Newspapers Vital to Communities

“Have you lost your mind?” a friend responded to one of my recent columns.

That got the old noodle off in an unexpected direction. Not about the column in question, but about why I bother to write any column.

It’s all about newspapers, I keep reminding myself.

I was in the business long ago and worked with many great people. Oh, many were good to great writers, but more were just great people. Most were poorly paid, working hard to meet deadlines and put out a good product. All were people who seemed to really care about community and neighbors, such as the late Leroy Morganti.

But more and more people in communities don’t seem to care about their local newspapers. They get instant news from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Or tune into cable TV or talk radio. As a result, newspaper advertising is down, subscriptions are down, and prospects aren’t so rosy.

So, I says to myself like Popeye, what can I do to help? Well, 37 years ago when I first syndicated a column I could demand $2 a week per column.

Hmmm. I started sending out a column once a week for free. At least I could help local newspapers save a few pennies. At best I might help attract readers.

You see, I believe we all should support these unique enterprises and preserve the vital roles newspapers play for communities.

They provide practical information and constant snapshots of community.

“Look, Susie Smith made the honor roll. Poor Mrs. Longbottom passed away. They foreclosed on that house across the street. There’s a great holiday tire sale starting tomorrow. Wow, they caught the people breaking into those houses. Ed Fitzgerald turned 50. Dadgum ad valorem taxes are going up again! Look and see what channel the game is on.”

Often times, they have been the courageous voices, speaking up when politicians were silent or befuddled. 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 start things never started otherwise.

And, they are so darn useful…to put under paint cans, wrap up fish entrails, protect breakable stuff in boxes, make paper mâche, start the fire, and line the kitty box (no doubt a popular place for my columns). Mama used to wrap my feet in newspaper to keep them warm at freezing high school football games.

So my friend was right. It probably is crazy to think my meager efforts could have any influence on the fate of local newspapers. After all, I’m no Tom Paine.

As for my columns’ content? It’s intentionally as crazy as Common Sense, seeking to inform and instigate…ponderation if nothing else.

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