David Carlson: The miracle of the local paper

Instead of reading the newspaper this morning, imagine this local newspaper didn’t come to your house.

No, I’m not talking about the newspaper failing to be delivered to your home, but I’m asking you to imagine this local newspaper not existing.

If that were the case, those of us who enjoy reading the newspaper over breakfast or over a later cup of tea or coffee would have to find something else to read. Those of us who need the sports page or the comics to start the day would have to find an alternative way to wake up and begin the day. Those of us who rely on the obituaries to let us know when a neighbor or friend has passed away would have to hope that someone would call and tell us the sad news.

I learned the power of local newspapers early, as delivering papers was my first job. The local paper in the town I grew up in was an afternoon edition, and I remember especially the faces of my elderly customers who waited for me to hand the newspaper to them. And to this day, when I am traveling, I like to read the local newspaper to gain some sense of that community.

There are many more news sources available now than when I was young, but I still find the daily local newspaper something of a miracle. Take a moment and look, page by page, at the variety of stories presented in today’s paper. Think of those who wrote the stories, those who edited the stories, those who laid out the stories, those who printed the stories and those who delivered the stories. Now imagine all those people doing those jobs every day.

That’s a testament to hard work and dedication, but it isn’t the miracle that I’m referring to. The miracle I’m thinking about is what a daily local newspaper creates and what a daily local newspaper sustains.

I’m referring to a sense of community. Yes, I can find news on TV and over the internet, and some of that is even local, but most of the stories packed into a half-hour TV news program tend to focus on the negative — crime, political friction and other problems. Of course, those same stories can also be found in the local newspaper, but there is so much more in the local newspaper than the negative.

Without my local newspaper, I wouldn’t know about a hog roast, local charitable works or a Christmas tree lighting. I wouldn’t know about the compassionate work being done for Afghan refugees at nearby Camp Atterbury. I wouldn’t know about the local family who has a child needing state-of-the-art medical treatment. I wouldn’t know what my local elected leaders are working on. I wouldn’t know what students are doing on the athletic field, on the stage of their theater, or in the classroom. I wouldn’t know what artists in my community are producing. I wouldn’t know what innovative work local college students are engaged in.

There is no sense of community without our knowing one another. A local newspaper introduces us to one another; helps us understand, sympathize and care for one another; and informs us about the issues we need to address together if we wish to make our community stronger.

At this point, you might say that I’m preaching to the choir. After all, if you’re reading this article, you’re probably a subscriber. But as someone wisely said, every once in a while even the choir needs to hear the message. Can I get an amen?