Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 29, 2004

First draft of history

In the family history work that Art and I have done, the newspaper clippings of births, marriages and deaths have figured prominently, adding a great deal of information to our personal archives. And the columns that reported who visited whom have also given us insight into the daily lives of our ancestors and their families and friends.

Today, I save many items from our own Riley Countian. I clip honor roll lists and articles about spelling bees, musical and drama performances and sports victories that include our girls and their classmates. I save the school menus for the month and attach them to the refrigerator with a magnet.

This "refrigerator journalism" - the kind that reports on the ordinary events of ordinary people - I know is sometimes snickered at by bigger-city media. After all, they say, who cares about Aunt Bertha's chicken dinner when there is trouble in the Middle East.

But it is precisely the more personal news that gives people a sense of community, a sense of how they connect to the larger world.

I was reminded of this when I attended the Kansas Press Association's recent convention in Kansas City. I picked up a copy of the book, Kansas Press Association: 140 years of Kansas newspapers and newspaper families.

The book was signed by more than 20 past presidents of the association, all of whom publish or have published Kansas community newspapers - the Marion County Record in my home county, the Smith County Pioneer, the Parsons Sun, the Marysville Advocate, the Newton Kansan, the Hill City Times and many others across the state.

These publishers aren't as well-known as William Allen White, Huck Boyd, or A.Q. Miller. But they are well-known within their communities, and they are counted on to report the good news and the bad with accuracy, compassion and a sense that "we're all in this together."

I have the greatest respect for people like Romelle VanSickle and the more than 240 other newspaper editors and publishers around the state who day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, gather the news of their communities and put it out there for everyone to read. And while providing this service which helps to glue our communities together, very few of them have the opportunity to take more than a day of vacation here and there throughout the year because the work required to get their papers out just doesn't allow it.

Sen. Pat Roberts captured the importance of the work these people do in our communities in the anniversary book's foreword:

"As a congressman and senator, as a former journalist and as the great-grandson of the founder of one of the state's oldest newspapers, I am well aware that Kansas has a grand tradition of journalism in the finest sense of a proud profession.

"When Kansas territory was bleeding to abolish slavery, newspapers told the story well beyond the state's borders. Those early editors often emphasized prose over fact, but the country listened and acted.

"When the early settlers went West, it was the local newspaper that advocated the building of schools and courthouses and churches as the foundation of new communities. . ."

So whether the paper is reporting on a war half a world away or on a local bake sale, the events which fill their pages will all eventually become chapters in books, even if some are only scrapbooks. That's why newspapers have been called the first draft of history.

Bill Brown, left, was the editor of the Garden City Telegram and my adviser at K-State.
Bill Krause, editor of the Peabody Gazette-Herald, right, my first editor after I graduated.
Both attended Jerome�s and my wedding at the farm in September 1979.

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