Foster reflects on time as Democrat general manager

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By Rachel Christian

Beth Foster resigned as the General Manager and Editor of the Mount Vernon Democrat a little over a decade ago, but during her time at the publication, she helped lead the weekly newspaper to two Hoosier State Press Association Blue Ribbon awards as well as two other staff awards from the HSPA.

Foster cited an experienced, helpful staff and advancements in technology as key factors in the Democrat’s success during this period.

“There were new advances in the design equipment and technology that allowed us to do more than we had before,” Foster explained. “We were trying new things and working really hard as a team to put out a great, quality paper each week.”

Foster joined the Democrat in February 2004 after serving as editor at the Central Kentucky News-Journal in Campbellsville, Kentucky. It was the second paper owned by Landmark that Foster had worked for, and after completing the corporation’s general manager training program, the Russell Springs, Kentucky native transferred to the Mount Vernon Democrat.

Foster admitted being nervous about “moving so far north” for her new job.

“Hailing from a small Kentucky town, I didn’t know how everyone in the community would take me,” Foster said. “But everyone was very welcoming, and I ended up falling in love with Southwest Indiana.”

Foster came to settle in New Harmony during her stay in Posey County, a town that she said she still enjoys visiting. Foster worked closely alongside her staff in their Main Street office to cover news packages that ranged from the growing meth epidemic to a record snowstorm in December 2005.

Foster reflected that it is probably the Democrat’s continuing coverage of that historic blizzard and its aftermath that she is most proud of. The series of storms struck just a few days before Christmas of that year, dumping nearly two feet of snow over Posey County in the process. The blizzards were accompanied by gusty northern winds that left five-foot drifts in their wake that downed power lines and required assistance from the National Guard.

“It was a crazy couple of weeks as we all tried to still make deadlines, make it into work, submit our stories and provide coverage,” Foster said. ‘It’s something I’m still proud that we were able to do in retrospect.”

Foster departed the Democrat in 2006, and went on to work at two daily publications, the Cleveland Daily Banner in Cleveland, Tennessee and ­the Daily-Citizen News in Delton, Georgia.

Four years ago, Foster exited the journalism industry to pursue work in the non-profit advocacy sector. She now serves as Director at the Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a ministry dedicated to promoting the rights and equality of all socioeconomic classes.

Foster describes her work at Mercy Junction as a kind of “dream job” that has allowed her time to become an advocate and protester for causes she believes in, such as animal rights.

The primary grant that funds Mercy Junction is likely to run out by the end of this year, something that Foster said has left her unsure of the next chapter of her life. She said she still reflects fondly on her more than decade-long career in the newspaper industry, especially her stint as the general manager of the Mount Vernon Democrat.

As the Democrat marks its 150th anniversary, Foster said the weekly publication’s greatest challenge will be to remain relevant in a constantly changing, digital world. It is a tall order, but one that Foster hopes the Democrat, and other small weeklies, can overcome in upcoming years.