The winter issue of Walker Magazine went to the printer this week.
Completing this issue is a challenge each year because it falls during a time when our staff is busy compiling extra content to carry us through the holidays in addition to covering our usual beats.
Our first issue of the year is also the time when we like to try something new.
In 2016, we replaced our “Did You Know?” fact page with a photo spread titled “From the Vault.”
The filing cabinets that occupy every nook and cranny of the Eagle newsroom are a treasure trove of pictures taken before the dawn of digital photography.
I pitched the idea for “From the Vault” to then-publisher Jack McNeely after I came across a series of black and white images taken during Operation Desert Storm.
Every picture told a story about how Walker County residents felt as war with Saddam Hussein drew near in January 1991 — heads bowed at a prayer vigil at Farmstead Baptist Church, a business sign bearing the message “Pray for God to Calm the Desert Storm,” large American flags being hung in Jasper Mall.
Of course, the best photos in the collection showed local soldiers being reunited with their loved ones that spring and summer.
Since then, “From the Vault” has provided a quarterly excuse for me to spend some time revisiting interesting moments in Walker County history — Dora’s centennial, a visit from the president of Mercedes-Benz, the construction of Walker County Airport.
In our upcoming issue, we’ll be sharing some fun photos from dual snowstorms that shut down the county for three days in 1982.
The winter 2017 issue marked another turning point for the magazine.
For the first time since our inaugural issue was published in October 2012, we did not have a person on the cover. Instead, we took our readers inside the Armstrong Cafe in Eldridge and gave them a mouth-watering glimpse of the famous Opal Burger.
A story on the cafe served as the introduction for “Food for the Soul,” our first attempt at sharing recipes from our readers.
Thanks to the generosity of our local chefs, “Food for the Soul” has become a regular feature in the magazine.
Our latest issue features a pecan pie recipe that was passed down to Jasper resident Linda Sprayberry from her grandmother.
Once again, we decided to experiment with our cover for winter 2018. Taco, a member of the EASI Ranch’s herd, got the distinction of being the first animal to grace the front of Walker Magazine without a human by his side.
(Our first cover featured a horse, Rocker, and his owner, Dale Lively, and Birmingham Zoo employee Tyler Eads posed with Aubry, a Great Horned Owl, for our winter 2016 cover.)
The EASI story is a great example of how the magazine allows us to rethink the way we cover people and programs for the newspaper.
I have been covering EASI since my first year at the Eagle. Naturally, most of my articles have been about the staff and how they consistently come up with new ways to serve their special group of riders.
I had never been around horses until I started visiting the EASI barn on a fairly regular basis. As naive as it may sound to animal lovers, I was surprised as I listened to some of the volunteers’ stories and realized that horses have their own personalities.
Several months ago, I asked EASI director Christie Stanley if I could write a mini profile on each horse, and she readily agreed.
When the new issue comes out, readers will be introduced to Taco the Escape Artist, Chunky the Hunk, Tank the Gentle Giant and all of their friends.
When Jack announced in 2012 that we were going to have a quartely magazine, I’ll admit that I was skeptical. At that time, we were still publishing a paper seven days a week as well as multiple special sections throughout the year.
“Where are we going to get all these stories?” I wondered.
Thankfully, worrying about that wasn’t part of my job description for the first few years. All I had to do was come up with a topic that interested me, and the list of things I’d love to write about has grown quite long after 11 years in the business.
Now it is my job to come up with enough content to fill four magazines a year, and not once have I thrown up my hands in despair because there aren’t enough good stories to tell about Walker County.
My only concern now is that there never seems to be enough time to tell them all.
Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s features editor.