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Community journalism – then and now

Modified: Tuesday, Mar 26th, 2013

The first photo is the News-Times staff in front of the office building in a photo taken in September of 1976. The second photo with the building's lighter facade is the current staff in a photo taken this month.

In my first editorial on Feb. 22, I asked readers to write me their comments and concerns about the quality of the news coverage we provide. My primary objective for soliciting responses was to gain a more sound perspective on the needs of Lincoln County. Selfishly, I thought that this knowledge would relieve some of my anxiety about being a publisher who was not born and raised in the community.

As I read through the many email responses from readers, I accidentally stumbled upon one particular email in my spam filter from a woman named Betty Taylor, the last private owner of the News-Times. Betty and her husband, Walter, owned and operated the News-Times from 1963 to 1977 and moved the paper from its location in Toledo into the building that we still work in today.

Invigorated by all that I was learning about the history of the News-Times, I felt compelled to bombard Betty with a myriad of questions ranging from the newspaper’s role in small communities to the future of print journalism. In response to my electronic mail onslaught, Betty pointed me to an article in the New Yorker titled “Local Story.”

The story chronicles the role of Newtown Connecticut’s local newspaper, the Newtown Bee, in the media aftermath of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. In less than six pages, Rachel Aviv illustrates how a small group of community journalists from Newtown, Conn. covered one of the United States’ biggest tragedies of this century with a standard of professionalism and sensitivity that was profoundly absent from the national media outlets. The Bee’s distinctive coverage of the tragedy was led by the editor of the Bee who said he “wanted the paper to bring the community together” in a way that would allow the citizens of Newtown to grieve and to heal.

As I finished the article, I was amazed that Betty was able to answer all the questions swirling around in my head about the role of small town newspapers and the future of print journalism by sending me one brilliant example of a newspaper that had a clear vision of uniting its community.

The following evening after work, I lost myself in the New-Times archives and found that Betty and Walter ran the News-Times with a similar vision of uniting their community. But more importantly, I also learned that Walter grew up not far from my hometown in northern Illinois. I just hope that I can continue the legacy of Illinois publishers in Newport, Ore.

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