Welcome to my last-ever Sunday column for The Crescent-News. Don’t fret; if you’ve grown accustomed to reading my words here over the past few years (hi mom!), you can still find them in our Saturday edition starting this week.
Were I asked to list the top three things that matter most to me, family and community journalism would come right out. I like to leave a blank for that third one; it rotates. Today it’s coffee.
Our publication schedule here at the Crescent is set to change June 18 — also my birthday, in case you feel like getting in touch with Shari’s Berries — and it was with great apprehension that I turned to Facebook to see what the local community had to say about it. In fact, any time I turn to Facebook, it is with great apprehension...
As with almost any change to anything ever, there were mixed reactions, yays and nays.
It bears note that moments before I entered the newsroom to write this column, I was mildly entertained by a lengthy internet comment thread wherein participants complained about parents who show off pictures and videos of their kids doing cute things (or, me). I point this out to highlight just what sort of heinous travesty it takes to get folks on the internet riled up. So, I knew what I was getting myself into.
But one comment stuck to me like a bur. More like a rock in the shoe, really, burrowing into my tender foot skin with every step. I couldn’t shake it out. It was some variation of:
“You can get everything that’s in the newspaper online for free.”
Now for me, a person who studied journalism, has practiced journalism for a decade, and even ranked journalism above coffee just moments ago, it should be easy to say, “No you can’t,” and leave it there.
Because, well, you can’t. Not by a long shot.
Look, I don’t live under a rock in terms of the way information is exchanged these days. Just this morning, when wondering if the Take Me to the Rivers Jazz Fest would get underway despite the foreboding weather, I checked the event Facebook page for an answer.
This isn’t about me, or you, or anyone else finding out whether Jazz Fest is still on or “what those sirens are all about.”
In part, it’s about all the things that don’t take place in government meetings when the public has a representative — pen at the ready — there. Council meetings are open to the public, sure, and the public does attend them — when an issue hits home. When they have a dog in the fight. (Journalists with a dog in the fight are worse than no journalists at all...) But those things, the ones that don’t take place, aren’t fun. We can’t post about it online for “likes.” It was simply wrongdoing that never occurred, because somebody was looking and asking questions on a consistent basis. Oversight changes behavior. So there’s that.
But there’s also this: I interviewed a Vietnam veteran at Bob Evans once for a story about his life, and the interview — the fact he granted it in the first place — had a lasting impact on me. Me aside, that story needed told. It is valuable to us, as communities, to get that closer look at who we are. You cannot get those stories online for free if nobody is left to tell them. If anyone would do it on a volunteer basis, it’s me, and even I cannot. I get too hungry.
In the past, local and regional newspapers informed national ones. But if they can’t do this, or can’t do it effectively, what’s the bigger story being told about the “American experience”?
I don’t know, you’ll have to ask someone on one of the coasts...