There's no replacing newspapers

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Two Saturdays ago, Mike and I had the opportunity to spend the day in Memphis. We flew into a small airport outside the city, rented a car and drove 40 miles into the heart of downtown. Just a few miles into our drive, we came upon the Wolf River Cafe in Rossville, Tenn., and decided to stop for breakfast.

The cafe was packed, and we knew we'd found one of those special restaurants that combines delicious food with lots of local flavor and downhome charm. We sat at a corner table, and as is my custom, I immediately went in search of the local newspaper. I found one - the Collierville Herald (serving the Collierville area since 1879) - in a newsstand right outside the restaurant's front door.

After reading the newspaper, which gave me a good feel for the town as all smalltown newspapers do, I began looking around the walls of the restaurant and discovered they were covered with photos and framed clippings from other newspapers. Right above our table was a large story and several photos from the Memphis Commercial Appeal chronicling the heroic rescue of a 97-year woman by a young Rossville volunteer fireman. The story told the story of how the young man risked his own life to save the woman from her burning home.

This story enticed me to get up from our table and begin looking at the other articles posted throughout the restaurant. There was a story about a 500-year-old bald cypress tree discovered in a nearby town, a feature article about a local rodeo clown who was now touring with the rodeo circuit and a tribute to a Rossville teenager who died tragically.

With each article, I learned more about the community we were visiting, and I was reminded once again of the important role newspapers play in towns all across this country. In smaller communities, especially those not served by a TV station or a large metropolitan daily, newspapers are the main source of news and provide a valuable link between citizens and their local schools, cities and community groups.

Although there are some industry analysts who predict the slow death of newspapers, I truly can't imagine a world without them. I know this week there will be parents all across Barry County with scissors in hand cutting out clips of their child's latest sports accomplishment or a birth or wedding announcement to paste in the family scrapbook.

Reading stories and following the news via the Internet is timely and convenient, but it can't replace the actual newsprint copy of the newspaper. And for those who say they will rely on the internet for their news, I'd ask you to take a good look at where the information you're reading on-line originates. The vast majority of news found on the internet has its source in newspaper reporting. And good luck finding stories about the high school student who finished first place in the local speech tournament or what went on at the most recent city council meeting or who won the annual demolition derby. These are stories that you won't be finding anytime soon on the world wide web unless we place them there ourselves on our web site, which we provide as a supplement to the printed edition.

At the Wolf Creek Cafe, a lot of the restaurant's charm came from those framed newspaper stories, and it would be very sad to lose those glimpses into real life that only newspapers can offer. In the case of the Cassville Democrat, we rely on the support of our subscribers and our advertisers to keep us strong. In return for your support, we promise to provide you with well written, well researched and balanced news and feature stories that reflect what's going on in the communities that make up Barry County. Our coverage extends to all corners of the county, and we try to make sure you get your money's worth in each issue of the newspaper we publish. Our motto here at the Cassville Democrat reflects our commitment to the communities we serve and also offers a little of that smalltown flavor that we all know and love. As our masthead declares each week, it is our goal to "cover Barry County like the morning dew."

Lisa Schlichtman