For the Love of the Local Newspaper

By John Temple

A fatal single-engine plane crash in a corn field was the first story I ever covered for a local newspaper, the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Life and death. That’s the bread and butter of local newspapers. The obituaries are among their most-read sections. What journalists don’t expect is to find their own colleagues in those pages, gunned down in the place where they work, the way five members of the staff of the Capital Gazette were, in Annapolis, Maryland on Thursday.

When events are horrific, as they were in Colorado when I was editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and 12 students and a teacher were killed at Columbine High School, I learned the difference between local and national journalists.

Local reporters don’t get to leave the scene of the tragedy. It’s where they live. What they do matters to their community. And local journalists know it in their bones. It’s what makes their work worth doing.

One of the reasons I loved working in local journalism was that I felt close to the stories I covered. I would meet people I wrote about in the grocery store. Or at a movie theater. There was no getting away from seeing them again, whether I wrote something that might have angered them or something they liked. It’s one of the things that keeps journalists honest.

There’s little fame or glory in covering local news, the way there might be in reporting on national or international events. I didn’t know Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, and Rebecca Smith, the five who died in the Capital Gazette newsroom. But I know many like them. I’ve worked among them for more than three decades, from Michigan to New Mexico, Ontario to Colorado, Hawaii to Washington, D.C.

The Gazette’s editor, Jimmy DeButts, …read more

Via:: The Atlantic


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