New owners Jan. 1 for the Cherokeean Herald

by Jo Anne Embleton

CHEROKEE COUNTY – John and Penny Hawkins are familiar faces in Rusk, primarily through their work with The Cherokeean Herald. Collectively, the couple have invested many years in the community newspaper.

And on Jan. 1, 2022, they’ll further solidify that relationship with the state’s oldest continuously published weekly newspaper as its owners and publishers.

“We are excited to be able to steer the direction and content, and make it more relevant to everyone here, highlighting all the positive things we have to offer in Cherokee County,” they said. “The opportunity to become the owners/publishers was offered and we simply wanted to make certain the paper continues, and stays local to Cherokee County.”

With its Feb. 16, 2022, edition, the paper begins its 173rd year of publication. The Cherokeean Herald has traced it roots back to 1848 as the Daily Sentinel. Eventually, Wells News and Views was purchased and the Alto Herald, which later merged to create The Cherokeean Herald.
In 1950, Emmitt and Marie Whitehead purchased the newspaper, which grew to include a radio broadcasting program. The Whitehead family retained ownership of the media enterprise before selling it in 2016 to Lewis County Press, a chain of small-community newspapers that launched in 2010 in Lewis County, Missouri.

“We believe The Cherokeean is a great community newspaper, best owned by someone in the community, like John and Penny, who love the community, who love and know the importance of journalism and its role in a community, and who want Rusk and Cherokee County to be successful and grow going forward,” said Phil Calian, managing partner for Lewis County Press.

John, who began working at KTLU/KWRW in Rusk in 1981, has held a variety of jobs, including experience in news radio with ABC in Houston and KTRH, which featured all news/talk formatting.

Penny has been involved with printing and the news throughout the years since her one-year tenure in the mid-1980s as editor of the Alto Herald.

“We both left to pursue other dreams, but came home to Cherokee County,” she said. “Becoming publishers of the Cherokeean was simply a natural progression for us.”

The Cherokeean staff is rounded out by Jo Anne Embleton, who has served as editor and reporter for the paper since October 2020. She has worked in print journalism since 1991 for both religious and secular newspapers, and has covered Cherokee County news since 1992.

Maylin Dominy is the Cherokeean’s route carrier, ensuring that each week’s new edition is available at newsstands throughout the county.

The couple said their goals “are to build on what we started more than a year ago: Making The Cherokeean Herald all about Cherokee County, its people and businesses.
“Everything in the paper is written by locals, is about local residents or affecting something or someone in our community,” John said. “Our very first goal was obtained by being able to keep the Cherokeean in our county and to make it locally owned by long-time residents who understand and love this community.”