Almost as Good as Duct Tape

Just before nap time Thursday – gosh it comes earlier every Thanksgiving – as you nod over the list of things you want to give thanks for, pause between the lemon icebox pie and college football to give a thought to your local newspaper.

Huh?

Okay, let’s start with the old ones. Put ‘em under the paint cans. Wrap the fish entrails. Protect the dainty stuff in the box. Make paper mâche. Line the kitty box. Start the fire. And so on.

Old newspapers may be second only to duct tape in usefulness.

But local newspapers have much more value than that.

“Look, Susie Johnson made the honor roll. Poor Mrs. Longbottom passed away, but look here, I never knew she appeared on The Price Is Right! Are we going to the rodeo this weekend? There’s a great holiday tire sale starting tomorrow. Look, they caught the people breaking into those houses. Ed Fitzgerald is turning 50! Why are they saying that about the Senator? Dadgum ad valorem taxes are going up again! Look and see what channel the game is on.”

So much useful information in one place. Available any time you want to pick it up. No complicated search, just thumb through a few pages. Go at your own pace. No battery required.

Local newspapers are constant snapshots of a community. The Internet, talk radio, and cell phones just don’t capture “community.”

We should give thanks for these unique enterprises as we do for other blessings and pray that they survive these tough times. They were already under pressure from electronic competition. The economic downturn has many just barely hanging on. Advertising is down. Subscriptions are down.

I have a special feeling for local newspapers; I was in the business for 10 years. My best memories are of the people. So many interesting characters, usually poorly paid, working so hard to meet deadlines and put out a good product. People who seemed to really care about community and neighbors.

Often times, newspaper people have been the courageous voices speaking up when politicians were silent. They hold feet to fire and fire-up lazy feet. They show us at our best, our worst, our indifference. They reveal tragedy and illuminate fulfillment. They get us to build things never built otherwise.

Among the many who made a difference, not including active journalists, that I can picture quickly are J. Oliver Emmerich, George McLean, Ray Hederman, Hodding Carter, Roland Weeks, Gale Denley, Dub Shoemaker, and Ms. Eva Beets. There are far more. Give thanks to all.

Of course, besides thanks and prayers there are more active ways to help sustain your local newspaper. Subscribe. Teach your children to read the newspaper. Buy ads from classified ads on up. Shop at stores who advertise and tell them why you do so.

And never forget, newspapers can save your life. I’ll never forget that wintry game day in the 9th grade. If Mama hadn’t wrapped my feet in newspaper….

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