Parang, staff 1988

Thirty years ago her stories filled the first issue of farragutpress

Donna Parang was among the groundbreaking journalists whose by-lines, as Lifestyles & Community Features reporter, helped fill the first issue of what is now farragutpress exactly 30 years ago, Sept. 13, 1988.

However, “Having a brand new baby” during this time, Parang’s weekly newspaper career would be short-lived. “… Quite frankly, as a reporter I didn’t make enough to pay for daycare,” she said.

Though Parang was on board at Farragut Press Enterprise “only about four months,” don’t scoff at the value of her roughly 17 weeks of employment.

“Oh my gosh, I learned so much,” said Parang, currently a teacher at Pellissippi State Community College — public speaking and mass communications — who also doubles as a Realtor at Coldwell Banker Wallace & Wallace.

“… I learned how to make my contacts, to get over the fear of calling people to set up appointments. I learned how to write questions for an interview,” she added. “I learned how to go out and do an interview and get the answers to the questions I needed, and write it in a good journalistic style, which made it interesting.

“And I learned that once you became a reporter and published something, you’re going to get comments back from the public, which was also very interesting.”

However, “Most of those were totally positive,” Parang said. “I have to say the community was always very supportive.”

“We needed a good, solid writer, and I remember her coming in. She was very energetic, very spunky, very enthusiastic,” Jeff Gary, the paper’s first editor, said.

“She did a lot of the meat-and-potatoes reporting that was really so important.”

“Jeff and I wound up going through the Master’s program at UT together,” Parang said about her eventual Master of Communications degree in journalism and public relations in 1996. She earned her bachelor’s degree in broadcast management at UT.

Beginning in the late 1990s, “I was the editor of the Journal of Engineering Education at UT for several years,” Parang said. “Then I wound up working as a technical writer in Public Health and Environmental Health with UT, (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) and Knox County Health Department.” At KCHD, “I worked as an epidemiologist.”

Parang and husband, Morey Parang, have three children and four grandchildren.

Other 1988 staff

Gary also shared his thoughts and feelings about other original editorial staff members, but he started at the top with Doug Horne, owner of Republic Newspapers, Inc., parent company of farragutpress:

“He was obviously very invested in making sure there was a high-quality newspaper in the community. He wanted to put all the resources and all the elements in place so we could fulfill that,” he said.

“I thought it was exciting to work for somebody who had that sort of vision, and as a visionary could see what a wonderful product this could become,” Gary added. “And it certainly has played out that way over the course of the last 30 years.”

• Nick Drewry, publisher (later president of RNI who retired in 2011):

“A wonderful supervisor and a wonderful man — still is. Just a wealth of newspaper knowledge, so it was a delight to have the opportunity to work under him because I learned so much.”

• Tom Lanham, sports editor:

“Tom was a law student, and just an avid sports fan. He reached out to us and said he was very interested in writing for the paper.

“And he wanted to approach sports writing from the perspective of a sports fan.

“His vision for how you would do it was like, if you went to a big game and you were telling your best friend about how the game went. It was a very conversational approach.”

• Kimberly K. Turner, compositor:

“She and I were in school together … and knew a lot of the same people from our class. She was a graphic designer by trade and very creative and very energetic.”

Other staff employees were Danny Long, advertising representative and circulation manager; advertising representatives Pam Russo and Mary Ann Wheeler; and bookkeeper Dawn Moore.