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STOVALL: Newton County, let’s meet in the middle and grow together
Gabriel Stovall
Gabriel Stovall, Publisher and Editor of The Covington News.

Whether left conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, left wing or right wing, we need your voice at The Covington News. 

Why? Because, for me, balance has been the key to my life for as long as I can remember — especially when we’re talking about communicating thoughts, opinions and takes on varying ideology. That desire for balance only strengthens when I consider my work as a community journalist.

I’ve always sought to find the middle ground in most situations. Rarely do I immediately drift to what I like to call an “extreme side” position. That’s because I take to heart what one of my political science professors back in college once told me. 

“The truth is often neither to the far left or the far right, but somewhere in the middle,” he said. 

Sometimes, though, people villainize the middle. They consider it milquetoast. A cop out. A refusal to make a hard-lined commitment to something. I think those who believe this way don’t fully understand what the middle is. 

In its truest definition, the middle ground is the place where we come to find building blocks of commonality. It’s where we take hard, honest looks at ourselves and the things, people and beliefs we hold most dear, and admit to ourselves, and each other, that no extreme side is perfect. 

Not one of our political ideologies, none of our religious denominations and a grand total of zero of our most treasured cultural constructs are batting 1.000 when it comes to cornering the market on all things right, sensical, productive and constructive. 

This helps us begin to find truth. Not emotionally charged truth. Not politically biased truth. Not the kind of truth that we took as a hand-me-down from our parents and grandparents. But absolute, factual truth. 

There is no such thing as absolute truth, some of you may say? Well, do you realize making such an absolute statement actually proves that idea to be false? 

There has to be a such thing as unarguable fact. Otherwise, we can justify anything — even the most heinous immorality — without any grounds to push back against it, no matter how destructive it may be to our society. 

What’s the point? It’s time for us as a world, as a nation, as a city, as a county, as a community, to recapture the middle ground. Not as a place to camp out and hide, but as a place to discover, connect and rebuild civility, even in the most polarizing situations. 

Nothing gets accomplished when we retreat to our respective extreme corners and shout across the proverbial room at each other. Nothing heals, nothing repairs, nothing broken or damaged gets fixed or mended when we speak only to win the shouting match instead of creating conversation that builds bridges. 

And, call me biased, but I believe the best place for this middle ground recovery to begin is in local media. Not the alphabet soup networks. Not the six-and-seven-figure salary TV talking heads. And not the kind of media designed only to push their ideological brand. 

I’m talking about the ones who are trying their best to inform you about the stuff that matters in your backyards. The ones who have just as much at stake in your community as you do. Yes, they do exist. You’re reading the words of such a media professional right now. 

What I’d like to see happen in the Covington and Newton County communities is a gathering in the middle. I want to see us learn, and model to others, how to discuss matters with passion and civility. I want our times of discussion — whether in a board of commissioners meeting, a school board or city counsel meeting or a Facebook message thread — to be motivated by solutions rather than salaciousness. 

Two things The News is going to do to try and make that happen: First, we’re looking to populate our opinion and editorial pages with more local voices. 

We aren’t trying to completely disregard some of the nationally syndicated bylines you regularly read in our Opinion pages, but I believe there are stakeholder voices right here in Newton County that need to be regularly heard. 

Who better to give voice to the concerns of our local community than those who live, work, worship and play in our community on a daily basis? Sure, we can pull an article from one of those folks you see in mainstream media to fill our Opinion pages. But how does that help us move forward? 

Let’s hear more from our locally elected officials, beyond them stumping for re-election. Let’s read the genuine thoughts of our civic and religious leaders. Let’s amplify the voices that matter in our community so we can stop assuming what everyone thinks and begin learning afresh from each other. 

I don’t care which way they lean politically. I don’t care if I personally agree with them or not, as long as they combine to respectfully represent the totality of Newton County’s diverse “voice.” 

Some of you have seen me reach out to you before for this reason, and others will hear from me soon. But I also want to know from you, reader — who do you think would be a voice that our community needs to hear more of in our Opinion spaces? Drop me a line at, and let me know. 

Secondly, we’ll soon be rolling out what’s called, “The Town Square Podcast.” 

Whenever you think about a town square, what comes to your mind? If you’re like me, you’re thinking of a place that’s in the heart of a community or town where members of the community can intentionally and safely gather for fellowship and camaraderie. 

When I go to our Covington Square and see people enjoying what it has to offer, I don’t look at them and wonder who they voted for in the last election or what their thoughts are on Rivian as a way to size them up and build assumptions about who they are as people. I see people who share a love for our city learning and enjoying with others what it has to offer. 

That’s what The Town Square Podcast will become — a digital “town square” where we can listen, learn and discuss our thoughts and ideas about the best way forward for our community. A place where we can do it passionately, but with respect and civility, on a platform that has the potential to show the world how it’s done. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — Newton County can be a model of how to handle divisive matters with class, grace and civility, all without feeling like we have to sacrifice our beliefs, but also leaving open the possibility that we could learn something constructive from each other that may healthily challenge some of our beliefs. 

You’ll hear more on The Town Square Podcast in the coming weeks. 

Ever since my feet first touched Newton County soil back in 2016, I fell in love with this community. I felt it to be a special place. Seven years later — and even after spending a few years away — nothing has changed. I see it as a beacon light, not just for us, but for those who pass through or for those who learn about the excellence our community has to offer through some other means, and want to see for themselves what makes us so special. 

I hope you’ll get behind us in these efforts. We have the power to set the right kind of narrative for our community. Doesn’t mean we’ll always agree on everything. But that’s the thing. We shouldn’t have to. Instead, may we create an environment for ourselves that allows us to build from our commonalities and learn from our differences, instead of strong-arming everyone to be exactly like us. 

I think we can do it. What about you? 

Gabriel Stovall is the Editor and Publisher of The Covington News. He can be reached at