The big picture is that the world seems out of control, with millions suffering, thousands dying and economies collapsing.
It’s in the pages of local newspapers that this terrible news becomes real. Through stories of sickness, of brave first responders and health care workers, and struggling small business owners, newspapers small and large are detailing the challenges, neighborhood by neighborhood. As the virus spreads beyond metropolitan areas, the detailing extends, paper by paper.
In each, above all, are the stories of the lives that have been lost, touching tributes to much loved grandparents, educators, store clerks, cops and nurses.
Then come the stories of isolation, loss and communities put on hold. Weddings have been delayed and funerals have been scaled down. And what of graduations, proms, youth sports and planned trips? The list goes on and on.
Thankfully, there are anecdotes of hope and generosity, such as the hearts hanging in windows throughout our county, and chalk drawings on sidewalks. We hear of food drives for those hit hardest, and countless small favors being done from one person to another.
Years from now, when many of us are long gone, these stories will be a part of the pandemic’s history. For now, though, they serve a better purpose. They are helping communities come together to mourn, to support and to hope. Hopefully sooner, rather than later, they’ll help us move forward and heal.
Local newspapers are also where many stories begin. You’ll learn about our school corporations continuing to feed young students. You’ll read about the nursing home holding a parade for its residents, and high school seniors lamenting that they were robbed of their final days together.
These are the stories that set local newspapers apart from anything you’ll see via another outlet. Newspapers tell the unique stories from a community, and this personalization is important as we deal with what’s going on.
This is how local newspapers bring communities together. It’s just one reason why, in spite of everything that’s happened within the industry in recent years, they continue to be important. While their role as a watchdog will always be central, their shared commitment to community is what shines.
Local newspapers care. They always have, and always will. That’s what sets them apart from all other media, even Facebook. They’ll be at your town council meeting, the summer festival, the polar plunge, and the high school graduation. They’ll write about the local 4-H club, the county’s budget and the local arts council.
Newspapers have been around so long that it’s easy to take them for granted. But they are in danger, especially now, when businesses that have provided crucial advertising are struggling, and in some cases, not operating at all.
The content in local papers is costly to produce. The people who produce it need paychecks, just like everyone else. For that to happen, newspapers need subscribers. Now more than ever, they need the reciprocal support of their communities.
• Ivers Farms, from southern Lawrence County, was on the cover of the April issue of Farm Journal. There was a nice story and photo package.
• Speaking of Lawrence County and magazines, BOOMER Magazine, Vincennes, prominently featured Lawrence County Memorial Hospital employees in its spring issue. The story was about how folks in the area are affected by the coronavirus.
• Judging by the Unacast.com social distancing scoreboard, Americans are getting tired of it. Lawrence County’s grade has dropped to a C-, down from a B- last week. Illinois, for the first time is receiving a failing grade, after earning a D+ the past two weeks. Americans as a whole are also getting an F, down from a D last week.
• Did you know that today is National Decency Day, National Dance Like A Chicken Day and National Buttermilk Biscuit Day?
Bill Richardson has been a reporter for the Daily Record since 2001, and has been editor since 2016.