By Deanna Kirk – Special to the Navarro County Gazette
When two hometown fellows return home and decide to collaborate in telling positive, uplifting stories about the people, places, and events in Corsicana, their collective creative history can result in a formula that creates pure magic.
The Navarro County Gazette was the brainchild of best friends Guy Chapman and John Kaiser III. The only locally-owned and operated news source in Navarro County, the pair chose as their sole focus events and people throughout Navarro County ~ and only Navarro County.
As the Gazette celebrates its first year in operation on Aug. 21, the question often arises, “Why online only?”
“People are always on their phones. They text, schedule plans, listen to music, watch movies, and most importantly, we read on our phones,” Chapman said. “People spend so much time on a tablet or phone, I decided that would be the best way to reach out to and grow an audience.”
Personally, Chapman loves physical books, and has a large library of his own. But his time working in the newspaper industry (at another local publication) highlighted to him the shift in tastes, demographics, and interests.
“An online newspaper, especially for this area, needs to be new and different, and I think people have appreciated that change,” he said. “Still, I would love to do a physical product one day, but it would have to be special, and different, and as an indie publisher I’d have to justify the costs to do so.”
For now, the Gazette is two people with the vision and a handful of freelance writers. There’s no corporate or special interest backing, simply advertising and donations.
Kaiser said his goal for the Gazette can be traced back to an article about a kid who complained there was “nothing to do in Corsicana.” A young Kaiser shared, in response via Letter to the Editor, a long list of those very things with the readers.
“With the Gazette, I’d like to continue to highlight just all the things going on here,” Kaiser said. “I want to shine a light on the businesses and people who make up this county, past and present. I want to shine a light on Navarro County to highlight all the good that is here.”
Kaiser said while there are plenty of places to read about all the bad going on in the world, he would like to see the Gazette become the “go to” news source that enriches the lives of readers and the people they cover.
“I want people to see us as a celebration of who we are as a people, not what divides us,” he said.
When did this friendship begin between two creative, artistic gentlemen? Perhaps 30 years ago, Chapman surmised. During high school they hung out in mutual social circles, but it was when Kaiser went to work at Midway Home Entertainment the two became very good friends. Chapman worked in the video game industry for a decade, and has also been a TV/film actor, sous chef for a Cajun restaurant, a social media marketing manager, freelance writer and blogger, wine server, museum guide, video store clerk, and his most unusual job – as a stand-in for Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley for several years.
“My career has been all over the place,” Chapman said, laughing. “Trying to make sense of my resume has become a little complicated.”
But the writing – that was always a constant. Chapman wrote for online tourism websites in Las Vegas, reviewing shows, restaurants, hotels, and he also wrote for a publication in Las Vegas where he did mostly pop culture musings and film reviews. He became a full-time journalist in 2019 when he came back to Corsicana and wrote for the Corsicana Daily Sun.
“When I was laid off in 2020 due to the pandemic, people kept coming to me with stories, and I realized this path was basically set for me,” he said. “Why fight it? However, I decided if I’m going to do this on my own, I’ll just do it differently than what’s already out there.”
Kaiser is currently the Executive Director at the Warehouse Living Arts Center. He’s been fortunate to have careers in creative industries. Over 20 years were spent working in the video game industry, where he’d held almost every position. Outside of gaming, he had a radio show on KAND “back in the day,” and did a bit of filming and editing there too. He is also the co-founder of a board/card game company, GPAC, LLC (Game Producers, Artists and Consultants).
“We have published one card game, War for the White House, and have two board games in development right now, along with a mobile adaptation of one of them,” Kaiser said. “It’s based on an upcoming motion picture currently in production, but can’t officially release the title just yet.”
Chapman said he and Kaiser both work really hard to cover their story subjects one-on-one, and without deadlines or publication days, they can spend more time on stories and do more timely online updates.
“I like original content,” Chapman said. “I don’t mind sharing press releases for events and announcements, but I don’t want to be the place where you’ve already read what we publish. I put a lot of personal interest into my interviews, and I hope that shows. I understand the value and appeal in covering local history, so I do a lot of research in those subjects.”
He feels it’s important to share the many options of things to do in Corsicana, so locals know they don’t have to travel to Dallas, Waco, or Waxahachie for fun or entertainment. Chapman also sees the importance of health and education in our current climate, and has plans to use his filmmaking background soon to create video content for the Gazette.
“I want the Gazette to truly be for everyone,” he said. “I don’t want to limit the audience appeal to any one demographic, and I don’t want to repeatedly cover the same half dozen things. Local news is incredibly important for small town communities, as you can get national news just about anywhere these days.
“Someone recently called the Gazette ‘a cheerleader for the community,’ and I’m fine with that. It’s easy to get caught up in the negative and the day-to-day issues, and yes, some subjects do make a point, but I think Corsicana has potential and we need to focus on things to inspire and grow us out for the future.”
Kaiser said 10 years from now he can see the Gazette having an office downtown, getting a proper staff, and being able to cover much more than they can adequately do now.
“Right now, the Navarro County Gazette exists because of the passion Guy and I have for it to exist, and the support we’ve gotten from contributors,” Kaiser said “Guy has been the real driving factor behind our success of the last year.”
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