Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reflections on community journalism

I've been a journalist of some sort for almost 17 years -- ever since the day I walked into the office of the Clifton News-Tribune to pay for a classified ad and the publisher asked me if I could type. She needed some help and within a few weeks, I had a part-time job. I was five months pregnant with child No. 6, but that was not a deterrent. I could type and I could spell and that's what she needed.

In those 17 years, I've gotten to know some neat people -- journalists and journalism educators who believe that local newspapers are essential to healthy communities. And I have a special place in my heart for community newspapers -- weeklies and small dailies that publish all the news, from who came to dinner at Aunt Martha's last weekend to the big fire downtown to the antics of the local school board. I've said this before, so if you want to read it, it's here.

That essay has been reprinted in the last two editions of Jock Lauterer's defining text for community journalism. The latest edition is out now, published by the University of North Carolina Press, and it's called Community Journalism: Relentlessly Local. I got to see Jock last week when he came to K-State for a conference and he gave me a copy of the new edition -- very cool. And I'm even in the index. The book is full of stories and pictures about how small newspapers serve their communities. Jock is a great storyteller, by the way, and his book is a must-read for anyone involved in community journalism.

Seeing Jock last week is part of the reason behind the post, but I was also reminded of the importance of community newspapers because of the news from the Kansas Press Association that the long-time editor and publisher of the Marion County Record died this week. Bill Meyer was a giant in Kansas journalism and he'll be missed.

About a month ago, another important figure in Kansas journalism died: Marie Boyd, the widow of McDill "Huck" Boyd, who published the Phillips County Review and was Bob Dole's political mentor. When Huck died in the late 1980s his family helped found the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media, located in the School of Journalism here at K-State. I worked for the Huck Boyd Center as a grad student and after I finished my masters, and through that I got to know Marie a little. She was a great lady and played an important role in encouraging quality community journalism in Kansas.

Journalists don't get a lot of respect these days, and sometimes with good reason, but they play an important role in our communities and I just wanted to pay tribute a little to those efforts. Thanks, Jock, for encouraging community journalists. Bill and Marie, we miss you.

1 comment:

Michael Patrick Leahy said...


I am working on a response to Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation.

Want to invite me to write a review for your publication ?