Él no habla Español
A foreign language requirement drove Dink NeSmith to journalism
William Henry “Dink” NeSmith (ABJ ’70) knew he wanted to go to UGA, even if his mother didn’t want him to.
“She thought the school was too large, and that I would get lost,” recalls NeSmith. “I told her I either wanted to go to UGA or Vietnam, and she laughed and said ‘Oh, I think Georgia would be great.’”
NeSmith is the president and co-owner of Community Newspapers Inc., a newspaper company based in Athens that publishes 30 hometown newspapers in Georgia, Florida and North Carolina.
Journalism was not the career path he had planned when he entered UGA. He thought he wanted to go to law school, but found out that required too many courses in a foreign language.
“You had to have four foreign language credits for law school and only two for Grady, so I switched,” says NeSmith. “Spanish drove me to journalism.” He’s now trying to learn the language again.
After graduation he spent six months in the Army National Guard’s basic and advanced training before starting work in the newspaper business. Forty-one years later, he still loves it.
“Once I discovered newspapers, I knew I was lucky to pick a career to keep me engaged.”
Even though recent years have been challenging for newspapers with many moving to a website or closing shop altogether, NeSmith believes there still is a need for a printed product. People, he says, have a deep-rooted curiosity and need a reliable source of information. But he also knows that the younger population is more likely to turn to the Internet for information. He hires young Grady graduates to help him keep up with current trends and is looking at business models to incorporate trends in social media.
“You have to be a good business in order to be good at anything else,” he explains.
He advises young journalists to write something every day, even if it’s just a paragraph, in their chosen field. Up and coming journalists, he says, need to learn self-confidence without being cocky.
“If you’re not curious, find some other occupation,” he advises.
NeSmith is active in Athens, with season tickets to Georgia football games for his family. He served on the UGA Athletic Association board for 14 years and is past president of the UGA Alumni Association. In 2008, he was appointed to the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents and currently serves as its vice chairman.
In his down time NeSmith loves to read, listen to music and eat good barbecue. He also enjoys being outside—farming, fishing and quail hunting.
“If I were doing something else I’d be a farmer and a part-time carpenter,” he says. “I like to plant seeds and ideas and watch them grow.”