A cynical old newspaperman told me when I got in this business more than 40 years ago that, in a small town, everyone knows the news, they just buy the paper to see if it’s in there or not.
The part about knowing the news might have been close to the truth a few decades ago but it’s not today.
Milaca, and area towns such as Princeton, Cambridge and Foley, usually had a chief of police and one or two other patrolmen, sometimes of the part-time variety. Now there are larger police forces, more activity, and a lot more arrests than there used to be. And more news.
The people who really knew what was going on in the old days were the telephone operators. If you believe the ones I’ve talked to who worked in the 40s and 50s, they listened in on lots of conversations that weren’t meant for their ears. And thus they knew who might be having an affair, who was getting divorced, and who came home late last night.
And it was just plain hard to keep a secret in a small, close-knit community. Friends protected good friends but sometimes ratted out others who they weren’t so fond of.
These thoughts all came to me as I looked through the Mille Lacs County Times issues of Oct. 4 and Oct. 11.
Hometown (weekly) papers are often disparaged by people who say there is no news in them.
Of course, in each town, that’s the only paper that reports a birth, an engagement, a wedding, an obituary, has coverage of the local high school activities, feature stories on your friends and/or relatives, and reports on what the City Council, County Board or School Board are doing. And that paper is the only place where you can get a clipping about those events to paste in a scrapbook.
Many years ago I had a parent take me to task for not covering her daughter well enough in high school extracurricular activities. She said she was going to drop her subscription. A year later I attended that girl’s graduation open house and there were four scrapbooks – one for each of her years in school, filled with clippings about sports and music.
Those clippings, meticulously cut out each week, came from the newspaper for which I worked.
That’s a roundabout way of getting to my main subject, that of distinguishing the editorial page from the news pages.
In the Oct. 4 issue of the Times there was an editorial from the ECM Editorial Board about the marriage amendment. And last week that same editorial board produced an editorial about the voter ID amendment.
The marriage amendment brought forth an outpouring of opinions about the editorial, one even saying that a business – the newspaper – shouldn’t comment on such things.
The editorial page, including your letters on occasion, is a page filled with opinions. Those columns, editorials and letters are not news – they are opinions and they’re usually signed. The person or persons have enough courage to express their opinions with a name attached.
I’ve served on the editorial board of ECM (the parent company of the Times) for quite a few years now and I have often been outvoted on whether or not a certain opinion should be expressed. But that doesn’t stop me from participating.
It would be a sad paper, indeed, that did not have an editorial page for the paper and its subscribers to express their opinions.
Heck, last week when the voter ID editorial ran, there was even an education columnist expressing his opinion about the voter ID amendment. I didn’t think it was his place to do so but there it was for you to agree with, disagree with, or do some thinking on your own.
Obama or Romney (I’m doing these that alphabetically)? How will you vote on the county commissioner race? How about the amendments, both of which are very controversial in our state this year? Bills or Klobuchar? Cravaack or Nolan? Erickson or Walsh? Brown or Knox? Do you want the minimal levy in the Milaca School District to pass?
In a few more days I hope you’ll take time to vote. You get to express your opinion, just like the people on the editorial page of the Times do, whether you agree or not.
Voting is a precious freedom that some countries don’t have, as is a free press. Remember that when you read the editorial page next time.