Mighty big shoes to fill

Inside the front door of the Hays Free Press office in downtown Kyle sits Bob Barton’s old rolltop desk. On it are an antique Royal manual typewriter, an Apple SE computer, various framed awards and commendations and the long-time newspaper publisher’s trademark white Stetson.

It’s a shrine of sorts to Barton, a proud Democrat who served in the Texas House of Representatives. But it’s more truly a testament to his craft – a dedication to community journalism.

Looking up from the desk, indeed in all directions, are the awards. There are dozens of them, from various press associations awarded to the Hays Free Press for its reporting, photography, design and more. In virtually every measure by which a weekly newspaper can be judged, the Hays Free Press has come out on top of its competition. And the awards represent the work of its journalists over a period of decades. Sobering stuff, especially to someone like me who has spent decades in the same business.

Barton has been gone since 2013. Fittingly, he left this life on the birthday of Martin Luther King, who was one of his heroes. The paper is now in the more than capable hands of his daughter-in-law Cyndy. In her role as publisher, she could find plenty to do without keeping her finger on the community’s pulse, but she has sufficient printer’s ink in her veins to keep a hand in the reporting side of the business.

I’ve been accused of that printer’s ink in the blood thing too, (as well as rattlesnake venom, though that’s a whole ‘nother story), and although I have a month under my belt as the editor of the Hays Free Press and News-Dispatch, I realize every day just how much I have left to learn.

I’ve stepped into the role of former Editor Moses Leos III, who could tell you in a single breath not only what was going on, but why (even if not all of it could be printed).

There’s also Production Manager David White, who has made the Hays Free Press his career and is fluent in all the ins and outs of newspaper design and preprint.

The communities of Kyle, Buda, Wimberley and Dripping Springs share their location in Hays County but each has its distinct flavor and singular issues. Same for the Hays, Wimberley and Dripping Springs school districts. Not to mention the people who are moving into those communities every day for a multitude of reasons  – and with just as many expectations.

It’s a lot to cover and some big shoes I am fortunate to be stepping into. As I continue to attempt to fill them, I invite every reader for help, and I hope to draw even more readers into what has rightly been called one of the best family-owned weekly newspapers in the state of Texas.

I believe in the First Amendment and that there are three sides to every story. Those of you who know me, I hope, know that as well. But many more of you don’t know me yet, and I’d like to correct that.

I am a fifth generation Texan who believes in the First Amendment, acknowledges that there are at least three sides to every story and remembers the Alamo. Some of you know me, many more do not. I’d like to correct that.

And if you’re near the beautiful Kyle square, drop in. I’d love to sit and chat.


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