Fourteen years ago, I was walking into the doctor's office to get a tetanus shot for a squirrel bite, when I saw a "Help wanted" sign in the window of the North Stoddard Countian newspaper office in Advance. Though I already had a teaching job, I was curious, so I went in to check. That began my career as a part time reporter.
I must say that the position has been a joy. Wherever I travel, there are stories to be told, interesting people to meet, hundreds of places to explore and causes to support. Under every rock, there is a story to bring out into the light.
Yes, I love it! Don't tell my bosses that I would (almost) do it for free.
Last week, I made a trip to the little school at Bell City, which is--ironically--where I started my teaching career 51 years ago. It was a delight to see the fresh faces of those children in the bright halls of the old, refurbished school. After I took pictures of the junior high Beta Club and the second grade class who collected the most canned goods, several of the kids actually thanked me for coming!
As I left, I saw the bulletin board in the hall. They had cut out all the recent photos and news stories about their school--and had them on display! It's the first thing you see, when you come in the building! It made my day!
Two weeks ago, I heard the news I had been dreading for several years: The North Stoddard Countian is being discontinued. Today's business world is hard on print newspapers--especially the small ones. Keeping this one going has never been easy.
People can be incredibly stubborn: Advance critics say they won't subscribe to the paper, because it has nothing but Bloomfield news in it. Bloomfield critics say it carries nothing but Advance news. The only group I've never heard complain are the Bell City folks, who are appreciative for whatever they can get.
I've also been told--somewhat gleefully, I might add--that young people don't read newspapers. Since the under-25 age group makes up 34 percent of the U.S. population--and the over 65's make up about 13 percent, I think we can see a trend.
I know there are people out there who love their newspapers--who walk to the post office to get a paper in the morning. We also have subscribers who live far away from their hometowns; they enjoy hearing the news from home. I'm also aware that many of the over 65's won't touch a computer for their news.
And, yes, I know we've had considerable problems with postal delivery. There was a time, when we could count on getting our Wednesday paper on Wednesday. Since the change in postal service, we never know when the news will come to our mailboxes. In rural Advance, I get mine on Thursday or Friday. One reader on NN Highway tells me that she gets hers on Monday of the following week.
The death of a newspaper is a sad thing. It reminds us of all the other things we're losing in this fast-paced world of technology.
I do have one small bit of consolation: Last week, I attended a Christmas dinner at the offices of the Daily American Republic in Poplar Bluff. Our new publisher welcomed the Dexter Statesman crew into the family. He assured me that North Stoddard County news will be given a page in the Wednesday edition of the new Dexter Statesman. In other words, we are being "absorbed" into the Statesman, which will now become an "all local" newspaper with a completely new format and design.
I promise to do my best to see that the northern section of the county is not forgotten!