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Putting community in the newspaper

Your newspaper would like a word from you. And a picture from you, too.

What's on your mind, McDuffie County? Where have you vacationed? Who's celebrating a special occasion?

Please study the words "community newspaper" and then consider what each word would lose without the other. After that, let's allow those words to work together. You will like the results. That means that we as a community will like the results.

Forty years of practicing a craft should entitle a person to an opinion. So this writer will dust off the "I" word for just a moment and share some of those thoughts.

I have lingered at lunch counters in this town and my hometown and watched and listened as diners perused their newspapers.

Their comments reveal what's really important to them. Never, never have I heard someone say, "Look George, this Gazette expose says the city could have saved 90 cents if they had bought the slip washers at Jack's instead of John's." Oh, those readers have seen the story, and they appreciate a good slip washer that's not too loose or too brittle, but the Gazette's journalistic endeavors largely go unheralded. More often, readers will observe, "I'm sorry about what happened to the So-and-So family. They've been through a tough time." Or, "The girls team is getting it done this year. But just so the boys beat Neighborville, I'll be happy."

Community newspapers put too much emphasis on rules and leave their subscribers with too much confusion.

If we're not telling you what you may not put in the paper, we're trying to tell you what you must put in the paper.

We chase public officials and civic-group leaders for the latest information. We want to know about the management decisions and the mishaps.

We seek and generally receive more details than we possibly can print. We believe that is part of our mission, part of how we serve the public. I hope we always feel that way.

But when the public just shows up at the door or the mailbox with a letter or an objection or a party announcement, some newspapers do a poor job of making those visitors feel welcome.

Sometimes we seem too busy chasing those community leaders. We're so busy serving the public that we don't have time left to serve the community. We at The Mirror will work very hard to avoid that trap. I know how easy it is to fall into that behavior. I know because I've made that mistake. I've probably made that mistake more recently than I realize. But if you call me on it, we can move forward.

We want your vacation photos. We want photos of club gatherings. We want what some newspapers call "chicken dinner news," you know, what church is serving what meal for what occasion. That is not the whole list. There is no whole list.

To be honest, I rather like chicken.

For starters, would you share your thoughts about your favorite teacher? It doesn't have to be a term paper; a regular homework sample will do. But please include your name and phone number, just in case we have questions. Ah, those rules are back again. But some rules are helpful now and then. And vacation photos. Don't worry about whether it's your neighbor's ideal vacation. It was important to you, so it is important to us.

And when you call or visit The Mirror with your stories and photos, you will find someone who appreciates your information. You will find someone who appreciates your photo. You will find another component of your own community.

Web posted on Thursday, February 24, 2011

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