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Fear and Loathing at the ‘Jamestown News’

You can’t fire Ogi Overman. What’re ya, nuts?

If you’ve got a community driven newspaper anywhere in the Triad, especially in Jamestown or anywhere else in Guilford County, firing Ogi makes about as much sense as having Disneyland in your portfolio and firing Mickey. Or owning NBC and firing the Peacock. Or being England and giving the Queen her walking papers.

Let me explain, to those of you who aren’t from North Carolina, what I’m talking about…

This is a local story that takes place here in the Piedmond Triad region of the state, which is where we at If This Be Treason call home. It’s a pleasant would-be metropolis which includes the big-enough cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point, as well as numerous smaller hamlets with names like Rural Hall and Pleasant Garden. As Frank Zappa and the Mothers said of Centerville in the movie 200 Motels, it’s “a real nice place to raise your kids,” which isn’t such a bad thing when you get right down to it.

Here in the Triad, there’s a gem of a small town, Jamestown, which sits nestled-up against High Point in southwestern Guilford County, within spitting distance of the Triad’s largest city, Greensboro. Like many a small town surrounded by bigger cities, the residents of Jamestown struggle to maintain a unique identity and to not be swallowed up to become just another bedroom community.

This they’ve done and they’ve done it well.

Helping in the fight, indeed some would say instrumental in this struggle, has been the town’s weekly newspaper, the Jamestown News. In recent years the paper has been at the center of a revitalization of the Jamestown community. Business in Jamestown is quite good and the town has become something of a destination for folks throughout the Triad. A lot of credit for this goes to the guy who’s been editing the News for a goodly number of years, a journalistic gadfly of an editor, well known throughout the Triad, by name of Ogi Overman.

The Jamestown News wasn’t his first county fair when it comes to editing newspapers. That’s why I’m writing this article now. You see, I wrote for Ogi from about 1990 through about 2003 or so, when he was editing a now dead and buried weekly entertainment paper with the unlikely name of ESP. I’m not going to go into how I met Ogi. Nor am I going to claim that we’re best buddies for life, though I wish that were so. What I will say is this, anybody who has a newspaper in the Piedmont Triad with Mr. Overman as editor would be a fool to not keep him at the helm.

But that’s what’s happened. The Jamestown News has given Ogi the boot.

On Independence Day, Ogi announced to his friends on Facebook that he was gone from the newspaper. He didn’t give any information, just a cryptic “Happy Independence Day to me.” Since then, information has leaked-out that he was canned, something about “economic reasons.” Evidently the paper plans to continue without an editor, which makes about as much sense as the Muppets without Kermit.

You don’t get rid of Ogi Overman. Not because he’s capable, which he is. There are tons of capable editors out there. Heck, I’m a capable editor and I’d fire me at the drop of a hat. Also, your reason for keeping Ogi on board would have nothing to do with the fact that he’s just about the most decent human being you’re likely to meet, who’s honesty is never questioned and who can always be counted upon to be fair. As Rick said to Ilsa, that “don’t amount to a hill of beans” in this day and age.

If I were a newspaper owner in the Piedmont Triad, I’d keep Mr. Overman working at any paper I owned simply because he’s always the lifeblood of any publication with which he’s associated. I’d keep him working because he loves the Triad and doesn’t have any designs to move-on and hitch his wagon to a star that’s headed for the big time. As far as Ogi’s concerned, the Triad is the big time. That’s why he’s got a big time following in his community. Upwards of fourteen hundred “friends” on Facebook ain’t peanuts, you know.

Like Charlie Harville, Lee Kinard and Bob Poole before him, Ogi is a local Triad celebrity. He’s the closest thing we’ll ever have to our own version of Herb Caen. Getting rid of Ogi from a Triad newspaper is like Metropolis getting rid of Superman. As Jim Croce said, “you don’t tug on Superman’s cape.”

**********

If you live in the Triad, a Facebook page, Reinstate Ogi Overman, has been set-up for those who’d like to make their voices heard on this matter.

Christine Hall

Christine Hall began her journalism career in 1972 writing for the "underground" newspaper the Los Angeles Free Press. From 1988 until 2005 she covered politics for various newspapers in the Greensboro, North Carolina area.

2 comments to Fear and Loathing at the ‘Jamestown News’

  • Mike Knowles

    A copy of the letter I AM SENDING to the chairman of the board. THANK YOU for your well written article.

    Dear Mr. Zan Womack,

    As a former broadcaster of 17 years, Military Veteran, and Journalist for numerous years, I understand business necessities and the balance of profit versus risk. I also understand when GREED takes precedence over Community RESPONSIBLITY. So I am politely asking you to reinstate Ogi Overman to the Jamestown Newspaper. His efforts in this community have succeeded in boosting sales of papers, earning respectablity in an age of the internet, and done wonders to reconnect people together. People like him give the average individual hope that there CAN BE good done in a COMMUNITY, and that things aren’t ALWAYS about the bottom dollar “What’s in it for me?” mindset.

    Now, if POLITE REQUESTS fail to dissuade you and you only care “What’s in for me?”…..then I have the LESS POLITE ANSWER…

    Organized BOYCOTT of newspaper
    Rousing of Electronic Media to the cause
    Creation of multiple sources for legal notices to compete with and deprive you of revenue streams. I have lived in 3 other communities where new startups were very successful in taking the money away from greedy corporations.
    Regular pressure on lawmakers to investigate your business practices and lack of community service
    Picketing of your facilities
    Organized BOYCOTT of ANY BUSINESS that continues to advertise with you or allow you to sell your trash rag in thier structure.

    Sounds like a lot to tackle, I know….but that’s one thing the Army taught me, dogged determination and LOTS of willing friends can go a long ways. If I can rouse 5k for a food pantry with a little 10 watt community radio station…….take a 3 person ad agency and spin it into a 35 person force in less than 18 months, and feed 600 people on a budget of $450, in just under 12 hours, by whipping up 25 volunteers ……doing all of this will be a FUN CHALLENGE!!! So let’s both save ourselves some grief, and you realize you made a mistake and give the community back it’s best asset, and I continue happily supporting local businesses…INCLUDING the Jamestown News.

    Mike Knowles
    Jamestown Resident and Small Town Business SUPPORTER.

    “If you were to die today….is it really reflecting the life you want others to remember?”

  • […] internally,” which appears to be the case over at the Jamestown News since editor Ogi Overman was canned back in […]