Jared Lankford: Bigger and better than ever

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Friday marked the anniversary of two work-related events at The Monett Times and Cassville Democrat.

First, 15 seniors, one player from each of the 14-team Big 8 Conference and Pierce City came to Burl Fowler Stadium for the annual cover shoot of the Gridiron Guide, and second, I celebrated my ninth anniversary of being the papers’ sports editor.


Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that this path would unfold for my life.

The order was simple nine years ago when I started — go everywhere.

Both papers were looking for a sports editor who would be present at as many games as possible.

In the past nine years, I have attended and covered hundreds of games and met thousands of coaches and players.

In the winter of 2013, during a brainstorming session, employees were asked for ideas to help expand our footprint in the area.

Someone once said that sometimes, you need to throw out ideas, even poor ones, just so you can have a starting place for a discussion.

Shooting from the hip, I threw out the idea of a football preview magazine.

Not too much was said until April 2014, when my former publisher, Lisa Schlichtman, walked into the newsroom and told me to have a presentation ready for my magazine in two hours.

That day, the Gridiron Guide was born.

Since its inception, the magazine has previewed the entirety of the Big 8 Conference plus the Eagles.

Its publication numbers have more than tripled since it was first printed.

Two years later, we began inviting teams to send a representative for the cover shoot.

The idea to pick a football preview magazine was actually easy. The sport and its history runs deep in nearly every community in southwest Missouri.

In many places, three generations have played for the high school team.

Fans attend games to see family and friends play, and the athletes still love to see their names published.

Over the last nine years, the goal of the paper and the Gridiron Guide has been to spotlight as many athletes as possible. As long as I occupy the writer’s chair, that mission will not change.

It takes every employee at the Monett and Cassville newspapers to make the football magazine a success. I could not do it without their help.

This year’s magazine is slated to be released on Aug. 22. You can pick up a copy at the Times or Democrat offices.

They will also be available at each school featured.

Jared Lankford is the sports editor of Cassville Democrat. He may be reached at sports@cassville-democrat.com or by calling 417-847-2610.

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