Mississippi native, fourth-generation newspaper journalist, and proud small-town entrepreneur: these are three descriptors that could adequately describe University of Mississippi alumnus John Carney (’86).
Carney had a unique childhood experience, namely because of familial connections to the newspaper company founded in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, known as The Meteor. This family-run company has grown to acquire two other newspapers since Carney has been out of college. The company has served Mississippi for more than 132 years.
“I can remember standing in a print shop, stuffing these newspapers at probably five or six years of age,” Carney said. “There just never was any question in my mind about whether I was going to go into journalism and the newspaper business.”
Carney attended the University of Mississippi when journalism was considered part of the business school, and with that he had the unique experience of attaining a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism.
“Ole Miss somehow got in my blood,” Carney said. “I don’t know what threw me there, but that was my life plan. I was going to go to Ole Miss.”
Carney has now worked at the Lawrence County Press in Monticello, Mississippi, for 28 years, where he is both editor and publisher. The newspaper covers local news, including spot news and government.
“Being in a small town has afforded me the opportunity to really get involved with things that go on within the town,” Carney said. “I enjoy knowing what’s going on in the county, and I think it’s a very high responsibility to try to pass that on to our readers.”
Carney has served as the president of the local Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Lion’s Club. He also was on the board of directors of the Mississippi Press Association for around 10 years, becoming president of the Mississippi Press Association in 2000.
“John and the Carney family are fixtures within the state press association,” said Layne Bruce, executive director of the MPA. “I got to know John first about 18 years ago when he served at a tender young age as MPA president. Now I have the privilege to work with him at the association level.”
They own and publish three community newspapers that are vital to the fabric of those towns and counties in south Mississippi. And, in keeping with the trend of diversification, they have launched within the last few years a vibrant, successful magazine that focuses on the unique culinary heritage of Mississippi. It’s a thriving enterprise that underscores the strength of journalism at the grass roots level.”
The Mississippi Press Association was founded in 1866 and serves as a statewide board for newspapers in Mississippi, providing resources such as content and advertising for newspapers throughout the state.
“John Carney is a newspaperman whose dedication to his community, our industry, and Ole Miss is unwavering,” said Joel McNeece, president of the Mississippi Press Association. “The Mississippi Press Association values his friendship, support and leadership as a past president of the organization.”
“When your peers think enough of you to make you active in their associations, that’s the crown jewel of my career,” Carney said. “To be able to serve those organizations the way I was able to.”
During his first three years in Monticello, he met J. J., his wife, at a local church. John Carney affectionately describes her as a “graphics guru” and a “foodie.” When she is not busy with their son, who is in high school, or checking on their daughter, who is at Ole Miss, or working as the associate editor at the newspaper, she is working on her magazine, appropriately titled Eat. Drink. Mississippi.
“The magazine is the result of my wife’s creativity, and I help her however and whenever I can,” Carney said.
“There’s absolutely a culture of food in Mississippi,” he said. “We have everything from white-table-cloth restaurants to roadside joints that all put out some superb food.”
The magazine also has sparked an interest in Carney’s daughter, a student in the hospitality management program. She has professed an interest in possibly taking some classes at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Neither of Carney’s children has expressly shown interest in publishing newspapers, however, and he wishes not to push
it on them, but will support them either way.
Community and relevancy are key for many small town newspapers and integral to the Lawrence County Press.
“You’ve got to have a community connection,” Carney said. “That’s true whether you’re in Monticello, Mississippi, or New York City. If you’re not relevant, you’re not going to be there long.”
“I’m a low-key kind of guy,” Carney said. “I just want to do my job effectively and have people say that he was a kind, compassionate person who served us well at our newspaper. After all, it is a community, and it’s their newspaper.”
Courtesy of Samantha Mitchell who is an integrated marketing communications graduate student from Tampa, Florida.