Over The Picket Fence

The wind brought me to The Crier but this isn’t a personal story.

The truth is, the horrific winds of April 9, 1998, brought a lot of Dunwoody citizens to The Crier. For those whose homes were damaged or destroyed on the night of the Dunwoody tornado, The Crier became a lifeline. The newspaper in the familiar blue bags that landed on our driveways every week took on a new meaning as the newspaper covered issues that touched each victim as personally as any news coverage ever had. For many, it was more than a year before insurance settlements could be made, contractors secured, homes rebuilt and life returning to normal, and it was The Crier that provided the glue to hold us together and the proof that our community cared.

I joined The Crier staff a few weeks after the tornado to cover the recovery with a weekly column. I filled 500 words every week for a year with news, opportunities and encouragement in “Recovery Update.” And when the year was up and the stories were finally dwindling, I transitioned to a more widespread column of community news with “Over the Picket Fence” that appeared every week for 16 years.

I was new to Dunwoody in 1998, and the fact that one of the country’s most experienced and respected journalists was at the helm of its community news escaped me initially, but it didn’t take long before I understood that value and Dick Williams became a true and consistent friend and mentor.

The Crier’s tornado coverage won journalism awards, and for many, turned the paper into a must-read, as much for its coverage as for the sense of community it forged.

The Crier helped build my business but this isn’t a personal story.

The fact is, there are loads of businesses that can directly cite The Crier as the conduit for connecting their business to the community it serves. Long-time residents can no doubt flip through their contact lists of go-tos — whether it’s a favorite jeweler or plumber, doctor or insurance provider, restaurant or garage door repair company— and realize they were first introduced via The Crier.

My husband Tom and I have advertised in The Crier since we began our residential real estate business almost 14 years ago. More, I advertised my graphic design work in the classifieds for many years. Our client lists are filled with lovely people we connected with through its pages.

Crier advertisers are loyal and the community has been loyal to them. The opportunity to promote our community’s businesses via print in a respected and well-read local publication may have been a luxury that perhaps we all took for granted.

The Crier made me a writer but this isn’t a personal story.

Indeed, the opportunities to report the news or weave a feature story have been afforded to many by Dick Williams in The Crier. And it’s because of that chance that many of us have unleashed a passion for the pen that we never knew we had.

Dick has given opportunity to students for first-time reporting of their high school sports teams and many have gone on to make it a career just as many of its earliest reporters. Many early reporters cut their teeth on Dunwoody stories and now report in feature magazines and larger market publications.

I’ve published two novels, and without question, the courage and passion that led to that dream came directly from my experience writing from The Crier. Dick gave me the chance to spread my passion for community in my weekly column that led to a fervor for writing that continues to bring me much joy. And I’m not alone— there are half-a-dozen or more published books that have come from current and former Crier writers, and I trust they feel the same way.

The Crier made me a part of this community but this isn’t a personal story.

Dick tells me that he feels that every community deserves a newspaper, and I know he means it from the depth of his soul.

He’s sad to close the doors of The Crier, and what this all means for some of us who have lived and loved it here is only just beginning to sink in.

I’m proud of my 21-year affiliation with the little community of The Crier staff led by a man I’ll always love and admire. For me, it’s that little community that made me a part of the much bigger, but still-small Dunwoody community.

But this isn’t a personal story.

The Crier was a conduit for an entire community to feel a part of itself. We’ll find our way, I suppose. But it will never be the same.

Kathy Florence’s “Over the Picket Fence" column ran in The Crier from 1999 through 2015.

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