The Edmond Sun

Opinion

October 9, 2013

Community newspapers: Showing the importance of a good story

NASHVILLE — I learned about the importance of telling a good story — something your publications try to do each and every day — from a Tennessean who was a dear friend of mine. His name was Alex Haley and he became famous for telling stories, in particular those of his African ancestry in his best-selling novel, Roots.

Perhaps most importantly, he lived his life by these six words “Find the good and praise it.” When I think about the good in our Tennessee communities — what makes them strong and special — hometown newspapers telling local stories certainly qualify.

The power of stories is all around us. Alex Haley once told me that when I went to make a speech that if I told a story instead, people might actually listen to what I had to say. I’ve found that to be true. And small, hometown newspapers demonstrate the power of storytelling — both the good and bad facing their communities — in a way that can be difficult to come by in our 24/7 media environment.

For Alex Haley, the power of stories came to him when was a child, listening to his grandmother and aunts tell the stories of his ancestors.

He used to say that his Aunt Liz and Aunt Plus, sitting on the porch telling those stories, could knock a firefly out of the sky at 14 feet with an accurate stream of tobacco juice. Alex Haley went on to tell those stories in Roots, the story of Kunta Kinte — an African who was captured and sold into slavery — and his ancestors.

For community newspapers, stories take on many forms.

Our Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment into the U.S. Constitution to protect the rights of the American people to organize and speak up and speak out. Local newspapers play a vital role in helping people do that — covering local government activity and sometimes unveiling problems facing a community or its leaders. Our Founders even used local newspapers to speak out as they organized against the King, and wrote the Declaration of Independence.

There’s also plenty that local newspapers do to bring people together. From covering local community events to telling the stories of local residents, small, hometown newspapers tell people what they need to know to feel connected to one another. Sometimes these stories can even inspire.

And despite how much media has changed in recent years, local community newspapers can also do quite a lot to connect people to the outside world. I know this to be true  as I work on fixing the federal debt, taking more decisions out of Washington and back to Tennessee and pushing back against the regulations that are throwing a big, wet blanket over the economy.

I can’t always expect the voices in local newspapers to agree with me. But by asking questions and writing about issues of importance to Tennesseans (and letting me have my say in a story or opinion column once in a while) community papers provide an important service.

And whatever the major issues of the day, good stories surround us always. I think back to my friend Alex Haley, and a man he met in Knoxville named Joseph Rivera. Alex found out that Joseph couldn’t read, so he taught him and then wrote about him in Parade magazine — a great example of his motto “find the good and praise it.”

Tennesseans in communities all across our state could just as easily pick up a copy of their small, hometown newspaper. It’s important to see our shortcomings. But it’s also important to find the good and praise it, and local newspapers do that for their communities every time they go to print.

LAMAR ALEXANDER wrote this for the National Newspaper Association. This week is National Newspaper Week. Established in 1885, the National Newspaper Association represents 2,200 owners, publishers and editors of America’s community newspapers. NNA’s mission is to protect, promote and enhance America’s community newspapers. Visit NNA at www.nnaweb.org.

 

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Loosening constraints on campaign donations and spending doesn’t destroy democracy

    Campaign finance reformers are worried about the future. They contend that two Supreme Court rulings — the McCutcheon decision in March and the 2010 Citizens United decision — will magnify inequality in U.S. politics.
    In both cases, the court majority relaxed constraints on how money can be spent on or donated to political campaigns. By allowing more private money to flow to campaigns, the critics maintain, the court has allowed the rich an unfair advantage in shaping political outcomes and made “one dollar, one vote” (in one formulation) the measure of our corrupted democracy.
    This argument misses the mark for at least four reasons.

    April 23, 2014

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 23, 2014

  • Free trade on steroids: The threat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Many supporters of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade agreement are arguing that its fate rests on President Obama’s bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan this week. If Japan and the United States can sort out market access issues for agriculture and automobiles, the wisdom goes, this huge deal — in effect, a North American Free Trade Agreement on steroids — can at last be concluded.

    April 22, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 22, 2014

  • Chicago Tribune: If Walgreen Co. moves its HQ to Europe, blame Washington’s tax failure

    The Walgreen Co. drugstore chain got its start nearly a century ago in downstate Dixon, Ill., before moving its corporate headquarters to Chicago and eventually to north suburban Deerfield, Ill.
    Next stop? Could be Bern, Switzerland.
    A group of shareholders reportedly is pressuring the giant retail chain for a move to the land of cuckoo clocks. The reason: lower taxes. Much lower taxes.
    If Walgreen changes its legal domicile to Switzerland, where it recently acquired a stake in European drugstore chain Alliance Boots, the company could save big bucks on its corporate income-tax bill. The effective U.S. income-tax rate for Walgreen, according to analysts at Swiss Bank UBS: 37 percent. For Alliance Boots: about 20 percent.

    April 21, 2014

  • Sulphur a future major tourist destination?

    Greta Garbo says, “I want to be alone,” in the 1932 film “Grand Hotel.” That MGM film starred Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery and a young actress from Lawton named Joan Crawford. It told the stories of several different people who were staying at an exclusive hotel of that name in Berlin Germany.
    It was critically well received and it inspired more recent films such as “Gosford Park” and television shows such as “Downton Abbey” in that it detailed the relationship between powerful and wealthy people and those who served them. The film opened amidst much fanfare and it received the Oscar for best picture in the year of its release.

    April 21, 2014

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results