Dad and Daughter Tell It Like It Is in The Calhoun-Liberty Journal

Hometown NewsDad and daughter tell it like it is in The Calhoun-Liberty Journal By Linda Kleindienst

Johnny Eubanks did something that many parents may dream of but few are able to pull off. He started a newspaper for his only child, daughter Teresa.

“She was home from school one weekend and made some comment that she’d like to work at a small-town newspaper,” he remembers. “In a period of insanity I said, ‘How’d you like to work on your own?’ ”

The only blueprint they had for starting a newspaper from scratch was a book on how to start a weekly newspaper that Teresa, who had originally envisioned working for magazines, purchased for one of her communications classes at the University of West Florida. She never cracked the book in class, but it became a bible for the Eubanks family as they plunged headlong into the world of print.

And that’s how The Calhoun-Liberty Journal was born in Bristol in February 1981 — two months after Teresa Eubanks graduated from college. The newspaper office was an old Church of God building that they moved from State Road 12, just north of town, to Pea Ridge Road. The former Sunday School room became Teresa’s home.

“I knew nothing whatsoever about the business,” Johnny Eubanks, 76, now says with a smile. “But Teresa was trained in journalism. When she started talking about a typesetter, I thought she was talking about a sophisticated typewriter.”

Family and friends pitched in. After a friend drew up a list of what technology the new enterprise would need, Johnny bought the computer equipment and his wife, Rowena, a computer programmer for the state, put it all together. He scouted auctions to buy premium equipment on a nickel-and-dime budget. He scored a $12,000 fully automatic process camera that no one at the Department of Education knew how to use for $10. The paper’s layout tables came from the Florida State University art department. Bathrooms came from a bankruptcy sale.

“Dad was a very good shopper,” says Teresa, who was adopted by the Eubanks when she was 5 years old. “I learned a lot about my parents. I don’t even believe we did all we did.”

At first the paper was free and circulation was about 2,000. Now the weekly has 5,400-plus paid subscribers — it continues to grow — and averages 28 pages. The papers are delivered in a truck that runs on a biodiesel fuel that uses cooking oil collected twice a month from the nearby Apalachee Restaurant.

Teresa, now 50, does all the writing. Johnny at times helps out, getting the raw material for a story and then letting Teresa “make it readable.”

Rowena Eubanks lost her battle with leukemia in 2002, but even as she lay sick, she coached her husband of 39 years through some of the technological pitfalls he was encountering in her absence.

“I never would have planned things the way they worked out,” says Teresa, who does most of her reporting and writing from her home, where the police radio is turned on even when she’s asleep.

Johnny Eubanks is the youngest of seven siblings — the oldest is 91 — and six of them still live in Northwest Florida. He served three years, 11 months and 11 days in the U.S. Navy, handling interior communications for the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. After coming home, he worked 21 years as the head of veteran services for Liberty County and then was named head of the veterans office in Leon County.

“I was hired on a temporary basis and 21 years later I retired,” Eubanks says of the Tallahassee job.

In his spare time, he still pitches in with veteran services in Liberty County and serves as the volunteer executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, helping to bring Georgia-Pacific — the area’s largest manufacturer — and a state prison to the county.

To what does he attribute the paper’s success?

“The community supports it,” Eubanks says. “When we step on people’s toes, we do it in a fair manner. We don’t go out on witch hunts. Teresa doesn’t write what she wants it to be, she writes what it really is … And weekly newspapers are what local people go to for the local news.”