Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Hometown Paper Stretches Long Roots to the Heart

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Hometown Paper Stretches Long Roots to the Heart

Article excerpt

Sumner, is an associate professor of journalism at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

A link to the past and a chronicle of the present are worth more than awards when in comes to connecting with your roots

I live 1,000 miles and 30 years away from my little hometown. Yet, I've subscribed to its weekly newspaper for years and will until I die. It only costs $15 a year, and that's a bargain for keeping in touch.

It's not a great newspaper. I don't think it has ever won any journalism awards. I have seen it go through five or six editors and as many ups and downs in quality. It is understaffed and underfunded. Yet, I continue to read it.

Why? Well, there's Mr. Smith, for one, who died a few weeks ago. He was my best high school teacher and a lifelong model. I read about him in my hometown paper.

Here's what another student wrote of him: "Mr. Smith was the best [and] was determined that all students in his class would learn mathematics, whatever it took. He would intimidate, push, compliment, encourage -- whatever was right for the particular student. We looked forward to his classes, not only because of his wit, unpredictability, sarcasm, and showmanship, but also because he succeeded in getting across to us his thrill with mathematics."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Then there was Mrs. Walker -- my high school typing teacher. I read about her retirement in my hometown paper about a year ago. I wrote her a letter and told her how much I learned from her and how much those keyboard skills had helped my career. I learned to type on those old non-electric clunkers. I'm glad I told her, but I never would have thought to if I hadn't read about her in my hometown paper.

There's my nephew, Joey, who's always in the paper. He's an assistant chief and public information officer for the city fire department. I'm always seeing him quoted about the details of some fire. Nobody in my family followed my footsteps into journalism, but he came closer than anyone. I'm proud of him.

I never would have known about Martha Walters Barnett if I hadn't read about her in my hometown paper. Wow! She's president-elect of the American Bar Association and was recognized by one law journal as "one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in the United States."

She was student council vice president the year I was president. We took physiology together and swapped jokes and gossip from our seats at the back of the room. If I need a lawyer now, I'll know whom to call. …

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