Written words have helped us to share how we feel, to know how others feel, and to know what has happened in our world and what is going to happen. Of course, I am talking about a newspaper.
Newspapers made us feel the horror of Pearl Harbor being bombed. They later told us of V-J Day. They have reported on national disasters and accomplishments. Community papers tell us about our neighbors, our schools, crime and celebrations.
The tradition of the newspaper is old and has given us a vivid history of our past. Our history has been proud to stand behind the living, breathing power and freedom of the press. Words in the press, however, must be good, and by that I mean truthful.
I was trained to always get two good sources for a story, with names and statements. I was taught to remember it is not only our name and reputation we need to protect, but the legacy of all newspapers.
If you want to write just what you think, put a huge disclaimer on it and write a commentary, as “in my opinion.” I have written news stories, and I have written columns–different beasts altogether.
Many movies of prominent note have been made about the newspaper business. In 2020 Tom Hanks made a movie called “News of the World,” which told of a time in our golden west before there were local newspapers. Back then news often came weeks after the events, usually from some tired rider who couldn’t really swear it happened just that way.
This movie told the story of a Reader, a man who rode the west with big-city newspapers that he read out loud. The people would listen, hushed, captivated by the gift of the word. Imagine what they would think of a newspaper that was just about their community that came directly in the mail to them!
Honestly, my whole life I have loved newspapers. I love the feel of them, the smell of them, even when some of the black ink got on my hands. I loved the pictures, the sound of the crisply turning pages. I was happy when I could start reading them, never dreaming that for over thirty years I would be writing for them.
I was raised on the Detroit News, a daily, heavy lift of information. As I grew and moved on, I read all the local papers too. They knew their beats best. Let the big boys cover national and state matters; local news is what a community thrives on, its meat and potatoes.
When I first moved to Los Banos 32 years ago, with a population of less than 14,000 I was happy to see a local paper coming out twice a week that was packed with information. Over the years I have worked under a lot of editors and learned from them all.
Gene Lieb, for whom I worked for years, is a man you can stand by and be proud of. He is a person who really loves this business. It’s a passion, a real calling.
Writing comes as natural to me as breathing. Times change, folks will tell you. Sure they do, but you do not throw out the baby with the bath water if you get my drift.
Computers are a wonderful thing; I am writing on mine as we speak. I love Google. I enjoy staying in touch with my friends, even if I get sick of seeing what perfect cooks some of my friends are. Cell phones are great, too. But look at how many people don’t look at each other anymore because their noses are in their phones.
Balance is healthy for any kind of diet, and that includes what you read. I believe in a paper that you can hold and fold, from which you can cut out obituaries or school news. I believe in fresh news, not recycled news. I think every community is worth covering.
So my pulse is jumping at the idea of a new kind of paper, The Westside Express, that is really like the old kind of paper, only better. And I’m pleased that Gene Lieb is willing take a big risk to be its publisher.
I do have to share a little secret about the newspaper racket. It takes a lot of different parts to make a whole. Good management, editorials, all that good stuff, you got to have that. You need good writers who are willing to go where they need to go, who love the story within the story, and who see no story as too small.
We also need columnists, who take different views or ideas and open your mind, and sometimes open your heart, too; they can be icing on the newspaper cake.
Dependability, respectability and honesty on all counts should be a given. But you know what else a local newspaper needs? Readers, paid subscribers and readers telling friends to subscribe because paper, ink, staff all cost money.
Equally important, a local newspaper needs advertisers. Local businesses have had tough times recently, these past couple of Covid years, and businesses may not have much money to put towards advertising.
Advertising, however, gets you more business; that is the point. Advertising and newspapers go hand in hand, supporting each other.
A group of amazingly passionate people on the Westside of Merced County, brought together by Gene Lieb , have pulled together because they believe in something, something they feel is worth fighting for. A real, true, living, breathing-with-a-pulse community newspaper.
Can’t you feel the rhythm of the beat, the newspaper beat? Ah, come on, jump on the bandwagon. You know it will be fun, good for you, good for your town. We at The Westside Express will all welcome you with open arms. And although everything I just said was true, this is a commentary.