The Southern Country Editor

The Southern Country Editor

The Southern Country Editor

The Southern Country Editor

Excerpt

The country press has been one of the most vigorous institutions in the New South. It has functioned alongside the country store, the rural and small-town church and school as a common man's institution. So-called common people of the South have left few private personal records to tell their story. Instead their history is preserved in those records of institutions which have served their economic and cultural needs. The most literate chronicle of rural progress is to be found in the weekly newspaper. Ambitious editors, country reporters, ready-print publishers, local poets and public letter writers have all been in the business of creating the literary record of their communities.

There was a wholesome informality about country news reporting and a genuine neighborliness in its popular reception. Libel suits were few, and never too successful for the plaintiffs. Editors assumed popular responsibility as community spokesmen, and their moods varied from stern Jovelike sanctimony to droll humor. They generally felt a keen responsibility for the welfare of their communities, and they devoted an enormous amount of energy toward an improvement of both public decorum and economic welfare. Few public-spirited men have exhibited so much courage and determination as these Southern country editors who helped build a new South.

I am thoroughly aware that the country newspaper is an American institution that is not contained by sectional lines. It is much the same North, South and West. My only justification for considering the Southern rural paper separately is the fact that there were some peculiarly sectional problems which were given much prominence in both news and editorializing. The race problem, a one-party political system, one-crop agriculture, the Southern frontier, Reconstruction and industrialization of the region were distinctly regional problems. Likewise, I am conscious of the fact that there are many papers in the South which would have given an equally good picture of country journalism as the ones which I used. It would take at least two lifetimes to turn the pages of all these country papers. In many cases . . .

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