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STOVALL: The best part of being publisher is coming back 'home'
Gabriel Stovall
Gabriel Stovall

I’m a journalist first. 

Not just a sports guy. Although sports guys are journalists as well. But often sports journalists get pigeonholed to a place where folks think the only thing they know or are qualified to talk about is sports. 

That’s not me. 

Beyond being a sports guy, I’m a husband, a father, a son, a pastor, an entrepreneur. And now, I’m proud to say I’m the new publisher and editor of your paper. Our paper. 

I remember vividly the first day I walked into the offices of The Covington News. It was October 2016. I was interviewing with then-general manager Hosanna Fletcher to become this paper’s sports editor. I’d done some homework on the area and realized it was a hidden gem — a best-kept secret for sports in Georgia. I also saw where some talented sports journalists had come before me. They just didn’t stay very long. 

And I get it. Career ambition and all that. But I also knew that to do anything well in the realm of media, you’ve got to dedicate enough time to see some things through. I told myself back then I’d give it three years and we’d see what we could build. 

With the help of your readership and tons of talented young content creators around me — not to mention one of the best small newspaper advertising staffs you’ll find anywhere — we built that sports section into a consistent award winner. We did it with one simple, yet profound ingredient: Telling the stories that matter to you. 

Sometimes they were tear jerkers. Sometimes they were lighthearted and fun. Sometimes they were serious and difficult to tell. Some of those stories made you laugh, cry, smile with pride. Some of them probably also made you mad. 

But that’s what real journalism does. Real journalism is not a popularity contest, and a newspaper is not the PR arm of any one organization. Journalism, when it’s at its best, steps up to give you the facts and then steps back to let you decide what to do with those facts. 

Real journalism can entertain, but it also must, first and foremost, inform. It highlights the good but it also holds you accountable. Real journalism is fair even if not always flattering. 

For 157 years, The Covington News has done its best to tell the story of your life. Because no one or nothing is perfect, there are times when we’ve missed the mark. But even then, it isn’t because we don’t care. Ours is a staff of dedicated people who love journalism and the Covington/Newton County community more than most anything else. We care about you, even in disagreement. And we want to get it right when it comes to your story. 

The fact about any of our life stories is that none of them are filled only with highlights. Personally, from around 2018 until 2021, I experienced some of the hardest, darkest moments of my life. Everything from the passing of my father, to shifting family dynamics, health concerns that put me and other close loved ones in the hospital for long periods of time. And I know that everything I thought or did or said during those times wasn’t always flattering.

But it was still my story. And if you take the bad parts away and only tell the good parts, you won’t get an accurate picture of who I am. And who wants to be in a relationship with just half of a person? Covington, it’s the same with our communities. 

We tell the stories, whether flattering or challenging, because we want you to understand and experience the full weight of who we are — the good, the bad and, yes, sometimes the ugly. It’s the only way for us to be the best version of ourselves, collectively and individually. 

As publisher and editor, I stand on the shoulders of an extremely effective predecessor. Taylor Beck led this staff to accomplish so much over the last two years, in the middle of a pandemic no less, and he’s left some big shoes to fill. I’m not Taylor, but I do know that I share Taylor’s passion for our community and for telling your stories. I’m excited about building upon our strengths, shoring up our weaknesses and discovering how to break new grounds of excellence as a media company. 

I want to thank our owner Patrick Graham for extending this opportunity to me and trusting me to care for and nurture one of his “babies.” I want to thank our staff — some of whom I’ve worked with before and others I’m just meeting — for welcoming me back “home” with open arms. 

Yes, since settling in here several years ago, I’ve always called Covington my second home. I fell in love with the people, the community, the culture, and regardless of where else I’ve gone, I always said, “I’m going to buy a house in Covington one day.” 

I guess there’s no better time for that than now. Thank you, Covington, for welcoming me back home.

Gabriel Stovall is the Publisher and Editor of The Covington News. He can be reached by email at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @GabrielCStovall.