MANGUM — Let's say you call the Mangum Star-News and Casey Paxton answers.
You won't get transferred if you ask for the city or county beat writer, sports writer, photographer, the person who picks up the paper from the printer at Shamrock, Texas, or takes this weekly newspaper to stores or to the post office. Casey's got those areas covered.
As for the titles of editor and publisher, those are shared by Casey and wife, Karla. Both raised in the Mangum area, sold their newspaper, the Cheyenne Star, in the summer of 1999 and purchased the Mangum Star-News.
The Star-News has a print circulation of about 1,650. They also attract readers online, he said.
National Newspaper Week is Sunday through Saturday. Among Oklahoma's newspapers are 140 weekly newspapers, according to the Oklahoma Press Association.
The Mangum Star-News — 50 cents for a single copy and $28 for an annual subscription within Greer County — is an example of a weekly newspaper and its importance to the community.
Mangum is the county seat, and with about 3,000 people accounts for roughly half of Greer County's population. This paper was established in 1887.
“Weekly newspapers are the original social network,” said Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association. “In most of these towns they still are the place where people really can find out what's going on.
“When you're in these smaller towns of course you know everybody and everybody knows you. They're very important to the life of a small town.”
Coincidentally this year, Valentine's Day fell on Thursday, publication day for the Mangum Star-News.
So although the front page included news such as “New Tests Show Nitrate Levels Safe in Mangum Water” along the top was the “2013 Mangum Star-News Little Miss and Mr. Valentine” winners and the “2013 Little Miss and Mr. Critter” winners. Inside the paper were photos and bios including the names of family members of “Valentine Princesses and Princes 2013.” There were also additional pet pictures and bios on another page.
The Mangum Star-News was the source for the “48th Annual Rattlesnake Derby” in April, the Mangum High School graduation and the “102nd MHS Alumni Celebration Activities” in May, and the “81st Annual Mangum Mountie Rodeo” and the “Wild West Days” celebration in June.
“The Rattlesnake Derby will bring in thousands of people a year, which is a lot of fun,” Casey said.
The next month brings graduation and the alumni activities that span nearly a week. There's breakfast, barbecue, banquets, a dance, parades, golf tournaments “and lots, lots more.”
“There will be several hundred people come for that week,” Casey said. “We go all the way back. We've had some who are a 100 years old.
“The month after the alumni association events we have the Mangum Mounties rodeo.”
A variety of local news fills the pages of the newspaper throughout the year: car accidents, grass fires, book fairs, city and county government, legal notices, births, obituaries, the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service column, nearby community information and “Tiger Talk, News from Mangum Upper and Lower Middle Schools.”
“Mangum is truly blessed to have people like Casey and Karla who care so much about our kids and the school system,” said Micky Lively, superintendent of Mangum Public Schools. “The Mangum Star-News helps to promote every event that occurs at our school, whether it is academics or extra curricular activities. Casey is always there taking pictures and cheering for our students.”
Casey, 60, said he loves his job in part because, “I love putting people's names in the paper because I want to encourage people, especially young people.”
“I honestly love what I do for a living,” Casey said. “You're trying to find all of the information. That puts you in contact with a lot of people.”
Meet the staff
The newspaper has a staff of five — counting the miniature pinscher.
In addition to Casey, Karla types in items and does the billing. Their daughter, Tonya Paxton, the office manager, is in charge of advertising and special features and types in information as well. Her daughter, Renee J. Paxton, 12, writes a “Kid's Korner” column and places inserts in the paper. Renee's column often includes history, dance and “doing fun stuff” with her mother such as playing cards or watching DVDs of old movies or sitcoms.
“She's been writing a weekly article since she was 8 and she has quite a following,” Casey said. “She gets more letters than I do. She wants to be a ballerina and she has ballet a few nights a week over at Clinton.”
The fifth member of the staff, Casey and Karla's dog, Hershey Kiss Paxton, is about 5 months old and has an “Adopt A Pet” column.
“We rescued her from the dog pound and she started writing about five weeks ago,” Casey said. “We just fell in love with her and decided a column was the best way to help other animals.”
Hershey's Sept. 19 column read, “I am in the process of training my dad. Dogs are good at training people to pick up their clothes every night. If you don't want me to carry your underwear through the house while you're entertaining visitors then put them in the hamper.”
Following such canine wisdom are photos and information about her “friends” who are in need of homes.
Casey and Karla moved to Cheyenne in 1982 where he became music director at the First Baptist Church. In 1987, “I just kind of wanted to change things up.” That's when they bought the Cheyenne Star.
“I was just trying to change careers and we liked the town,” he said. “I love to work hard. So I just dove in and started doing it.”
Given the opportunity in 1999, Casey and Karla bought the Mangum Star-News. They moved home.
The Mangum Star-News is across the street from the Greer County courthouse. The newspaper office is on the lower level of the two-story building at 120 South Oklahoma. While some who come in are doing so for the first time, most faces are familiar.
That can get complicated, especially when it comes to legal issues. It's then that Casey doesn't like putting people's names in the paper, but knows what he has to do.
“There are stories that I don't like to write because it involves friends of mine,” Casey said. “But if I'm going to keep my integrity I've got to.
“I've said, ‘Look I'm sorry that's the way it is and I've got to do it. Whether we have a relationship after this, that's entirely up to you, but it's got to go in.'“
But there's plenty to offset the tough days.
“I've known a lot of these people all my life,” Casey said. “I like knowing the people in town and doing what I can.”