I met Dick Williams in 1998, when Austin Elementary School was staging a protest about the lack of a traffic signal in front of its Roberts Drive facility. Dick was the only member of the media who came that morning, arriving a few minutes late (not a surprise to those who know him even slightly). His first words to me were, “Who’s in charge of this protest and when are we going to get this show on the road?”
After finding out that I had been a newspaper reporter in a previous life, he hired me to write freelance stories about anything that I found fascinating about Dunwoody. I carved out my own niche of “weirdness,” which turned into stories about neighborhood coyotes on cat-killing rampages, April Fool’s pranks that tricked the masses (remember Adam and Steve’s Alternative Wedding Chapel?) rogue herons wiping out residential koi ponds, hometown heroes rescuing kittens trapped in sewers, and of course, police stories about office creepers, flashers, lunchtime bank robbers, and other incidents that captured the "Dunwoody-ness" of our unique community.
The gig got more serious in 2003, when Dick hired me as his first Crier managing editor, and my duties expanded to include hiring and supervising students to cover sports at their respective schools. It was one of my favorite duties – cultivating their talent and encouraging them to pursue a career in journalism (in hindsight, perhaps not the best advice).
During the next eight years, we developed a monthly real estate issue, started a recipe column featuring the Queens of Cuisine (who were much more worried that their crowns were straight than most anything else), resurrected the Past Tense column, expanded school news and business reporting, and hired some solid freelancers who cultivated their own following. Just to keep my hand in the game, I started writing “Cobb-lets,” a column with little nuggets of information of interest to Crier readers. I’ll never forget the first installment, under the headline, “What the Shell,” about the sudden closing of my favorite gas station and last-minute lottery purchase destination.
The paper, despite the trend of the dying industry and economic downturn, continued to thrive, and I attribute that to Dick’s solid reporting of the issues, as well as the variety of stories that intrigued the citizens of Dunwoody. But it wasn’t all fun and games. Along with the comedy, The Crier wrote about the tragedy – young lives lost too soon as a result of drugs, careless driving, or the greatest sadness of all, an unknown medical condition that was only revealed in death. We wrote about government, schools, small businesses, new enterprises, the birth of cities — while trying to keep our community in mind. We balanced the heavy and the light in each issue, to make The Crier a must-read each week. And I believe that we achieved a wonderful balance.
My professional involvement with The Crier came to a close in 2011 when our family relocated to Columbia, S.C., but I continued to be a reader and a fan of the paper.
It’s always been my goal to return to Dunwoody and The Crier someday, and it’s heart-wrenching to acknowledge the death of that dream, as it must be for everyone who supported us – the readers, the advertisers and those who believed that The Crier would always be there. I will never forget that wonderful 13-year span of living and working in Dunwoody, finding the fantastic and the tragic to chronicle each week. Thank you for those cherished memories.
Cathy Cobbs served as a reporter and then managing editor of The Crier from 1998 through 2011. Her Cobb-lets column ran for several years.