BLOG— Our paper
- Published: April 10, 2018
A true community newspaper is a rare thing. When I was a girl in northern Virginia in the late 1970s and early 80s, my parents subscribed to the Potomac News. I can still remember two articles, vividly: one about a woman with a butterfly tattoo on her face, the other about a unicorn sighting. The follow-up on the unicorn story, disappointingly, involved a prankster, a painted wooden horn and a white horse.
Years later, just out of college, I wrote for the Rye Record, a community paper in Rye, N.Y., founded and edited by the wife of the then-CEO of Toys ‘R’ Us. One time she drove me to an interview in her Mercedes, which had miniature Oriental rugs in place of floormats. She held — no, hosted — editorial meetings at her home, one of Rye’s elegant estates on Long Island Sound. The experience gave me an altogether false sense of the stakes and rewards of community journalism.
Or maybe not. For I loved the work, and saw that it did subtle but indispensable good. At the Rye Record we tackled the “poo problem,” as we put it, taking on the town’s dog-owning elite. It sounds silly, but there was a certain bravery in pointing out that, yes, Bella’s “poo” really did pose a problem underfoot. And dog waste aside, I wrote about dozens of people — shop owners, writers, philanthropists, a dealer in diamonds — whose stories enlarged my sense, and hopefully readers’ sense, of our little town.
Almost 20 years later, I landed another job at another community paper. This one was in Yellow Springs, Ohio — perhaps you’ve heard of it — and the paper was well over 100 years old, with Quaker roots. Editorial meetings were held (hosted, in their way) in a quirky little newsroom stuffed with kind, eclectic folk. The editor — I’m quite sure about this — did not drive a Mercedes. During my nearly three years at the paper, we tackled all sorts of issues, from the shooting death of John Crawford in nearby Beavercreek to the reform of local policing to the return of the CBE land to Village ownership and new plans for that land. We told all sorts of stories: about village elders, about musicians, about business owners, about teachers and youth. From my first story, about artist Jason Morgan, to my last, about poets and writers coming to Wright State, I’ve been so grateful to hear and report and try to truly convey what made these people, this town, tick.
Did you catch that past tense? Last week’s issue was my last at the News. I am leaving reporting to pursue poetry, the other half of my writing life, in a deeper, more sustained way. Leaving the paper, I leave a job that’s part thrill, part grind, part up-in-the-night-worrying, part egg-on-my-face, part grace. I leave beautiful colleagues. And I leave the privilege — the public trust, taken so seriously at the News — of delving into all the fascination and messiness of shared life, the decisions and personalities and events that shape, and sometimes shake, our community week by week.
But here’s the lucky thing. I was a News reader before I was a News writer — a reader from Day One, from Morning Zero of living in Yellow Springs. My husband and I found a house here, our sweet Pleasant Street rental, thanks to the News’ online classifieds. And when we rolled into town from Albuquerque five winters ago, one of our first stops was the News office. Was it true the paper welcomed newcomers with a free three-month subscription? It was.
Reading the paper, and later reporting for it, my understanding of the village grew. Like many readers, I suspect, I turned first to the letters page, then to the police report, and finally to the articles. Such range and depth of articles! The village’s harmonies, as much as its conflicts, came into focus. There’s a lot of talk about “positive reporting,” but it’s hard to do well, to make “good news” meaningful. The News does, I think; in good news as in bad, it’s a mirror to the community, and a gentle shaper of it, too.
When you love a newspaper, you call it “my paper.” When you really love a newspaper, and really love the community it reports on and aims to reflect, you call it “our paper.” Here’s to our paper! Thanks to for having me as a writer and a reader, dear Yellow Springs News. Same goes to you, dear Yellow Springs. See you in the pages of the News.