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Jacobs retires as publisher of The Cynthiana Democrat

By Becky Barnes, Editor

After 38 years of ink pumping through his veins, Cynthiana Democrat publisher George Jacobs is retiring.

Nearly 2,000 editions of the newspaper have been published during his tenure.

“George is one of our most experienced publishers and operations leaders at Landmark Community Newspapers,” said Dan Sykes, executive vice president of Landmark, which is the parent company of The Cynthiana Democrat. “Many of us have sought his counsel on an array of complex issues facing the newspaper industry.”

Jacobs’ vast knowledge of the business comes from the various facets of the industry which are housed at the Webster Avenue plant.

Before his graduation from Harrison County High School in 1969, he worked as a janitor at the Cynthiana Publishing Co.

After he graduated high school, he attended Eastern Kentucky University for two years.

He served in the United States Army for three and a half years where he worked for the Army Security Agency as a Morse code intercept operator.

He served in Turkey for two years then returned to the United States where he was stationed at Briggs Army Air Base in El Paso, Texas.

Jacobs and his wife, Donna McNabb Jacobs, returned to Kentucky once his tour of duty was fulfilled.

He returned to school at the University of Kentucky where he earned a communications degree with an emphasis on marketing.

“After being gone for five and half years, I did not think I would ever be back in Cynthiana to live,” Jacobs recalled. “It certainly came as a surprise when, during an interview with Landmark, they suggested that I return home.”

The young Jacobs couple returned to Cynthiana where both of their families still lived.

Jacobs began his career at the Cynthiana Democrat as an advertising sales representative on Oct. 1, 1976. He was still attending classes at UK, where he had also worked as a sales rep for The Kentucky Kernel, the college newspaper. He graduated in December of 1976.

A month later, he was named advertising manager and then in June 1978, he became general manager.

His next step was publisher, but he still wasn’t finished climbing. 

In 1988, he became regional manager for four newspapers including The Grant County News, the Carrollton News Democrat, the Owenton News Herald and the Trimble Banner, and Standard Publishing in Shepherdsville.

Jacobs said he appreciated those who helped guide him while he learned the business. 

“It takes a village,” Jacobs said, quoting Hillary Clinton. “I never had a mentor per se, but a lot of people helped me understand the newspaper business and the community.” 

Several projects were completed during his career on the Hilltop. Rather than talk about projects for which he led to completion, he, not surprisingly, turned it to “what we have accomplished.”

“We have served the community well in keeping government open to them,” Jacobs said, adding, “We tried to point out warts as well as those things that make us a special community.”

Three expansion projects occurred during his 38 years; each adding equipment that allowed the operation to grow with the industry.

“On the business side, we’ve weathered changes in the industry,” he said. “Our employment continues to be at the levels of previous years.

He was quick to recognize the community for its support of the newspaper.

In March 1997, one of the most devastating events occurred in Cynthiana and Harrison County when the South Fork of the Licking River flooded much of the city and some areas of the county.

The flood knocked out Cynthiana’s water supply, but the newspaper was able to continue operations through an innovative approach to getting water to the presses.

Jacobs and his staff filled a 55-gallon drum with water, hooked up an employee’s sump pump that was being used to pump out his basement and proceeded to public a special edition for the community.

“It would have done little good to publish a special edition if we couldn’t get it to the people,” said Becky Barnes, editor.

Jacobs drove back roads through Harrison County to reach the shelters that were cut off by the flooded waters. He drove over 30 miles out of the way to reach a shelter that would have, under normal circumstances, been only two or three miles away.

Because there was also no telephone service, families who were separated during the rescue had no idea where the family members were. 

The special edition listed shelters and those who were in each shelter.

A second publication came a few weeks after the flood waters receded. “Grace” magazine was filled with photographs of rescues and good will. Proceeds from the sale of Grace, which sold out within hours of hitting the newsstands, were used to provide a playground at a temporary housing development for flood victims.

The Cynthiana Democrat, Jacobs and his staff, received numerous state and company awards for their efforts to keep the community informed during the disaster.

“For every beginning there is an end,” Jacobs said. “I’m looking forward to new beginnings.”

He said he has no definitive plans for retirement.

“I think that whatever I do it will involve my family, my church or the community,” he said.

He will likely be spending  more time on the road between northern Kentucky and Atlanta, where his children and grandchildren reside.

Daughter and son-in-law, Katie and Ryan Kelly, live in Atlanta with their twins, Paige and Finn. Son and daughter-in-law, Sam and Katie B. Jacobs, live in northern Kentucky with their son, Ryder.

He is an elder and trustee at Cynthiana Christian Church. He is a past president of the Cynthiana Rotary Club and former president of the Cynthiana Optimists Club, former officer and director of the Cynthiana-Harrison County Chamber of Commerce, and former director of the Cynthiana-Harrison County Industrial Foundation.

Jacobs’ retirement will be celebrated with a reception on Thursday, Aug. 28, at Cynthiana Christian Church, between 4 and 6 p.m.

 The Jacobs family and the staff of the Cynthiana Democrat invite the public to the reception to honor Jacobs at this milestone.