Bryson: 'The Time Was Right'
by KEVIN HALPERN
Publisher Sells Courier After 14 Years At Helm If you view a community's newspaper as a continuous history book, then one illustrious chapter of the Cannon Courier is coming to a close. Andy Bryson, publisher of the Courier since 1995 and lifelong Cannon County resident, has sold the newspaper effective Tuesday, July 28. The new owner is Ron Fryar of McMinnville. During his career in the newspaper business Fryar has been the publisher of newspapers in two neighboring counties, The Daily News Journal in Rutherford County and The Southern Standard in Warren County. "I was approached in 2004 to sell but decided the time was not right and continued ownership," Bryson said. "In March of 2009, Ron and I began to talk seriously about the future of the paper and he expressed an interest to purchase the paper. I thought I had found the perfect owner to continue the tradition of the Courier and the time was right." Bryson purchased the Cannon Courier in September 1995 and became Owner-Editor-Publisher. From 1980 to 1995 he was Managing Editor under the owner-ship of Tommy and David Bragg. "In '95 the paper was actually purchased by myself and my sister, Susan Sain. She stayed with the paper until 1996 and I purchased her half for sole ownership," Bryson said. Bryson began his newspaper career early in life, working at the Courier while still going to school. "From 1958 until 1980 I worked at the Cannon Courier for my uncle, R. Mel Bryson. I began selling newspapers after school on a route around the square. During those early years until 1969 we actually printed the paper onsite at our location at South Tatum Street using a two-page flat bed press. We would fold, insert and mail the paper with a publication date on Thursday. During the week after school I would help with the production of the paper, run job presses and do all sorts of jobs with the paper." Bryson said a number of people have played instrumental roles in helping him grow and develop the Courier during his tenure as publisher. "The list (of people who have helped) is too long to mention. Everyone in the community got behind me and supported (wife) Patricia and I when we purchased the paper," Bryson said. "Some of the most notable people would have to be Bill Smith, who was then President of Bank of Commerce, and later his son, Steve Smith, who were instrumental in helping us finance the Courier purchase. Without their help, none of this would be possible. Also, Buddy Davenport, Dr. Leon Reuhland, countless friends and advertisers who helped make the Courier a success." Bryson added: "I have to thank Tommy and David Bragg for giving me the opportunity to work for them when they purchased the Cannon Courier in 1980. I was young and needed a job and wanted to stay in the newspaper business. I respect and admire both of them. Their grandfather, Minor Bragg, was instrumental in helping my uncle, Hayden Smith, purchase the Courier in the 1930's when he was only 15 years old." Bryson reflected on some of the changes that have taken place in Cannon County during his career with the Courier. "Our county has changed quite a bit over the years. At one time we had Colonial Corporation as our leading employer, with approximatley 1,500 to 2,000 workers. It sat on the current site of Woodbury Grammar School. When the garment industry began to dwindle and move to foreign countries, Colonial closed and most of our workforce went to Murfreesboro and McMinnville for employment," Bryson said. "The public square was a busy place. When Good Samaritan Hospital was in operation the town square was always full of people. We had three grocery stores and numerous general merchandise stores and restaurants around the square. Also, the Jail was on the square until 1993. "When Good Samaritan closed and Stones River Hospital was built, the stores began to close. In May of 2009, the square lost it's Ford dealer, Jennings Motors, who had been in business since 1923." Finding and attracting new businesses to locate in Cannon County is key to its future, Bryson said. "Cannon County will probably always be a 'bedroom' community. That is, people will live here and drive to other counties for employment. Our county government is operated mostly by property tax. We receive some sales tax but it is minimal. In some cases that is good. Cannon County has not been affected by this recession like other counties that depend on sales tax revenue. This county needs to be on the search for new industry to help keep our workers at home," he said. While he plans to stay active and involved in the Cannon County community, Bryson said there are things he will miss about not being publisher. "Probably meeting and talking with people. Nearly every day, someone would come in and want to talk with me for advice or my opinion on an issue. I would 'hang out my shingle,' turn on the clock and just listen and try and help them with their problem as best I could," Bryson said. "I also will miss working with law enforcement. I have always became close to the Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police in Cannon County. They would call me day or night. Not too many years ago our Sheriff's Department did not own a camera and I took all their accident and crime scene photographs. This was before the days of the internet when newspapers were still the main source of news." Although he is leaving as publisher of the Courier, Bryson said he is far from retirement. "I will be available to help Ron (Fryar) all I can and give him as much support as he needs. I still plan to be active. There are a few (career) options available that I want to do but nothing definite yet. This will enable Patricia and I to take some time off. It has been hard to be away from the office for more than a couple of days in a very long time. I always felt I could not leave or needed to get back because the work would pile up." While selling the Courier was a difficult move for Bryson to make, he is confident the time and circumstances were right. "Ron has been a close friend to me and the Courier for a lot of years," he said. "The Daily News Journal printed the Courier for 30 years and a lot of that time Ron was the Publisher. He is a great newspaper man and I know the community will get to know him and enjoy his plans for making the Courier a success. I feel confident that the Courier is 'in good hands.'"