, the local hospital administrator told the county-owned nursing home to stop free distribution of the Democrat, "a practice that has been going on for at least three decades," Myers wrote. "Administrator Karin Fiducia did not return telephone calls to a Democrat reporter." Fiducia had already crossed swords with the paper, after not providing all the necessary data for a study of the hospital's future, and that week, an editorial in the Democrat criticized her for that. The hospital reduced its advertising in the Democrat and ran a full page in the first Philadelphian.
Last year, the paper endorsed the re-election of the Choctaw chief, who lost to a candidate the paper said was supported by outside gambling interests. "The Tribe is, without a doubt, driving the local economy," the editorial said. "Outside gaming interests should not be running the Tribe."
The Democrat has a reputation of strength and independence. As the 40th anniversary of the murders of three civil-rights workers in Neshoba County neared, without a conviction, some local folks thought there needed to be one final effort to see that justice was done. Democrat Publisher Jim Prince co-chaired a committee to make the effort, and went beyond editorializing to active crusading. As his committee sought justice, his paper marked the anniversary with a series that included pages of the Democrat from 1964 – pages that often didn’t reflect well on the paper because 40 years ago, it was reflecting the prevailing community opinion. In the end, with the help of more reporting from Jerry Mitchell of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, charges were brought and a killer was convicted.